Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets observations: Goaltending is a problem

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Ironically, it was a akin consequence to nan past clip nan Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets played each other. Both games ended successful a 6-5 overtime nonaccomplishment for Toronto and moreover though nan quality of extremity scoring was different (spread retired Friday while nan crippled connected December 14 required a five-goal 3rd period), nan azygous overlaying rumor hasn’t changed: goaltending.

The Maple Leafs were successful power of nan crippled pinch a beardown first play pinch goals from Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, while Cole Sillinger had 1 for Columbus. The crippled went disconnected nan rails successful nan 2nd play and goaltending went pinch it. Nick Robertson and Brendan Gaunce exchanged goals astatine five-on-five, while William Nylander and Dmitri Voronkov responded for their teams connected nan powerfulness play. Kent Johnson made nan crippled absorbing for Columbus arsenic his 5th of nan play tied nan crippled astatine 4, but John Tavares’ tip-in from Nylander restored nan lead for nan Leafs heading into nan 3rd period.

That would beryllium nan past extremity successful nan Leafs’ favour. Adam Fantilli scored his 10th of nan play tying nan crippled astatine 5 and sending it to overtime. Spencer Martin, who took complete for Elvis Merzlikins aft nan first, stopped each 7 of nan Leafs’ shots successful nan 3rd and didn’t look immoderate successful overtime. Johnny Gaudreau coiled up being nan leader of nan nighttime for nan Blue Jackets.

We person to talk.


Three Stars

1. Mitch Marner

It’s been immoderate clip since we’ve seen this loop of Marner. His 14th of nan twelvemonth was nan first extremity of nan crippled and he was backmost to his skating and dancing aforesaid successful nan violative zone.

MITCH MARNER 🚨

tap-in extremity from Rielly pic.twitter.com/7SmwuiTvKx

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 30, 2023

2. Auston Matthews 

Matthews is 1 extremity distant from hitting 30 erstwhile again. The changeable speaks for itself, but he put successful activity defensively pinch 3 blocked shots, including 1 successful nan 3rd that saved a goal.

AUSTON MATTHEWS 🚨

Short broadside rifle! pic.twitter.com/myHuiAvHeZ

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 30, 2023

3. Nick Robertson 

We haven’t heard Robertson’s sanction arsenic overmuch arsenic erstwhile he was first called up, but his second-period extremity looked to group up an avalanche of unit for nan Leafs and bumped a 14-game goalless drought.

NICK ROBERSTON 🚨

Bumps a slump disconnected nan deflection pic.twitter.com/RDzMpVMP0X

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 30, 2023


The defence pairs

Mark Giordano’s return saw nan reuniting of nan Giordano-Timothy Liljegren brace and an extended look astatine a Simon Benoit–Jake McCabe pair. They sewage much clip pinch nan apical statement arsenic nan crippled went connected and gelled well, particularly successful their play style. The team’s first changeable connected extremity was from Benoit taking an unfastened lane on nan wall and shooting shortside connected Merzlikins. He almost had different unreserved successful nan 3rd period, but he put himself offside. Benoit didn’t look retired of spot pinch nan accrued workload aft playing a batch of minutes adjacent to William Lagesson, while McCabe had bully sounds and recoveries from mistakes. Considering their usage Friday, Benoit and McCabe are astir apt going to get much clip together.

The first-period assignment

It was beautiful clear what nan nonsubjective of nan first 20 minutes was: springiness Ilya Samsonov a chance.

It was awesome really good nan Leafs contained nan Blue Jackets and prevented them from getting a batch of chances correct successful beforehand of Samsonov. Players and sticks sewage successful lanes to extremity shots aliases steer them wide of nan net, and nan Leafs didn’t springiness Columbus overmuch clip to rhythm nan puck.

The Blue Jackets only sewage 4 shots successful that opening play and 7 changeable attempts to nan Leafs’ 20 successful each situations.

The Samsonov business — squad focus

Bear pinch me, please.

The first play had its blunders up of nan bumper car thrust of nan 2nd period. Columbus’ first extremity of nan crippled started pinch Liljegren falling and turning nan puck complete to Sillinger and was made worse arsenic nan building proceeded to break down. Giordano, Liljegren and Robertson tried to extremity nan shot, but it was disconnected his instrumentality earlier they sewage a chance. And to make matters worse, if Silliger decided to walk nan puck instead, Johnson was unsocial pinch an unfastened cage for an easy tap-in.

Gaunce’s extremity started pinch each 5 Leafs changing. McCabe, who conscionable sewage connected nan ice, was nan only 1 adjacent to Alexandre Texier up of nan unreserved and nan puck was already bouncing disconnected Samsonov by nan clip Benoit sewage anyplace close.

Johnson’s extremity started pinch a three-on-one successful nan Leafs’ favour. Max Domi, Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie were pinch Emil Bemstrom, and he won nan puck battle. There were 3 Leafs trying to grip 1 Blue Jacket, and nary 1 was successful beforehand of Samsonov covering Johnson.

Kent Johnson ties it

turnover down nan nett and Johnson is unsocial wide-open successful beforehand of Samsonov pic.twitter.com/IbLjbMnJM0

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 30, 2023

The duty nan Leafs started successful nan first went up successful flames successful nan 2nd period. Samsonov wasn’t great, and nan Leafs weren’t either.

The Samsonov business — goalie focus

Samsonov had allowed 4 goals connected 11 shots by nan commencement of nan 3rd period. By nan extremity of nan game, he allowed six goals connected 21 shots (.714 prevention percentage). It gets worse erstwhile you look astatine this play arsenic a full from this point.

Friday was nan third clip Samsonov has had a prevention percent little than .800, nan different 2 being successful nan play opener against Montreal (.792) and his past crippled against Buffalo (.737). That doesn’t see nan October 21 crippled against Tampa Bay erstwhile he was pulled aft giving up 3 goals connected 4 shots successful 13:29 of play. Friday besides marked nan eighth clip this play that Samsonov allowed astatine slightest 4 goals.

It’s incredibly difficult to execute and triumph pinch this benignant of goaltending. Yes, nan squad wasn’t awesome successful beforehand of him passim nan crippled and he made nan stops successful nan 3rd play arsenic Columbus fought to necktie it up. But there’s only truthful overmuch you tin do erstwhile your squad needs to people astatine slightest 5 goals each nighttime to triumph nan game, and if you return Friday’s game, moreover that wasn’t enough.

Johnny Gaudreau ends nan crippled pic.twitter.com/5gDyOXOFnm

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 30, 2023


Game Score


Final grade: C

It’s difficult to disregard nan earthy numbers aft this one. If your squad holds its force to little than 20 shots, you expect to triumph that game. Samsonov is nan biggest portion of this painting, but he isn’t nan only part. The Leafs consistently fto nan guidance backmost into nan game, whether it’s pinch protect lapses, power-play opportunities, or, akin to past game, errors successful consciousness and judgment. It’s a coaching cliche, but mistakes look worse erstwhile you don’t get saves. The Leafs made mistakes, they recovered from their mistakes successful nan first, made mistakes, stopped recovering from their mistakes and didn’t get saves. It besides stings erstwhile you look astatine nan opponent. This is happening against different squad little successful nan standings.

The committedness to defence and a afloat 60 minutes has been an ongoing conflict and conversation, but nan goaltending needs to beryllium addressed now.


What’s adjacent for nan Leafs?

The Leafs are backmost successful action Saturday nighttime against nan Carolina Hurricanes to wrap up 2023.

(Photo: Kirk Irwin / Getty Images)

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