I don’t really know what to say here folks, but I guess it’s pretty simple. The Leafs do not need to hold a summit over every regular season loss. We can all agree that losing to the Oilers is embarrassing, but it some how seems less embarrassing when McDavid and Draisaitl take over the game.
You can point to the other names appearing on the score sheet, but that doesn’t change that only one goal was scored by the Oilers with neither McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice.
Anyways, back to the “issues” stemming from the game…
1. The Leafs need someone to shutdown Connor McDavid
Allow me to humbly suggest that this player does not exist. We can fondly reflect on how great Nazem Kadri was at getting under McDavid’s skin, but we can equally point out that Justin Holl did pretty darn well against him during the game in Edmonton.
The reality of McDavid is that he is so far beyond anyone in this league that no one is going to shut him down and making an issue out of stopping him is a fool’s errand. Stopping every other Oiler is far easier and you win when you do that. Let McDavid do McDavid things and don’t worry about having someone on the roster who can stop one of the top players of all time in the two games a season you face him.
All that being said, the Leafs defense has plenty of room for improvement, and that’s not entirely on the defensemen. The Leafs have allowed the 2nd most shots against this year in the league, and the 7th most goals. They don’t need to shutdown just the elites, they need to get everyone under control, even if trading opportunities is generally working well.
2. The Leafs need to play tougher against their opponents
This seems to come up after every single loss, and while I wouldn’t argue that there is merit to finding skilled physicality like the Leafs did when they added Jake Muzzin to the roster last season, there isn’t a significant boost from slapping tough guys at the bottom of the lineup card, as can be seen by the effectiveness of Mason Marchment.
That’s not to insult Mason Marchment, by the way, he seems to be a modestly capable fourth liner, but rather to point out the physicality the Leafs need would be required throughout the lineup, if it’s truly needed at all.
Compromising on what has been working majority of the time to insert something that may or may not work is a reactionary gamble, and unless there is a reason option that doesn’t compromise what works for the Leafs, it’s really not worth pursuing. Additions like Engvall, who adds defensive responsibility to the top nine, and looming return of Trevor Moore to the roster give the Leafs hope that they are ultimately moving in the right direction long term, and overpaying for the next David Clarkson is a gamble that we should know won’t necessarily pay off, as skilled toughness seems to be very closely linked to the system of the team.
Perhaps it’s best to recognize that physicality will be a skillset that supplements the current vision and won’t be the driving factor of how the team plays. I understand this may be a bitter pill to swallow and many won’t. That is your choice, but I wouldn’t count on the Leafs being bruisers or agitators in the near future.
When both goaltenders give up three goals in a game it’s fair to point to goaltending as being part of the problem last night. I think it’s also safe to say that backup goaltending has been enough of an ongoing issue for the Leafs that you can want someone different, even after Hutchinson putting together a couple of good starts recently.
What doesn’t change is the fact that Frederik Andersen is still a solid NHL starter and getting pulled early when his team wasn’t playing strong in front of him.
Your issue with Andersen might be that he seems to let in goals that you think he should want back. You know who else does that?
EVERY OTHER GOALTENDER SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME!!!
There is no need to panic on Andersen and the story isn’t any different because he gave up three quick goals, some of questionable quality to the Oilers. He’s still the Leafs best goaltender since pre-lockout Belfour. He needs some support, but nothing about this game rushes it.
The Leafs have one regulation loss in their last 11 games. The Leafs are 15-5-1 under Sheldon Keefe. The Leafs are once again a playoff bound team. Much of what needed to be righted on the Leafs has been, and one brainfart game doesn’t mean hitting the reset button. All of this seems fairly obvious to state, but given the discourse following the loss to McDavid and friends I decided to say it anyway. I know it’s tough dealing with the Leafs being good and it’s far easier to criticize them, but things are going good for them right now (despite injuries) and we should try to enjoy that.