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Maple Leafs manage to lose 4-3 to the Senators who have forgotten how to trap

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That was a hell of a trick, Leafs, dropping a game against a tired team playing really bad hockey a lot of the time.

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs were all over the Sens. And they lost.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

First Period

Okay, never call him steady Freddie ever again, Hughson.

Whoo hooo, it’s a shot. Oh. It’s Komarov. (He’s been very good defensively lately, which is his job.)

Auston missed a nearly open net.

Nylander with the puck off a turnover, and does he shoot, or does he stop, whirl and look for a pass? He’s a Finn, swear to god.

So that’s two stupid plays by Ottawa leading to two chances, and yet it’s 0-0. I hope we don’t all rue this moment later.

Matthews with two more chances. Wow. He seems good at hockey.

Andersen with a save, and he was checking his seat assignment for his flight to California tomorrow, but he managed fine.

Oh, god, a Gauthier shift. Fine. I can do this. Hemmed in, and hacking at the puck, and it’s over.

Bozak line with some offensive cycle time. The Ottawa Senators are a stationary bike and the Leafs are just pedalling like mad here.

Polak with a good outlet pass, but Hyman can’t execute the zone entry.

Broadcast does a long and tedious bit on Erik Karlsson’s plus-minus. I mean, it’s 90’s night, I guess. But memo to Buffalo: one hot Swedish defender can’t actually carry your bad team.

Wow. Super long stretch pass now works versus Ottawa. So they just don’t bother at all now.

It’s 2016! Matthews and Nylander go in offside.

Nylander gets the puck and roars in, and...guess! He stops, whirls and passes, gets the puck back, looks for a pass. Who would ever guess that? He never gets deeper than the faceoff circles. And to be clear, he’s been forechecking well the last few games.

Matt Duchene does an Avs clear and it goes over the glass.

To the power play!

It went like this: chances, chances, long time in their own end, bad pass by Brown, bad pass by Nylander, and done.

So the post power play shift is just trash. The mixed up group (Komarov, Kadri and Hyman, with Kadri giving way to Gauthier) misses passes, they end up deep in the Leafs’ end, with Polak and Borgman both in Borgman’s corner, and out it comes in the control of Ottawa, and it ends up in off of Polak’s skate.

1-0 Ottawa

Watch the forwards on this defensive zone play, and remember this isn’t Bozak and JvR.

Marner gets a breakaway right after, but no dice.

Polak gets off a good point shot and no one can pot the rebound.

Pyatt gets a great rush chance by exploiting a defensive pinch, and Andersen gets that and the rebound.

Kadri line shift sees Marleau dig out the puck in the neutral zone, and it’s Komarov with the zone entry and the shot. They cycle back in and Marleau finally gets a chance but, really, Komarov should never be in alone if this line is going to work offensively and Marleau is going to have a purpose.

This is the first game in a long time, I’ve seen all of the top nine having chances. No one is just treading water, no one is caved in.

Anderson with some great saves, and then Andersen with a good save, and this game looks like it should be 6-3 by now.

Kadri line are crowded around the net, and you just guess who shoots? Marleau finally gets the second chance, but nope.

The period ends with that sinking feeling that while the Leafs are obviously the better team, they always have the wrong guy in the right place, and they’ll never score.

This looks good! (Ignore the highlighted shot, that just happened on the screenshot.)

I mean, without the goal, this is a good period for the Leafs.

Second Period

I assume they all got yelled at in that intermission, and the Sens just don’t care.

Hainsey with a chance, and he’s shooting a lot tonight. It’s defensive player shoots day. Like hockey Saturnalia or something.

Marner circles the net looking dangerous, but then he finds a defenceman to shoot it, since it’s the rule in this game.

Ottawa come back with the puck, Duchene fools Gardiner with a change of speed, hands it to Hoffman, and in it goes.

2-0 Ottawa

And right away another chance from some lethargic defensive zone play versus some skilled passing. That was very nearly another goal for Ottawa.

Ottawa gets some extended zone time and Andersen has to make save after save.

Hyman battles for the puck in the defensive zone, Hainsey comes and gets it, whips it over behind the net, and...turned over. The Leafs zone is suddenly Hotel California.

Wheee, Brown gets the puck out (his bar-none, best skill is zone exits) and it’s a one and done that Anderson handles easily.

Kadri line with a bit of a cycle. Guess who shoots off the Marleau pass?

Bozak line with some of the same. They don’t have a defensive player, so the reversal never happens with them.

Broadcast does a long bit on Kadri’s scoring drought, and his lack of assists, and I WONDER WHY!

Hyman with a damn gorgeous move to get in tight, and Matthews and Nylander follow, and seriously, the Leafs really are the best team by a mile. Maybe they owe the Goddess of Balance for some of those “undeserved wins”, but I don’t want this to be one of them.

There is a penalty to Ottawa on the play, and to the power play we go again. Did you know the Leafs never draw penalties? Well, in this game of futility, they are on number two.

Ping! Damn that looked like it was going in, but the crossbar ate it.

The Leafs never really get set up again, and this looks like it’s that one Rielly chance (a defencemen, imagine?) and that’s it.

Huge scrum for the Bozak line post power play right on the goal mouth. No idea how that’s not a goal.

This game is weird. The Sens are bad, they ice the puck twice in a row, and Anderson doesn’t even seem to be that good, as he’s giving up gigantic rebounds, but the bounces are aggressively going against the Leafs.

Amazing cycle by the Bozak line again, and Rielly is just everywhere with the puck, passing beautifully, and then the shot is right on the chest of Anderson.

The Leafs get another power play, and they get it because they are really pressing hard.

This power play is very slow to get set up, and the passing ends up with one in Nylander’s feet. Let’s try unit number two. Marner is good at a quick setup, but nothing comes of it but two big saves on van Riemsdyk in the dying seconds.

This super duper, defensive post power play line of Gauthier, Komarov and Hyman is out, and...hemmed in. I get that this line exists due to ice time and shift change management. I still hate it. But, hey, there’s no Komarov on the power play, that’s what everyone wanted, right?

Matthews with a terrible offensive zone pass.

Nylander with a shot! Set off the fireworks. He was in all alone, so he had no choice.

And now it’s Komarov to the box for a hold after some bad defensive play from the whole team, but particularly Polak. It’s PK time, and maybe Hyman can get a shorty.

Marleau with a chance on a Hyman stretch pass, and Anderson comes way out to play it and gets away with it. But it burns a lot of time.

Oh, super sweet! And in keeping with the theme, a full defender-driven play. Rielly post power play delivers the puck up the ice to the offensive zone, and when Borgman comes onto the ice to replace him on a change, the puck comes to his point and BOOM! Borg-goal.

2-1 Ottawa

There’s instantly another chance from van Riemsdyk. He’s the exception here to let the defensive players shoot night, he’s racking up a tonne.

Rielly goes for a Marner-esque tour of the zone, and another chance ensues.

Borgman with another point shot, and is he back? Threading the needle on those shots? Okay, no, still a rookie. He makes a good defensive play, but passes it out to no one. The next time he carries it out and delivers it to Hyman, much better.

And Dion Phaneuf gets off a shot just as the horn goes.

The Corsi really favours the Leafs, but the game is about even in meaningful chances. The Leafs are shooting, sometimes with the right player, even, but their defensive execution is abysmal. It was ever thus.

At this point, the fourth line has played four minutes, so what’s the point of them at all beyond Brown on the special teams?

Third Period

I do not want to see number 33 or 15 in this period.

Bozak gets the puck, knows where his boy is, like always, and punts it up to James van Riemsdyk, who nearly bobbles the puck on his between the legs trick. But it is in!

2-2 on the scoreboard

And there’s 33, but he makes a good play to get past the Ottawa defence, and then, um, really can’t do anything with it. He has no shot. Like at all. You might joke about Hyman, but seriously that was a non-shot.

Gauthier tries to bat the puck up ice again, and it’s turned over. Borgman gets it and it’s turned over, and the Sens bounce it around, and the guy they scooped from Tampa, Gabriel Dumont, scores.

3-2 Ottawa

You tell me what that fourth line was doing out there, or the third pair defenders. (Maybe the famous Leafs depth is a shallow pool after all.)

Kadri line with a cycle, and it’s the Rielly show again. Not much in the way of shots though, even though Kadri had set up a good screen.

Marner with an easy ride through the neutral zone — and recall that this is the trapping Sens — and he passes it easy as pie up to Bozak. God, I hate this game. He gets off a nothing shot right at Anderson.

Yup. Rielly looks good with the puck, but is he creating much?

For old time’s sake, the Bozak line gets hemmed in.

Matthews keeps control of the puck in the offensive zone versus three Sens. I hate this game. No good shot comes of it.

I don’t know about you, but I rue those chances in the opening minutes that didn’t go in.

Hainsey gets the puck out of the Leafs zone under pressure — Rielly had handed him a bit of a grenade pass, and he carries the puck across the offensive line with Matthews and Nylander. He gets off a good centering pass, picks up the rebound himself and shoots it, and where’s Rielly while Hainsey is impersonating him? Why he’s right at the blueline, playing like Hainsey, and he fires it right in the net. Opposite day.

3-3 on the scoreboard

More Bozak line cycle time. Pedal, pedal, pedal.

Are we playing for the tie? Why would Ottawa care? They’re tired and want to go home.

They shouldn’t be tight, so the Leafs need to just press hard.

The Leafs get called on one of those wonky icing calls that make no sense. There’s just over four minutes left, and the Leafs are bounced back to their own zone.

Mitch Marner just won a board battle against Cody Ceci. He’s learning the patented Theo Fleury ass-check.

Komarov tries to kill Pageau in a medium-dirty high-risk play into the boards. No call.

Oh fer fuck’s sake. Honestly. For fuck’s sake.

Matt Duchene digs the puck out in the Ottawa zone (Duchene is one of the worst players in the NHL in his own zone, guys) and he roars off up ice (Duchene is one of the best players in the NHL at this trick) and gets a three on one on Hainsey. Of course it goes in. Bah.

4-3 Ottawa

With the goalie pulled, the Leafs get chances, so many goal-mouth scrums, but there’s just not enough luck for the Leafs tonight to let them take this last shred of Senators’ dignity.

That’s the game.

So what’s up with the good/bad Leafs playing well/horribly in a game they lost/could genuinely have won?

  • Their shooting percentage has tanked and that makes them look worse than they are.
  • Their shooting percentage has tanked in part because they are not making high percentage plays like they’re capable of.
  • Their defensive execution has gotten worse, and you know that’s because Zaitsev is out. Don’t tell me his damn CF%! And I know he’s bad a zone entry denial, but he’s a capable defender in a lot of ohter ways against top competition, and he plays at a level of consistency for big minutes that the Leafs are suffering without.
  • You know who isn’t that? Deep breath. Jake Gardiner.
  • Lighten Gardiner’s usage just a little, really only a little, and you get the Jake effect like we saw against Columbus when he played with Travis Dermott. But you need to get someone other than a rookie and an old man on the third pair to do that.
  • The Kadri line can’t score.
  • Nylander never shoots from good locations.
  • Marner dances around the outside, round the outside. Round the outside.
  • The remedy is, in my opinion, some coaching tweaks, some waiting for players to grow up a little, and no, Dermott is not top four right now. Add some personnel upgrades, and they can slide up the quality scale a little more. One step at a time.