The Maple Leafs haven’t allowed 13 goals in their first three games since Sheldon Keefe was benched.
After eliminating the empty net in Monday’s 4-1 loss to Chicago, they still have the most pucks they have fished out of the net since October 2018 under former coach Mike Babcock.
Toronto has conceded the third-most goals of any NHL team that has played three times, 10 of them at 5-on-5, followed by the Andrei Vasilevskiy-less Tampa Bay Lightning.
Early? Surely. But this is a team that wanted to maximize their extra training time in what they felt was an overly long training camp of eight friendlies. In contrast to previous camp plans, many veterans were kept away from most preseason operations in order to be ready for the important games.
After Monday, when the Hawks experienced further onslaughts with high threats to the tolerance of all players, there were rueful statements from players about tidying up details.
Without a hat trick from Auston Matthews to hide their defensive woes, the Leafs looked vulnerable, and as coach Keefe and others observed, the mistakes are made by both veterans and new players.
Jake McCabe had as many hiccups on the blueline as John Klingberg, and there was a pairing switch late in Monday’s game, with those two and the Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren tandem.
Max Domi was already taken off the left wing of the line along with John Tavares and William Nylander when he was deemed a defensive liability, switching to what Keefe hopes will be a better fit with newcomers Fraser Minten and Matthew Knies, energetic checkers , who need Domi’s offensive help.
But Tavares didn’t think the growing pains that came with trading in seven new players since opening night last season could be a collective excuse for the failed plays.
“We win and lose as a team,” said the captain.
The Leafs had Tuesday off and then have a day of practice before beginning a five-game trip to Sunrise, Florida.
Don’t tread lightly
Tavares gave a clear no to the question of whether the Leafs were guilty of looking beyond last year’s 59-point Blackhawks, even though Connor Bedard led their resurgence.
“We didn’t execute to start the game, (but) once our game got going, we started moving the game forward.
“It’s just a matter of understanding the counterattack (attack). That’s the other side of it. At the highest level in the world you have to realize how quickly people can play against you.”
Getting up for Thursday’s game shouldn’t be a problem as the Panthers eliminated the Leafs to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals. Florida won its first game on Monday, defeating New Jersey after two season-opening losses.
“Get back in the win column and establish our game for 60 minutes,” Nylander said of what the focus should be during the upcoming trip.
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One final thought on the flap caused by the Blackhawks not making Bedard available to a large media contingent for his highly anticipated first game in Toronto: It followed Chicago’s decision not to hold a morning skate in Toronto and only coaches Luke Richardson to make himself available a few hours before the game without the required two players of the team’s choice.
The Montreal Canadiens also stayed away all day from the season opener in Toronto, while the Leafs held their full morning session as usual.
No one expects the players, including the stars, to talk seven days a week and twice on a game day (Chicago had Bedard and all of its players on hand for a smaller media group at practice on Sunday), but there is an obligation to Speaking as part of the league’s CBA, broadcast sponsors and, most importantly, personal accountability.
Doug Gilmour didn’t enjoy the constant attention at the height of his Leafs fame, but once told us, “Five minutes with the media in a 24-hour day isn’t much when they represent the people who pay for tickets and.” our fans.”
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A win on Monday might have given Joseph Woll another start in net at Florida, considering how last year ended for him against the Panthers. But Keefe might not prefer Ilya Samsonov to sit idle for a full week leading up to Saturday’s game in Tampa. Samsonov would also have two days off before he would like to play against his old team in Washington… Tuesday marked 28 years since No. 28, Max’s father Tie, was defeated by a one-punch KO in an eight-game series. Ulf Samuelsson was suspended in a Leafs-Rangers game.