Toronto Maple Leafs: Entertaining win over Oilers brings up troubling trend

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29: Auston Matthews
EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29: Auston Matthews /

It was a surprising end to the Toronto Maple Leafs game with Edmonton Oilers defenceman Kris Russell scoring on his own net, but the Leafs were fortunate to come away with the two points.

It was a promising start to the game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, whatever the Edmonton Oilers threw at them they had a response and they came out to a 3-1 lead early.

After the Leafs took a 2-0 lead, it was starting to look like the game was going to get out of hand for the Oilers. However, a brutal turnover by Jake Gardiner when he held onto the puck for too long saw the lead shrink to 2-1, then Matt Martin finishes off the nicest goal the fourth line will ever score this season to restore the two goal lead.

It seemed like that third goal was going to deflate the momentum that Edmonton was building up but an early goal in the second period changed that. Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev were caught watching the puck as Zack Kassian goes unnoticed to the front of the net.

It is hard to constantly bring up the struggles that Gardiner has defensively, but he was caught trying to block the pass rather than make a play on Kassian in front. At the same time, William Nylander has a clear sight of Kassian in front of him and he should have picked him up or said something to get the attention of the defencemen.

Nylander would make up for it with a perfect shot on the powerplay to put the Leafs ahead after Connor McDavid tied the game. This once again put the Leafs in good shape heading into the third period that is until the fourth line would strike again for the Oilers.

The issues defensively on the Oilers fourth goal seem to be a common concern for the Leafs especially when they are holding a lead. On this goal Leo Komarov and Roman Polak are engaged in a puck battle along the boards with Andreas Borgman patrolling the front of the net and Nazem Kadri in a position to offer support.

The Oilers are able to come away with the puck but instead of coming in to offer support along the wall, Kadri is caught in no man’s land just in case and Oilers player makes a break for the net.

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This allows the Oilers to send the puck to the point where the defencemen have a lot of room to work with the puck which allows a perfect pass across to Kris Russell and the puck appears to deflect off Martin who is late to get in front of the shot and Jujhar Khaira gets in front of Frederik Andersen with no one in position to box him out.

It is frustrating to see the Leafs have these types of breakdowns consistently because even if the strategy is to collapse at the net instead of aggressively defend the point, Andersen should get a cleaner view of the shot.

After a strong performance against the Calgary Flames where they had a consistent effort for the entire 60 minutes, this type of game should remind the players that a poor performance like the one in the second half against the Oilers can undo that. At the same time, the Leafs are not going to have a perfect game every time but some of the mistakes they have made can be corrected.

For the Leafs, it seems like when an opposing team flips the switch and plays more physically, the team is not able to make the adjustment. Babcock should play the game video from the win against the Flames as a reminder of this team’s ability to play consistently for an entire game.

They have a chance to sweep the Western road trip against the Vancouver Canucks who have been a surprise team this season with Brock Boeser making an early case for the Calder Trophy with 11 goals in the month of November.

Next: Analyzing the Toronto Marlies’ first quarter of the season

What did you think about the Leafs game? Do you think it is tough to criticize a win like this one? Let us know in the comments.