With Jake Muzzin suffering from a concussion and Justin Holl in COVID protocol, Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have become the Maple Leafs defacto second pair. Both have played up in the past, but each always had a babysitter in Muzzin or TJ Brodie. Last night, they had their first crack at it on their own against the New York Rangers and unfortunately it didn’t really go well.
Despite a relatively okay shot share, the pairing got completely smothered around the front of the net with Liljegren on the ice for two goals against at 5v5 and Sandin on the ice for three. Their expected goals against per shot were the worst and second worst on the team. Each shot Sandin was giving up was coming from a 12% scoring area on average, 10% for Liljegren. For comparison, Rielly and Brodie were at 4% and 5% on the same night. Muzzin this season, which has widely been considered a down year for him, is a shade under 6%.
This is probably what Keefe was referring to when it comes to “softness.” A more useful phrase would be “failing to clear the front of the net.”
Keefe: "Today I thought we just played soft; We got exposed for being a team that is soft and purposeless."— David Alter (@dalter) January 20, 2022
A lot of people last night complained that “the team” has fallen back to old habits and failed to defend leads anymore. The reality is they don’t have their best defensive defenseman, they played two kids who are in over their heads right now, and their goalie is kinda slumping. I don’t think anything that’s going on with this team is systemic, it’s just injuries and Campbell not able to bail them out right now. One could argue it’s pretty worrying that this is what it takes to overturn the Leafs, but the team won their previous two games where they gave up a lead, and last night they got scoring from Matthews*, Marner, Mikheyev, and Bunting. Two big players and secondary talent.
It’s only been one game, but this was a really worrying first sign for Sandin and Liljegren. Help is unfortunately not coming soon for them, unless you count Holl as said help. Who knows when Muzzin will be back in the lineup, his current prognosis is “indefinite.” Depending on what that internal schedule is, I would be looking to get some playoff additions in now rather than later. Muzzin and Campbell were both acquired in late January/early February. Maybe it’s time to convince the Devils they need to give away Damon Severson, or perhaps Mark Giordano can stabilize things by eating some minutes.
I’m not telling Kyle Dubas to panic, but I am saying start assessing options.
Various Leafs and Branches
Recap: Maple Leafs fizzle to a 6-3 loss | by: Brigstew
Postponed Leafs games have now been rescheduled | by: Hardev and Species
Bad news from the Marlies as Josh Ho-Sang is out with a concussion.
The Marlies confirm Josh Ho-Sang is out with a concussion.— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) January 20, 2022
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with Filip Kral, here’s some people talking about his turnaround this season. He was player of the week in the AHL last week.
Some updates on the Reid Boucher sexual assault case. Unsurprisingly, allegedly lots of people from USA Hockey to the Sarnia Sting knew and downplayed it.