Frankly, the Leafs had a horrible start to the game last night. Probably the worst they’ve had this year. They ended up pulling things pretty close to even in the 3rd period, but was not quite enough as they lost the game 6-3. Let’s try to dig into what went wrong and why.
Despite allowing 5 goals, I do not believe Frederik Andersen was part of the problem tonight. He made some good saves early and none of the goals could really be categorized as his fault. The only questionable one for me would be the 1st Brassard goal to make it 3-0 Senators. Watch here:
Brassard goal pic.twitter.com/0zkEAf9dFy
— steph (@myregularface) October 22, 2017
You can see the puck sneaks underneath his right arm and into the net. Typically if the puck goes through you, you probably didn’t do everything you could to stop it.
But the rest were totally fine.
At the other end, Anderson was playing a pretty mediocre game. The Leafs didn’t do much offensively (we’ll get to that later) but for the most part, Anderson did what he had to. From what we’ve seen this season, only allowing 3 goals against the Leafs is actually quite the accomplishment.
The Senators took off to start the game, leading to 3 goals for in the first 2 periods. You can see score effects took over to start the 3rd period though, flipping the advantage in shot attempts pretty starkly as they made their push to climb back in the game.
Ultimately it was pretty close, and accounting for score effects, it totals to a very close game. 50.53% for Ottawa, 49.47% for Toronto. Splitting hairs in that respect.
The shot attempts were close, but the same cannot be said for the opportunities to score. Check out the heat map from the game:
The Leafs had a bit of a cluster at the net front, but mostly their chances were spread around the zone.
The Senators on the other hand appear to have dominated the net front. All 4 goals were from in close, and the density of their chances definitely came from there. Not a pretty look from the Leafs’ defense in this game. The Expected Goals model on Corsica definitely reflects this chart. Even when adjusted for score state, the Senators had a 64.97% to 35.03% advantage. A dominating performance that definitely showed up in the scoreline.
I think there were a few players who stood out tonight for different reasons. Let’s talk the good first.
The first player I want to mention is Ron Hainsey. I thought his defensive game was on point tonight, highlighting a stretch of good play from him. He even had an offensive breakout here:
The "Buds All Day" lifestyle appears to be wearing off on 57-year-old Ron Hainsey. pic.twitter.com/zMu61TMjTw
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) October 22, 2017
Also on the good side were Matthews and Nylander, who yet again showed their offensive brilliance. With a goal each tonight, plus the assist for Matthews, they are both continue to be over a point-per-game pace in the early goings. They were the only line that looked like it could generate offense 5v5, and of course they looked dangerous as heck on the powerplay.
For the most part this was a loss where no one quite did what they had to. But I’m going to highlight the top pair for the Leafs, as they were especially bad tonight. Gardiner and Zaitsev were under 35% xGF% when accounting for score, and Zaitsev himself had the direct impact of getting beat by Mark Stone on the 4th Senators goal.
This was obviously not a game to feel good about for the Leafs, not that any loss would be. There are a lot of things to take out of this, but the positives for me were that Andersen is looking comfortable again, the Leafs have their penalty taking mostly under control, and there seems to be nothing opponents can do to slow down Matthews and Nylander.
Areas to improve are obviously the net front presence on defense (wait a second…. is that Roman Polak’s music?) and to find a way to plan for opponent’s neutral zone attack better. The Leafs were basically shut down in the neutral zone through the early goings of this game, and that needs to improve.
The Leafs play next against a very strong defensive team in the LA Kings, so some takeaways on how to beat a strong neutral zone press from tonight could provide a big advantage. Tune in Monday to see the Kings take on the Leafs in Toronto!