This just in: The Maple Leafs aren’t a good hockey team.
They might be at some point in the 2023-24 season. Right now, 13 games in, they’re not.
The Leafs continued their porous defensive ways on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, losing 6-3 against the Ottawa Senators.
Never mind the visitors, the actual Battle of Ontario is between the Leafs and their defensive zone.
With the game tied 3-3 in the third, the Leafs gave up three goals in a span of less than four minutes, as Dominik Kubalik, Tim Stutzle and Claude Giroux beat Joseph Woll to secure Ottawa’s second win in seven games.
The Leafs have played seven home games. They’ve allowed at least four goals in every one. On what planet is that the mark of a sound team? Finding their way? No one should be buying that.
We figured general manager Brad Treliving had some time to get help on the blue line, with the trade deadline months away. It’s becoming more urgent for Treliving to pull the trigger on something a lot sooner.
The Leafs tied the game 3-3 at 7:42 when Nick Robertson recorded his first goal with the big club since Oct. 20, 2022, when he scored in overtime against the Dallas Stars.
There’s obvious chemistry between Max Domi and Robertson. It was there on Monday night in the OT win against Tampa Bay and was evident again when Domi set up Robertson on a two-on-one.
Some takeaways from the evening:
William Nylander extended his point streak to start a season with at least one point to 13 games, increasing his franchise record.
Nylander’s goal at 5:47 of the first period was what we’ve come to expect from the gifted winger — a shot fired to the top corner that Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo could only wave at.
And there was Tyler Bertuzzi, gathering the puck to his forehand to beat Korpisalo early in the second to tie the game 2-2. It was Bertuzzi’s third goal with Toronto and his first at five-on-five. He has to use it as a kick-start to something more; surely, Bertuzzi was not signed by Treliving to a one-year, $5.5-million US contract to score once in a blue moon.
Leafs captain John Tavares, even the model of diligence, had two assists to move him to 990 points in his NHL career. That moved him one point past Paul Kariya into 100th place on the list of leading scorers in NHL history. Next in Tavares’ sights is the idle Phil Kessel, who has 992 points as he still hopes to catch on with a team.
CRACK IN THE WOLL
Here’s something that could be cause for concern.
The Leafs have been wondering when Ilya Samsonov might find his game, but could depend on Woll as the former tries to get back to the standard he set last season.
On Wednesday night, Woll didn’t provide much confidence either. A goal by Jakob Chychrun that gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead in the second period was of the stoppable variety, as Chychrun’s shot slipped past Woll under the goalie’s left leg.
It was a one-timer by Chychrun, to be sure, but Woll reacted like he knew he should have made a save.
It was similar to the Sens’ first goal of the game, when Dominik Kubalik scored from the point. The long shot, which Woll appeared to see all the way, got under the left pad of the goalie and went in. And it came less than two minutes after the Nylander goal.
The sixth goal came after Woll coughed up the puck behind the net.
The last thing the Leafs need are two goalies who aren’t up to par. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers how demoralizing it can be when both goalies stink.
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The Leafs, as they have been in many of their games (especially at home), continued to have lots of fun in the defensive zone. And not the good kind.
Through the early going, the Leafs certainly won’t be confused with the sturdier defensive teams in the National Hockey League.
Via Natural Stattrick, going into the game, the Leafs had allowed 129 high-danger chances at five-on-five. Only the San Jose Sharks, who finally got their first win of the season on Tuesday night when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers, had given up more.
The veteran pair of Mark Giordano and John Klingberg had a particularly tough night, as it was on the ice for the first three Senators goals. Klingberg is a defensive headache, and the Sens took advantage. Ottawa’s second goal, by Giroux, came after the Leafs couldn’t get organized enough to even think of clearing the puck.
The fourth line was on the ice for another goal, as it was at the end of a shift when Chychrun scored. Too bad for the David Kampf trio, too, as it had some rare offensive-zone pressure not long before Chychrun scored.
Ryan Reaves, who gets on the ice just a little bit more than you do, somehow is minus-9.