Leafs say there’s nothing to worry about after two losses in Vancouver

Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs have set a high standard for themselves, captain John Tavares isn’t worried after two straight losses. It’s not ideal but it’s no reason to panic or to start worrying.“It’s a long season, things like that are going to happen even when you’re playing well and controlling a lot of the play,” Tavares said. “Every game is a challenge, no matter who we play in our division and no matter where any team stands.“So it’s crucial we get refocused and back on track. We’ve got a great opportunity being back at home.”Up next are the Winnipeg Jets, the latest second-place team in the North Division that will challenge the Maple Leafs over three games, starting Tuesday at the Scotiabank Arena.The North has proven to be a highly unpredictable division. The Oilers swept the Canucks. The Leafs swept the Oilers. The Canucks swept the Leafs.In some ways, the best way for a team to dissect itself is how it plays rather than by the game’s result. And the Leafs have reason to feel good about their play in Vancouver. They were the better team on Saturday by every metric but the score. And they were no worse than even on Thursday. Boiled down to the expected goal metric — a measure of shot quantity and quality, per Sportlogiq — the Leafs outdid Vancouver both nights (7.08 to 4.85). The difference was Thatcher Demko’s goaltending.It’s also good news for the Leafs that Tavares and linemates William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot have come to life offensively. Over the five-game road trip to Edmonton and Vancouver, Tavares led the team in scoring with three goals and two assists, and Nylander had three goals and an assist. Both had struggled prior to heading west.“Probably both of us are feeling a little better, just continuing to stay with it and have good habits,” Tavares said. “We’re doing a good job away from the puck to get it back. You get the puck in good spots and then you continue to play and continue to get a better feel for one another.”There were other offensive heroes down the lineup: Jason Spezza had a goal and four assists and Jimmy Vesey scored three goals as the fourth line made its contributions. Zach Hyman had three goals and an assist.So, yes, sitting in first place in the North gives the team the luxury of shrugging off disappointing outcomes while pointing to the positives.Not everything is hunky-dory. There were troubling elements to the Leafs’ performances in their last two losses. They had trouble exiting their own zone at times. The power play failed to click, going 0-for-3 over the two games. The penalty kill failed to stop anything, giving up three goals on three chances.“It’s not a great sign for us there, but there has been a lot of really good things happening on our penalty kill here for the last 10 games or so,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’ll hope we can get back to it.”And the top line — Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Joe Thornton — went 0-for-Vancouver. In fact, they ended up a collective minus-9, not a stat that means much over time, but players never want to be associated with minus. Matthews has now gone five games without a goal, and he missed two more with a sore wrist.Still, the line generated plenty of opportunities: Matthews had 13 shot attempts and Marner 11 over the two games.Keefe said he’s not worried about that line at all, even sounding a tad offended that the three could even be questioned when he was asked if they were out of sync.“Go back through it,” Keefe said. “Auston, I don’t know how many shots he had (Saturday) but he had five shots (Thursday). It’s point-blank opportunities, open nets. If those fall in, you’re not asking me the question.”Marner was a little more apt to fall on the sword regarding the line’s production lately. “Right now maybe we’re just forcing a little bit too much,’ he said. “Time to refresh. Make sure we keep talking. Try to find our chemistry.“For our line, we’ve to got control the puck more in the offensive zone, and try to keep the puck in our hands, try and make the right play when it’s there.”The Leafs, who flew home Sunday, will return to the ice Monday to prepare for the Jets.“We’re going to work on some things and get ready for Winnipeg,” goalie Frederik Andersen said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll look forward and work on improving some things and keep trying to set a high standard for ourselves.”Kevin McGran is a Star sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran

Leafs say there’s nothing to worry about after two losses in Vancouver

Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs have set a high standard for themselves, captain John Tavares isn’t worried after two straight losses. It’s not ideal but it’s no reason to panic or to start worrying.

“It’s a long season, things like that are going to happen even when you’re playing well and controlling a lot of the play,” Tavares said. “Every game is a challenge, no matter who we play in our division and no matter where any team stands.

“So it’s crucial we get refocused and back on track. We’ve got a great opportunity being back at home.”

Up next are the Winnipeg Jets, the latest second-place team in the North Division that will challenge the Maple Leafs over three games, starting Tuesday at the Scotiabank Arena.

The North has proven to be a highly unpredictable division. The Oilers swept the Canucks. The Leafs swept the Oilers. The Canucks swept the Leafs.

In some ways, the best way for a team to dissect itself is how it plays rather than by the game’s result. And the Leafs have reason to feel good about their play in Vancouver. They were the better team on Saturday by every metric but the score. And they were no worse than even on Thursday. Boiled down to the expected goal metric — a measure of shot quantity and quality, per Sportlogiq — the Leafs outdid Vancouver both nights (7.08 to 4.85). The difference was Thatcher Demko’s goaltending.

It’s also good news for the Leafs that Tavares and linemates William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot have come to life offensively. Over the five-game road trip to Edmonton and Vancouver, Tavares led the team in scoring with three goals and two assists, and Nylander had three goals and an assist. Both had struggled prior to heading west.

“Probably both of us are feeling a little better, just continuing to stay with it and have good habits,” Tavares said. “We’re doing a good job away from the puck to get it back. You get the puck in good spots and then you continue to play and continue to get a better feel for one another.”

There were other offensive heroes down the lineup: Jason Spezza had a goal and four assists and Jimmy Vesey scored three goals as the fourth line made its contributions. Zach Hyman had three goals and an assist.

So, yes, sitting in first place in the North gives the team the luxury of shrugging off disappointing outcomes while pointing to the positives.

Not everything is hunky-dory. There were troubling elements to the Leafs’ performances in their last two losses. They had trouble exiting their own zone at times. The power play failed to click, going 0-for-3 over the two games. The penalty kill failed to stop anything, giving up three goals on three chances.

“It’s not a great sign for us there, but there has been a lot of really good things happening on our penalty kill here for the last 10 games or so,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’ll hope we can get back to it.”

And the top line — Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Joe Thornton — went 0-for-Vancouver. In fact, they ended up a collective minus-9, not a stat that means much over time, but players never want to be associated with minus. Matthews has now gone five games without a goal, and he missed two more with a sore wrist.

Still, the line generated plenty of opportunities: Matthews had 13 shot attempts and Marner 11 over the two games.

Keefe said he’s not worried about that line at all, even sounding a tad offended that the three could even be questioned when he was asked if they were out of sync.

“Go back through it,” Keefe said. “Auston, I don’t know how many shots he had (Saturday) but he had five shots (Thursday). It’s point-blank opportunities, open nets. If those fall in, you’re not asking me the question.”

Marner was a little more apt to fall on the sword regarding the line’s production lately.

“Right now maybe we’re just forcing a little bit too much,’ he said. “Time to refresh. Make sure we keep talking. Try to find our chemistry.

“For our line, we’ve to got control the puck more in the offensive zone, and try to keep the puck in our hands, try and make the right play when it’s there.”

The Leafs, who flew home Sunday, will return to the ice Monday to prepare for the Jets.

“We’re going to work on some things and get ready for Winnipeg,” goalie Frederik Andersen said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll look forward and work on improving some things and keep trying to set a high standard for ourselves.”

Kevin McGran is a Star sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran

Source : Toronto Star More