Toronto Maple Leafs need to go back to drawing board after blowout loss

Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their second game in a row where their defence and goaltending had a rough night.

Usually, on a night where you are on the wrong end of a 7-3 blowout loss, the message should be to throw out the tape and move but the Toronto Maple Leafs have to learn from this.

While it’s definitely early in the season, there have been red flags that are hard to ignore considering how much the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top line dominated them. Before we talk about the defence, let’s bring up Frederik Andersen’s performance.

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Neither goaltender played well in the first period so the second period should have been a clean slate and while Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to regroup, it wasn’t so easy for Andersen. Granted one of the goals came off of Kasperi Kapanen’s foot, but the final straw came when he tried to play the puck and passed it to Steven Stamkos who then fed Nikita Kucherov in front of the net.

It has become a common theme to see Andersen struggle in the month of October and it’s tough to understand why. At the same time, you can’t say the Leafs have done an adequate job in playing solid defence in front of their goalie which is something John Tavares made a point to address.

"“He’s such a quality goaltender — one of the best in the world — and we just did not make it easy for him tonight against those type of shooters,” said Tavares to reporters. “We have to do a lot better job at defending. I think letting seven in at home is just unacceptable.”"

Tavares is right, letting in seven goals is unacceptable on multiple levels and it’s not just on Andersen, it’s on the entire team. You look at how the top line was outworked by Tampa’s top line and it’s clear that Zach Hyman’s absence is having an impact.

Something needs to change whether it’s trusting Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson more or against the other team’s top lines or move things around.

"“We weren’t really too helpful for him on a lot of those goals,” said Matthews after the game. “I mean backdoors, tap-ins, power plays. It’s not necessarily all on him. We’ve got to be better in front of him, just be better as a five-man unit and be better on the penalty kill.”"

People talk about how the Leafs blueline isn’t exactly on par with some of the best teams in the league but even those teams put more of an emphasis on defending as a five-man unit. It also doesn’t excuse another tough performance for Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci.

After being on the ice for three goals against on Saturday against Montreal, the same thing happened again against Tampa. While a couple of games isn’t enough to say that Rielly and Ceci can’t turn things around.

It’s clear however that the Leafs need to go back to the drawing board and realize that their defensive approach isn’t working. This unit’s strength is getting the puck out of the zone efficiently but more often than not, they are getting caught out of position in their own end. Of course, it might not be as simple as that but they need to address their approach.

One thing that we haven’t seen as much is the stretch pass which was a problem considering it wasn’t all that successful and lead to unnecessary turnovers. Also, the last couple of games have shown the Leafs can’t simply outscore their problems even though their play at 5-on-5 has been good.

If they want to get back on track, their attention to defence needs to be better and from there everything will come together.

Next. Early season takeaways after four games. dark

What are your thoughts on the Leafs’ recent tough stretch? Can they turn it around sooner rather than later? Let us know in the comments below.