Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre:
Early defensive lapses hang Reimer out to dry.
For more than a few games this season, Leafs goalie James Reimer made a slew of great stops to keep his team in a competitive position when their focus wasn’t where it needed to be early on. Unfortunately, the Buds gave him little-to-no defensive support to start Saturday’s game, and the Sens scored three times in the first seven-and-a-half minutes before Jonathan Bernier took over in net. Toronto’s first-period struggles are nothing new at this stage, but it’s clearly not an easy fix.
Bernier solid in relief of Reimer.
Bernier didn’t enter the contest under ideal circumstances, but the veteran made several huge saves, turned aside 14 of 17 Ottawa shots, and finished the night with an effort that couldn’t be questioned.
Toronto’s penalty-killers were perfect, but nothing worked on the power play.
The Leafs limited the Senators to three power plays and didn’t allow a goal, but weren’t able to capitalize on any of the four man advantages Ottawa gave them. The absence of injured winger James van Riemsdyk doesn’t help their power play unit, but no NHL power play thrives simply because of one player. Toronto can’t accumulate a large number of high-quality chances in close, and in today’s NHL, that usually means goals won’t follow.
Leafs’ offence remains a problem.
The Buds’ only goal was scored by winger P-A Parenteau (his 13th of the season and second in his past three games), but it came far too late – in fact, it was the final goal of the evening – to make any difference. Much like their struggles at the start of games, Toronto’s problems generating offence are well-known at this stage of the season. In the 31 regular-season games that remain, they’ll need to be better at grinding out goals, or suffer a similar fate as the one they did in Ottawa.
A day to regroup before a challenging Western trip begins.
With very little in the way of positives to take from this night, the Leafs will head back to Toronto, practice at home Monday, then depart for a four-game Western road trip for games against the Flames, Oilers, Canucks and defending-champion Blackhawks. Three of those four opponents currently are out of a playoff position, but Toronto’s players will need to re-establish a tighter defensive game in short order to beat any of them.