The Toronto Maple Leafs finished off their west coast road trip last Saturday with arguably their worst effort of the season, losing 4-0 to the Vancouver Canucks . However, despite this loss the Leafs looked great picking up solid wins against the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. These two wins can largely be credited to the outstanding play of both James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier and that is why there may be some cause for concern.
In their three games each tender was forced to make over 40 saves. Against Edmonton Reimer recorded a 43 save shutout, in Calgary Bernier made 41 saves on 43 shots, and on Saturday Reimer made 43 saves on 47 shots. In these same three games the Leafs registered shot totals of 26, 22, and 21. Meaning during this road trip the Leafs were outshot 127-69.
This is a problem that the Leafs have been plagued by all season. Through their first 15 games the Maple Leafs been outshot in 13 of those games. In fact the Leafs currently have allowed the second most shots against in the league, giving up an average of over 36 shots a game.
Besides just being a lot of pressure on the goaltenders what this drastic shot differential means is so much more. What this plethora of shots against implies is that more of the game has been played in the Maple Leafs’ end of the rink instead of the opposition. This means that the Leafs are not providing themselves with opportunity to produce offense. This also means that there is extra pressure put on the defensemen, this suggests that the Leafs are being caught running around in their own end. This usually is what leads to penalties taken, leading to once again, more shots and more scoring opportunities for the opposition.
Simply put, the Maple Leafs need to start controlling the play and relying less on their goaltenders. The Leafs have been very fortunate that they are able to make the most of their opportunities and that their goaltenders have risen to the occasion. However, Saturday was a perfect example that no matter how well your goaltenders play, they can’t produce offense. The Maple Leafs should take the 4-0 loss to Vancouver as a lesson learned and look to take some of the burden off of their goaltenders.
On Saturday the Leafs were dealt another big blow as they lost centreman David Bolland to an injury after in a hit into the boards he suffered a cut tendon in his right foot. This injury comes after Tyler Bozak had missed the last three games and was placed on the long term injured reserve, likely not back until late November.
Bolland had successful surgery to repair the cut, but will be out indefinitely and though his timetable for a return is not known for sure, it is expected to be a couple months. So, with this the Maple Leafs may now be in the market for a new centreman to fill the gap.
TSN’s hockey insider Darren Dreger, believes the Leafs are looking around for a new centreman, but that availability may be slim. He also added that the Maple Leafs may use this injury to look for another top 6 forward believing that they have a lot of assets to offer in defensemen such as John-Michael Liles and young prospects.
In the meantime the Leafs have temporarily put winger James van Riemsdyk back at centre between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Although van Reimsdyk has never played centre as a pro he played the position back in college and both him and head coach Randy Carlyle believe that the transition won’t be that hard. In fact fans may have noticed the trio paired together a few times on the powerplay Saturday in Vancouver.
The Maple Leafs don’t play again until Friday when they take on the New Jersey Devils which should give the Maple Leafs a lot of time to either gel van Reimsdyk or find someone else to help fill in the gap.
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