Maple Leafs have more to give as five-game home stand starts on Saturday

Get the latest from Terry Koshan straight to your inbox

Article content

Third place in the Atlantic Division and a .600 points percentage.

Advertisement 2

Article content

That’s where the Maple Leafs find themselves through 10 games of the 2023-24 regular season.

Article content

It’s a spot that five other teams in the division — not including the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, who are ahead of the Leafs in the standings in points — gladly would take from Toronto. 

Still, we don’t imagine the Leafs spent an off-day on Friday telling family and friends that they’re happy with their lot in hockey life. 

In going 5-3-2, the Leafs have played choppy, oil-and-water hockey at times. They head into a five-game home stand on a skid, having lost three in a row. A loss on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Arena would give the Leafs their first four-game losing streak since Oct. 24-30, 2022.

If you figured the Leafs would have these kind of starts out of their system by now, you wouldn’t be alone. Advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring for the first time in almost two decades didn’t rub off on this group during the summer, apparently, as some uninspiring hockey has trickled in. 

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

There’s no arguing with what William Nylander, captain John Tavares, defenceman Morgan Rielly and goaltender Joseph Woll have done through the first several weeks. For various reasons, those four Leafs have stood out, for the most part playing exceptional hockey. 

Right now, we really can’t say the same about anyone else wearing a Toronto sweater. 

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

After recording a hat trick in consecutive games, Auston Matthews has two goals in his past eight.

Mitch Marner is riding a quiet five-game point streak, but of his nine points, just four have come at five-on-five. Projected over 82 games, that comes out to 33 five-on-five points for Marner. Last season in 80 games, he led Toronto with 53 points at five-on-five.

The Leafs are getting something from their top-line duo, but you’re left wanting more.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Two returning forwards — Matthew Knies and Calle Jarnkrok — haven’t met expectations. Both of Knies’ goals came in one game and he has gone five games without scoring. Jarnkrok has been miscast in a top-six role, as he was at times last season, and has not scored since the second game. 

Not only have Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Ryan Reaves not provided the snot that general manager Brad Treliving envisioned when he signed them during the summer, the trio hasn’t provided much of anything.

Bertuzzi has been benched for the majority of the past two third periods and had to be embarrassed on Thursday night in Boston when coach Sheldon Keefe said the winger couldn’t execute simple instructions. Both of Bertuzzi’s goals have come on the power play and he has not been a good fit with either Matthews or Tavares.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Domi has four assists and no goals; neither Bertuzzi nor Domi have helped make up for the jam, physically or defensively, that was lost when Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot and Ryan O’Reilly all signed elsewhere in free agency. 

Outside of fighting in the first two games, Reaves has been a non-factor, unless you consider that despite averaging less than eight minutes of ice time a game, he has been on for six goals against. 

Ilya Samsonov is trying to find his way in goal and the penalty kill has sagged under the weight of new players trying to learn their way, sitting at 21st in the NHL through Thursday. 

The defence corps has had to get through injuries and is a group that Treliving will have to bolster before the trade deadline in March. That hasn’t changed.

Advertisement 6

Article content

On the whole, the Leafs have kept their heads above water in the standings despite the shortcomings. That’s encouraging. 

In recent seasons, the Leafs have been able to leave early uneven play in the past.

With a chance to find some comfort on home ice in the next week, it’s the responsibility of the Leafs to take a similar path.

Recommended from Editorial

LOOSE LEAFS

Keefe should provide an update on Saturday morning on the status of defenceman Timothy Liljegren, who suffered a left leg injury when he was tripped into the boards by Bruins captain Brad Marchand on Thursday. The thinking is one of Simon Benoit or Maxime Lajoie will be recalled from the Toronto Marlies. And, again, for everyone with their hockey pants in a bunch because the Leafs had no physical response to what Marchand did, keep in mind that the Leafs aren’t the kind of team that has responded to these sorts of incidents in the past. Why would that change now, no matter who is wearing the Toronto uniform? … Fraser Minten has taken the next natural step in his path to full-time employment with the Leafs, as the 19-year-old has been named captain of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Returned to Kamloops by the Leafs last week, Minten was expected to make his season debut with Kamloops on Friday against Red Deer. 

[email protected]

X: @koshtorontosun

Article content

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

    Advertisement 1


Posted

in

by