The Toronto Maple Leafs power play going 0-4 pretty much tells the tale why they’re going home with a point after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers. The potent unit went 0-6 two nights earlier against the other Sunshine State team the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-1 loss that now finds the Leafs with a 1-4 record in their last five games.
Aleksander Barkov who seems to save his best for the Leafs scored 3-goals including the game winner in overtime to collect his first hat trick.
Florida in the midst of a 4-game losing streak played with desperation expected of a team in a slump and while they hung on for dear life in the third were rewarded for the effort.
The visiting Toronto side came out flat in front of another strong contingent of Leafs supporters including the moms. The building while maybe 2/3 full lacked the intensity of the Tampa game but it’s a game Toronto if playing to their potential should win. They didn’t and paid the price.
Mitch Marner whose been a little sluggish recently was back in fine form creating havoc every time he had the puck potted a pair in the third to send the game to OT.
Frederik Andersen wasn’t particularly challenged throughout the game looked a little off but he wasn’t alone. Roberto Luongo was sharp and frustrated the Leafs shooters on numerous occasions who also seems to play some of his better games against Toronto.
The Panthers did a good job crowding the neutral zone and covering the trailer when the Leafs did manage to enter the offensive zone. It’s a strategy teams are using to force the Toronto puck handlers to hang on to the puck longer and forcing them to the perimeter.
Auston Matthews must feel like he has a twin recently with teams ready to concede a penalty to keep him in check. It will only get worse for 34 and he’ll have to find a way to get the puck to his wingers quicker; he has looked a little frustrated the last few games. William Nylander is rounding into form getting quicker each outing while Kasperi Kapanen continues to impress. With the speed and puck handling of these two wingers, maybe its time to put the three together to give Matthews a little more room. Babcock did reunite Matthews with Hyman and Nylander in the third trying to shake up the lines and used a few combinations to free up the offense.
It was a letdown game that could almost be expected after Tampa but as a top tier team in the league the Maple Leafs better be prepared for teams to pay additional attention every time they play. It is a learning curve all teams endure but there are no easy wins and talent alone will not snap this mini slump because teams are nipping at their heels.