We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a matchup with the Washington Capitals when there was more game clock spent on man advantages than at even strength. But even despite some woeful sequences on their opportunities with a man up, the Leafs only fell 4-3 in overtime after consecutive minors tilted the ice in Washington’s favour in the bonus period.
That’s when Alex Ovechkin finally made good on one of his many one-time chances in the contest.
The Maple Leafs will have the next three days to focus on their power-play scheme at practice before meeting the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
Until then, three points:
First Point: Really nothing to see here
Ovechkin probably didn’t intend to set off a firestorm.
But when made to comment on the Maple Leafs’ early-season struggles after Washington’s morning session on Tuesday, he may have too loosely applied his own experience to what may or may not be an issue for the Maple Leafs.
As a superstar player that failed to achieve meaningful success for a long, long time before finally breaking through 18 months ago, Ovechkin has first-hand experience that sometimes superstars, as well as entire teams, need to change certain things in order to fulfill certain potentials.
He’s not wrong.
Mike Babcock knows it. Auston Matthews knows it.
That’s why it’s really much ado about nothing when the Leafs’ coach takes really no offence to Ovechkin’s comments, saying, “It’s a fair assessment, isn’t it?” and when Matthews acknowledges that yeah, Washington had to do some losing, specifically to the Pittsburgh Penguins, before it won a Stanley Cup.
These are facts.
What matters, as Babcock stated in his media session, is that the Leafs are making progress in becoming the type of team that can perform within a structure, each other, and can endure.
While it was a positive showing versus the Capitals, coming away with just one point is another example of the fact that they’re just not totally there yet.
Second Point: The correct response
After two massive hits on Matthews and Tyson Barrie were met without a response over the weekend, one of the hotter topics in the lead-up to the game was the Maple Leafs’ handling of these issues.
Tonight we saw it dealt with properly.
Tom Wilson, having already knocked Jake Muzzin out of the game with some questionable contact, set his sights on his next victim in the second period, and left Barrie wincing in pain after crunching him along the boards.
This prompted one of the few players with the ideal size to handle these matters, the normally level-headed Frederik Gauthier, to step in front of Wilson, providing merely presence.
Goat listening to talk radio this week— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) October 30, 2019
Gauthier left the gloves on and his stick reasonably low, the referees were within a comfortable distance for him, probably, and Gauthier really didn’t do anything that will at all deter Wilson from running around in the future. But that’s really not the point. Gauthier did what we seldom see, which is that he did more than nothing.
He stood up for a teammate.
And the bare minimum, here, it worked perfectly. Gauthier preserved the minor penalty earned from the Barrie collision with the negligible contact, setting the stage for Matthews.
Third Point: Why sit Dermott?
You can expect growing pains after a six-month absence. The short leash he had, though, didn’t seem all that necessary. Especially when the Maple Leafs went down to five defencemen.
Travis Dermott made his season debut versus the Capitals, and looked really good in the early going. His first passes were crisp and accurate, and his ability to use his skating to defuse pressure in the defensive zone was evident before the frame was up.
But after one sloppy moment led to a high-danger look for Wilson early in the second period, Dermott seemed to lose all of his rope. He only received five shifts for the remainder of the period after being pulled off the ice at the next whistle, and was limited to just three minutes and 32 seconds in the frame.
With Muzzin on the trainer’s table and Dermott planted on the bench, there was a significant amount of pressure on the remaining four defencemen, namely Morgan Rielly. The Leafs’ No. 1 defender, who has missed the last three practices with an undisclosed injury, logged just short of 20 minutes through the first two periods, and wound up playing over 33 total.
While the correlation is far from exact, it probably shouldn’t be considered a surprise that Rielly’s performance waned.
He was absolutely at fault on the Capitals’ game-tying goal.
Ovechkin scores his 10th of the season after an incredible rush up the ice by Oshie pic.twitter.com/jdG6gx7fZp— GoatWorldSports (@GoatWorldSport1) October 30, 2019
Dermott saw only seven and a half minutes in the second and third periods combined after taking a normal shift to start. Not sure his performance warranted that.
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