Toronto Maple Leafs: Message not received following poor effort at home

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Frederik Andersen /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will need to go back to the drawing board after two straight poor efforts at home as they hit the road for the California road trip.

Going into Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Mike Babcock thought he would send a message to his team with a shortened practice and some line juggling. Unfortunately it did not have the desired effect for the Toronto Maple Leafs who dropped a second straight game losing 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Even with the Leafs scoring the first goal of the game as Auston Matthews made a great pass to Nazem Kadri who scored both goals for Toronto. However, like the game against Carolina it was another game where the opponent had the Leafs chasing all night, aggressive in the neutral zone and capitalizing on odd man rushes.

While Frederik Andersen was not sharp in goal, the Leafs did not put a lot of pressure on the puck carrier and which gave the Flyers enough time to put their shots in the right place. It can be a struggle to be a goalie on a team that likes to play aggressively on offence but struggle to have the same mentality defensively.

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Following the loss to Carolina Andersen commented that his team needs to play with more pride, it was tough to say his game provided much inspiration. He made some tough saves but there were a couple of goals that Andersen got flat out beat on. The save percentage and goals-against average will improve but like he needs to steal a game for his team like he did against the Winnipeg Jets, and the Los Angeles Kings.

After the game Babcock pointed out the strong play of Josh Leivo in his first game of the season, which should bode well for him to get more games in. He also mentioned that he wished other players would show the same amount of compete that Leivo did. Which players was he referring to? It is hard to say but there were a number of forwards who should be having more of an impact.

Over the past last couple of games Tyler Bozak‘s struggles have put a spotlight on his line because no matter who has been put with him, it has not worked out as planned. Not having James van Riemsdyk does play a role in that but he had Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner on his line. Unfortunately, that line struggled the entire game as they were hemmed in their own end and did not generate anything substantial.

Considering how well Marleau has played this season, there should not be a debate on where the problem lies. Given the lack of depth the Leafs have at center, there is no way they will move Bozak or bench him. So what is the solution? Does Babcock need to demote him to the fourth line for a game or two? One solution could be to put Connor Brown back on his line and if van Riemsdyk is ready to come back it might help stabilize things.

It should also be said that Nazem Kadri had a strong game for the Leafs and he was rewarded for it with two goals. On the other end Andreas Borgman had a rough night taking some tough hits in his own end which is not comforting to see, not sure how Roman Polak did not try to take some pressure off his rookie partner.

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As the Leafs go out on a western road trip, it could provide the team a chance to tighten up and get back to playing to their system. They have struggled to maintain time in the offensive zone, carry the puck through the neutral zone and avoid the high number of odd man rushes against.