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Domi, Knies, Timmins, Rielly & Woll

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The Toronto Maple Leafs initially started the game well, scoring the first goal and maintaining control for almost the entire first period. However, the momentum shifted in the second period, with the Ottawa Senators dominating the game and taking the lead. A turning point was when Maple Leafs’ second goal from Max Domi was successfully challenged when it was correctly ruled that Noah Gregor was offside. After that, it seemed the game belonged to Ottawa.

Despite the Maple Leafs’ efforts to hang in and stay competitive, they struggled to score enough goals to regain control of the game. Ultimately, the Senators sealed their victory with an empty-net goal, securing the 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs.

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In the loss, Matthew Knies contributed a goal and an assist. Domi eventually scored a goal that counted and finished the game with a positive plus-minus rating. Mitch Marner added two assists. And Auston Matthews added to his point totals with a goal and an assist.

Item One: Two Reasons the Maple Leafs Lost the Game

There are two reasons why the Maple Leafs lost to the Senators. First, the Maple Leafs missed a large number of their offensive chances. Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe noted that his team missed several scoring chances during the game. He was right. Despite having opportunities to score more goals, they could not capitalize on them. This inability to convert scoring chances into goals contributed to the loss.

Second, the Maple Leafs suffered far too many defensive lapses. These defensive shortcomings were evident throughout the game. Numerous turnovers and defensive breakdowns led to quick go-the-other-way scoring chances for the Senators. Ottawa capitalized on these breakdowns. Goals from Shane Pinto, Josh Norris, and Ridly Greig all resulted from turnovers. These defensive lapses allowed the Senators to take advantage and ultimately guarantee the win.

Item Two: The Maple Leafs Are Dependent Upon Their Core Players

The Maple Leafs’ loss to the Senators revealed underlying issues within the team’s offensive performance. Despite notable offensive contributions from core players like Marner and Matthews, the team struggled with a general lack of offensive production as a whole. The inability of the secondary scorers to step up regularly underscores a broader issue of the team’s offensive inconsistency or dependency. 

Related: Auston Matthews Poised to Rewrite Maple Leafs’ Scoring Records

Noting that the team heavily relies on their core players for offensive production seems to make it the fault of the core group. However, it appears to me more of an issue with the next level of players. While Domi and Knies scored, the Maple Leafs lacked consistent scoring depth beyond their star players. Where is Tyler Bertuzzi, for example?

Matthew Knies Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthew Knies, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

In short, the game emphasized the team’s over-reliance on core players for offensive production, with limited contributions from the rest of the lineup. Concerns are rising about the team’s depth and secondary scoring options and the issues these might cause for the remainder of the season.  

Item Three: Health Issues on the Maple Leafs Defense

The Maple Leafs are facing health issues in their defensive corps. Both Conor Timmins and Mark Giordano were sidelined for the game against Ottawa. Timmins was dealing with illness and was unavailable to play on Saturday. Although he has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, his absence added to the team’s defensive challenges last night. 

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Meanwhile, Giordano was sidelined due to a lower-body injury sustained during the game against the Dallas Stars. While the extent of Giordano’s absence remains uncertain, his absence was felt on the blue line. With Giordano out of the lineup, William Lagesson stepped in to fill the defensive void. Last night, the Maple Leafs were unable to navigate through these health challenges.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Despite the Maple Leafs’ efforts, the Senators seem to have their number. The game highlighted Ottawa’s ability to capitalize on defensive lapses and turn the tide against Toronto. There’s no doubt that fans are frustrated with the recurring pattern of losses to their provincial rivals.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The game ended with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly receiving a major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct after retaliating against Ridly Greig‘s empty-net goal celebration. Reilly’s actions not only resulted in a power play for the Senators but also led to his ejection from the game. Look for disciplinary action by the NHL.





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