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Maple Leafs start slow three times in a row in 3-2 loss to Dallas Stars

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Please, stop giving up breakaways to bad offensive teams.

Dallas Stars v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: Radek Faksa #12 of the Dallas Stars scores against Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on February 13, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs gave up a goal on the first shot of every period, all within the first 90 seconds, leading to a 3-2 loss at home to the Dallas Stars. Frederik Andersen stopped only 16 of 19 shots he faced against the defensively reliant Stars in his first game back from injury last weekend. Auston Matthews scored his 41st goal of the season in the second and Zach Hyman scored his 17th right near the end to make it close.

The Leafs gave up two goals off breakaways and another on the penalty kill, furthering the Leafs need to patch up big mistakes and holes in defensive coverage from the offensive zone.

First Period

0-1

First shot. First goal. Bah.

As the Leafs were attempting a breakout, John Klingberg pinched down and disrupted an outlet pass from Alex Kerfoot to John Tavares, Denis Gurianov was able to jump into the slot and snap a shot through the five hole of Freddy Andersen.

The negative pressure (aka sucking) sustained through the first half of the period. The Leafs failed to get a shot on goal until the 10:19 mark of the first. However, the shot attempts in the period at this point were nine apiece, with the Leafs actually leading shots from the slot (4-3). The Stars only had three shots up to this point as well.

The Stars had completely covered off the middle of the ice, surrounding the Leafs along the boards as they tried to make some passes into the offensive zone. It was a very disciplined zone defense that kept the Leafs out of any offensive chances until the second half of the period when Matthews tried to jam home a shot from the side of the net.

In terms of the Leafs keeping the shots down, they did a good job of maintaining possession as much as they could, which limited the quantity of chances the Stars got. A lot of their shot attempts in the first period came from the point.

After One

Toronto weathered the early storm well — I mean, they gave up a goal — and played better in the second half than in the first and brought the shot share in the period to 18-13 in their favour. The problem was that the Stars blocked five of their shots and the Leafs missed 10 more themselves.

Also in the period, Andreas Johnsson collided with Kasperi Kapanen in the defensive zone and Johnsson had to leave the game with a knee injury. He hobbled to the bench and right to the dressing room.

Second Period

0-2

You’re kidding me?! Tyson Barrie pinched as the puck came around the weak side. Matthews backed him up. But then, Barrie left Matthews at the point (and on the left side Travis Dermott went for a hit on a random Stars player) and Radek Faksa burst away on a breakaway. He, too, scored five-hole on Andersen like Gurianov did on the first shot in the first period.

Watching this goal again, this is why I don’t like defenders like Barrie and Dermott, and the full ice view that Omar provided gives a perfect example.

Looking at Barrie, the right play was to pinch. The right play after that, while the puck was getting settled deeper in the zone, was to switch with Matthews and back up to cover against the breakout. He didn’t, the 29-year-old instead stood completely still watching the puck go past him, leaving an under-equipped Matthews to deal with it.

As for Dermott, his calling card when he was called up was that he could outrun any mistake in his positioning. That wasn’t the case in this play at all. Not only was he late on covering the guy in the middle of the ice that he half-assed hit, but his correct play was to never go near him in the first place and instead backup Matthews. I have had major problems with Dermott’s decision making and positioning all season. His usage in the top-four has only made that more clear. He can’t outrun the many mistakes he makes.

Some of the best offensive defensemen in the league like Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Dougie Hamilton — you can even put Jake Gardiner on that list — can make those pinches and take that offensive chance without risking it at the other end.

The key thing I’ve learned from watching them and players like Rasmus Sandin, Calle Rosen, Justin Holl, and even Teemu Kivihalme in the AHL, is that they are always moving. They jump up in the rush, but get back as soon as they can in order to let the forwards push instead of them. They don’t get caught flat-footed and they are always aware of who’s behind them and how much support their teammates need.

I do not see that capability from Barrie, and I thought I saw it from Dermott in the AHL, but it hasn’t been there in the NHL.

Following this goal, the Leafs got into a lot of penalty trouble. They got called for back-to-back penalties, first Justin Holl for roughing, then the bench for too many men. After that, Kyle Clifford tried to get the team back into the game emotionally by fighting Jamie “not as cool as Penny” Oleksiak. Both players had to leave the game, Clifford came back with bandaids on his knuckles because he had peeled the skin from them.

I’m not sure if it was this fight or the fact that Sheldon Keefe broke up the MNM line, putting Nylander with Tavares and getting him going. I’m pretty sure it was shortening the bench, to be honest.

1-2

With Corey Perry in the box for being bad and slow (also known as tripping), Auston Matthews scored his 41st goal of the season on the power play.

The play started with Nylander sending a through pass from the front of the net to Matthews on the weak side. This got the Stars defense scrambling and the Leafs a couple good chances from the edge of the slot. Barrie took a slap shot from the point that missed the net, but Matthews was able to recover and snipe a shot past Ben Bishop from the wing.

After Two

It was another good period from the Leafs in terms of owning possession, they had the lead in 5v5 shot attempts (11-9), which improved under special teams. They had four shots on the power play, one shorthanded chance from Kapanen, and five shots during some 4v4 hockey. Unfortunately the big mistakes cost them a tied game or lead.

Third Period

1-3

And there’s the Tyler Seguin goal. Again, a big mistake with Tavares in the box for tripping a minute into the period cost the Leafs more time down in the defensive zone. This was his first goal in 18 games. The goal was also on the first shot of the period, which also happened in the first and second periods.

Leafs shortened the bench for the whole third period. Matthews had a handful of chances on his own, but the Leafs never got anything of substance until they pulled the goalie.

2-3

With Andersen on the bench, Zach Hyman banged home a point shot from Marner, bringing the Leafs within one with 1:19 left in regulation. This was Hyman’s third goal in two games and 10th point in nine games.

Unfortunately, the Leafs tried to steal an extra point near the end, but they couldn’t beat Bishop.