The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the St. Louis Blues last night after blowing a 3-1 lead in the second period. But can you even call that a blown lead? It’s the second period, the game is happening, and no team in their right mind would give up offense and just try to hold a lead for two periods (unless you’re the Islanders). So the Leafs didn’t “blow” a lead, but they did give up two leads to the Blues and had to mount a small comeback of their own to end up winning. So I guess you could call it a small blown lead.
The Leafs, unfortunately, have had a habit of blowing leads, so the reputation is merited. Excluding expansion teams, the Leafs have blown the most three-goal leads since 2007. Micah has the data on this, so I can’t argue with that.
That's pretty bad! But there is one (exactly one) team doing it worse: the golden knights, who have held 88 such leads and blown 8 of them, for a big-lead-blown rate of 9.1%.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 9, 2022
(Regular season only)
However, I think there’s reason to believe the Leafs are no longer doing what their past selves did and have figured out how to protect a lead late in the game. Looking at this season’s stats, the Leafs defensively with one and three-plus goal leads is quite good. Two goal leads are below average, but not terrible. I mean, comparing them to the Edmonton Oilers and they’re downright masters at defense. Speaking of the Oilers, they blew another lead last night, but we’ll get to that later. (via Hockey Viz)
So yes, the Leafs are famously the team that has had comeback after comeback mounted against them. But I have reason to believe they are getting better — the Colorado OTL is the only time this year the Leafs have blown a third period lead of any kind. And when the team had to shut down the Blues for three minutes in the third, they did so, and they did it pretty well. They cut off passing lanes, smothered the front of the net, and they blocked shots. What more could you want? Okay, maybe not a delay of game penalty with six seconds left to increase the tension, but Kampf won the crucial faceoff and it all worked out.
Of course, the team will continue to be tested throughout the year and into the playoffs, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Even in a game where the Leafs made a lot of mistakes defensively, they still found a way to pull it together at the end. I’d say that’s progress.
Various Leafs and Branches
Mikheyev surprises everyone, Leafs win 11 goal affair | by: Hardev
32 Thoughts: Decision time for Kent Hughes, Canadiens GM search | by: Sportsnet
Sheldon Keefe stole the GIF show last night with the full range of his bench expressions. Here are three of our favourite.
Here was him when the Rielly penalty happened with six seconds left in the game.
lol Keefe's reaction to the Rielly delay of game— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
"The game's over. F--k me" pic.twitter.com/IkyDRwDsAg
Here he was when the Leafs blew the lead in the second period.
mood pic.twitter.com/hex9RANcB5— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
When all the penalty shenanigans went down.
lol Keefe has been very expressive so far pic.twitter.com/yfEUvuIDzF— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
And finally, when Mikheyev scored the winner.
AHAHA KEEFE! pic.twitter.com/uOVoyt2Hk1— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 16, 2022
After the game, Keefe seemed to not notice that Timothy Liljegren scored his first career NHL goal until someone told him. I’m glad Keefe thought Liljegren had a good game. He had some shortcomings (that I detailed in the recap) but he also did a lot right, including defending the final minute of the game, so he clearly has Keefe’s trust.
Keefe has coached Liljegren in the AHL for a while that he forgot this was his first NHL goal: "I was with him for so long that I had to be reminded that it was his first goal; Thrilled for him. I thought he played a great game today."— David Alter (@dalter) January 16, 2022
Last up, an update on Kyle Clifford, who took a hard blocked shot, possibly to the head. He was in concussion protocol, hence why he didn’t play in the third period. That said, he wouldn’t have played anyway as Keefe shortened the bench to only three lines.
Keefe says Kyle Clifford was pulled by a concussion spotter due to a hit he took. This was after he blocked a shot with his knee and came back. He's fine.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) January 16, 2022
Lastly, the Edmonton Oilers. They blew a 3-1 lead within 10 minutes of the third period against the Oilers, tied it again thanks to Darnell Nurse, but then lost it with three minutes to go on Josh Norris’ second of the night. The Oilers have now lost eight of their last 10, sit behind the Detroit Red Wings in the league standings and sixth in the weak Pacific, and Connor McDavid continues to look utterly defeated for yet another season.
The Oilers last win was December 18th against the Seattle Kraken.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 16, 2022
They don't play again until the 20th, so it will be over a full calendar month
Ignore what he’s saying, we’ve heard it before. But the utter dejection on his face. That man is broken. The 18-wheeler has been falling off the cliff for him year after year after year in Edmonton, and I’m shocked he’s still there.
"I'm not sure what to tell ya..."— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 16, 2022
Connor McDavid was a man of few words following the Oilers' 'frustrating' loss to the Senators on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/RydUdBrp4L
The CBC broadcast after the game talked about what the Oilers need to do to change things, and Friedman suggested focusing completely on defense and making sure they can at least do that. I think his quote was, “the effort is there, even if the results are not.” And if you think about that quote for just a second, the conclusion one must draw from that is that this team does not have the talent to do that.
They are built like a glass cannon. Draisaitl, Ceci, Keith, Barrie, Smith. Half the defense, the star forward, and the goalie are all glass cannons in their own way. And the rest of the roster is downright Sens level. I don’t think any coach can get that team to succeed at defense. I know defense can be coached, but you need to have some awareness skills and puck-moving ability within each player, not split between two like Ceci and Barrie. Seriously, if Ceci and Barrie had a baby, it would probably be a pretty good defenseman.
Elliotte Friedman on Oilers Now yesterday:— Editor in J (@Account4hockey) January 16, 2022
"I'm not putting any words in (McDavid's) mouth. I'm not jumping to conclusions. I'm just saying that I don't understand why this is a big news flash. If the Oilers miss the playoffs this year it's a really bad thing for the franchise."
And finally, some reports on the trade front.
As we just reported on Hockey Night in Canada the Dallas Stars have stepped up their efforts to trade John Klingberg. We believe he will be moved. Not sure where but we've reported that the Carolina Hurricanes have shown interest previously.— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) January 16, 2022