Toronto Maple Leafs taught a valuable lesson by the Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Zack Smith
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Zack Smith /

It was a frustrating night for the Toronto Maple Leafs who were unable to complete the comeback against the Ottawa Senators.

For the first two periods of Saturday night’s game, the Ottawa Senators were the better team against the Toronto Maple Leafs and it showed on the scoreboard. While many fans were holding their breath in the third period as Toronto staged a comeback, it was not meant to be and in that comes a valuable lesson.

This is the second time that the Leafs have allowed six goals in a game this season and like the game against the New Jersey Devils, the Leafs played right into their opponents strength. Neither Ottawa or New Jersey are strong possession teams but they capitalize on mistakes that their opponents make and in this case the Leafs have been guilty too much of that.

The Leafs could not figure out the trap style that the Senators play until the third period even though they have seen it employed countless times.

Last night the Leafs were simply outworked by Ottawa in the first two periods and that was evident on the first Ottawa goal. Frederik Andersen makes a nice save in front but then he gets swarmed in the front of the net and the Leafs are unable to win the battle in front of the net.

The second goal by Ryan Dzingels was a nice deflections in front of the net so not much Andersen could do but the setup in the defensive zone was poor.

With the puck deep in the Leafs end, Andreas Borgman sets up in front of the goal, Leo Komarov is in the slot and Dominic Moore is patrolling at the faceoff circle. As the play moves to the point off a deflected pass, all three Leafs forwards are below the faceoff circles with Erik Karlsson left all alone on the left point. He is then able to move into a position to receive a pass for a shot with traffic in front of Andersen with no Leafs player in any position to pressure him, the end result is a goal.

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The third goal of the game for Ottawa is another broken play that the Leafs were not able to cover. Bobby Ryan takes the pass in the zone and is in no threat to make a dangerous play with Morgan Rielly covering the other winger in heading into the zone. However, Derrick Brassard breaks free from Nazem Kadri and is able to receive the cross-crease pass from Ryan and walk in tight on Andersen who got a piece of the puck but not enough to keep it out.

The Leafs were 12 seconds away from getting out of the period only down 2-0 but the Senators wingers stretched out wide and that makes it tough for the Leafs to pick up their assignments. Credit Brassard for making a nice play to receive the pass and not rush the play.

This is just a bad decision by Nikita Zaitsev to go up the middle with the pass rather than put the puck along the boards. Mark Stone intercepts and gets by Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner is not able to react fast enough to cover his partner. However, Stone gets the initial shot off which was a nice save by Andersen but the rebound comes right back to Stone. This should never have happened if Zaitsev made a better decision with the puck in the first place.

As the Leafs once again get within a goal, Mitch Marner is given a gift that even he didn’t expect as Johnny Oduya loses the puck to Marner. He is able to get the shot on Anderson he made the save. Karlsson then flips the puck up to Brassard as he gets by Gardiner and goes out wide forcing Zaitsev to try and defend the pass and puts the shot in the perfect spot.

These breakdowns continue to come back and haunt the Leafs and that was something Babcock pointed out when he spoke to the media.

While Andersen has not played well at times this season it is hard to put the blame on him when the chances the Leafs are giving up have been brutal. This game is a perfect example of how teams have exploited the defensive miscues by the Leafs and at times their lack of physicality in their own end and the neutral zone.

If anything Auston Matthews‘ post game comments perfectly sum up the feeling that Leafs fan had after the game.

The real question is whether the Leafs are ready to learn from their mistakes? Time and time again they have had lapses like this in their own end but their high powered offence has bailed out the defence. At some point something will need to change.

Next: First Leafs prospect roundup of the season

With the LA Kings in town on Monday, it will be interesting to see the response from the Leafs especially considering the hot start the Kings have been on to start the season and what happened at home last season.