This just in: The Maple Leafs aren’t a good hockey team.
They might be at some point in the 2023-24 season. Right now, 13 games in, they’re not.
The Leafs continued their porous defensive ways on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena, losing 6-3 against the Ottawa Senators.
The actual Battle of Ontario is between the Leafs and their own end.
Coach Sheldon Keefe said his concern level with the Leafs’ defensive play is “very high.”
“We sit in here and we celebrate guys who score, big numbers and score a ton,” Keefe said, trying to hold in his exasperation. “We don’t talk enough about what we give up. That’s the reality. We have to prioritize keeping the puck out of our net.
“Some of it is individual, some of it is collective within the structure. Some of it is just being committed to it.
“We’ve got to pull together here to keep pucks out of our net. It’s out of control.”
With the game tied 3-3 in the third period, the Leafs gave up three goals in a span of less than four minutes, as Dominik Kubalik, Tim Stutzle and Claude Giroux beat goalie Joseph Woll to secure Ottawa’s second win in seven games.
The Leafs have played seven home games. They’ve allowed at least four goals in every one, tying a franchise record to begin a season set in 1976-77. On what planet is that the mark of a sound team? Finding their way? No one should be buying that.
The players brought in by general manager Brad Treliving — and we’re talking about forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, Ryan Reaves and defenceman John Klingberg — have never been known as defensive stalwarts.
There has been little snot and snarl provided, and the Leafs miss the defensive awareness and general jam that departed when players such as Michael Bunting, Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Kerfoot and Noel Acciari signed elsewhere. Even having to trade Sam Lafferty took away from the Leafs’ effectiveness.
We’ve figured Treliving had some time to get help on the blue line with the trade deadline months away. It’s becoming more urgent for the Leafs general manager to pull the trigger on something a lot sooner.
The Leafs tied the game 3-3 at 7:42 of the third when Nick Robertson put Domi’s pass into the net on a two-on-one.
After that, Toronto fell apart.
The Leafs won’t be confused with the sturdier defensive teams in the National Hockey League.
Via Natural Stattrick, going into the game, the Leafs had allowed 129 high-danger chances at five-on-five. Only the San Jose Sharks, who finally got their first win of the season on Tuesday night when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers, had given up more.
The veteran pair of Mark Giordano and Klingberg had a particularly tough night, as it was on the ice for the first three Senators goals. Klingberg is a defensive headache, and the Sens took advantage. Ottawa’s second goal, by Giroux, came after the Leafs couldn’t get organized enough to even think of clearing the puck.
The fourth line was on the ice for another goal, as it was at the end of a shift when Jakob Chychrun scored. Too bad for the David Kampf trio, too, as it had some rare offensive-zone pressure not long before that goal. Ryan Reaves, who gets on the ice just a little bit more than you do, somehow is minus-9.
“It’s on us to figure it out,” captain John Tavares said. “We have much higher standards. We have to get more connected, line to line, shift to shift, awareness of your opponent. We’re having a hard time finding that consistency throughout 60.”
Recommended from Editorial
Maple Leafs’ Nylander catches TTC to get to work
MAPLE LEAFS NOTES: Only option for struggling Samsonov is to put in work
SIMMONS: Treliving’s vision for Maple Leafs more like a mirage at the moment
CRACK IN THE WOLL
The Leafs will lean on Woll while Ilya Samsonov tries to get back to the standard he set last season. But on Wednesday, Woll was not good. The goal by Chychrun that gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead in the second period was stoppable as the defenceman’s shot slipped under the goalie’s left leg.
It was similar to the Sens’ first goal of the game, when Kubalik scored from the point. The sixth goal came after Woll coughed up the puck behind the net.
The last thing the Leafs need are two goalies who aren’t up to par. Ask the Edmonton Oilers how demoralizing it can be when both goalies stink.
“First and foremost, it’s not good enough by me,” Woll said. “I know I need to be better. I know I have more to offer the team. That will be my focus going forward.”
William Nylander extended his point streak to start a season with at least one point in 13 games, increasing his franchise record.
Nylander’s goal at 5:47 of the first period was what we’ve come to expect from the gifted winger — a shot fired to the top corner that Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo could only wave at.
And there was Bertuzzi, gathering the puck to his forehand to beat Korpisalo early in the second to tie the game 2-2. It was Bertuzzi’s first goal with Toronto at five-on-five.
Tavares had two assists to move him to 989 points in his NHL career, tying him with Paul Kariya for 100th place in league history.