Maple Leafs vs. Senators observations: Bad D and shaky goaltending lead to another loss

The Ottawa Senators were desperate for a win.

The Senators entered play as losers of five of their past six and were booed off the ice in their last home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the red-hot William Nylander wasn’t going to make it easy for them, a shaky game from Joseph Woll and Toronto’s defence opened the door for Ottawa to jump back into the win department. Nick Robertson tied the game halfway through the third, but the Senators scored three times in the final ten minutes to earn a 6-3 victory. It’s difficult to have much confidence in the Leafs goaltending, defensive play, and secondary scoring right now.

Robertson, Nylander, and Tyler Bertuzzi were Toronto’s goal-scorers in the losing effort.

Three stars

1. William Nylander

Nylander wasted no time extending his season-opening point streak, scoring just three seconds into Toronto’s first-period power play. Auston Matthews poked the puck back to him on the face-off and Nylander promptly fired a wrist shot that beat Joonas Korpisalo on the glove side.

He created another great chance for himself eight minutes in and finished with three shots on goal in the opening period. Nylander found the scoresheet again in the second, just three minutes after the Senators took the lead. He created a juicy rebound for Tyler Bertuzzi to pounce on, and his left-winger was able to capitalize. It’s nice to pencil him in for a point or two every night.

2. John Tavares

John Tavares is one of the best players in the league at winning face-offs, and every so often it pays off in a major way. He picked up an assist by winning a face-off to start Toronto’s first power play. He picked up another assist in the second by winning another face-off in the offensive zone. His line has looked like Toronto’s best on many occasions this season.

3. Nick Robertson 

After picking up an assist in his season debut, Robertson continued the point-per-game trend by scoring a game-tying goal halfway through the third. Max Domi dished a nifty saucer pass, and Robertson showed off his scoring touch by knocking the puck out of the air and into the net.

This was his first NHL goal since Oct. 20, 2022, and it’s hard not to root for him after all that he’s been through injury-wise. Toronto’s bottom six desperately needed some secondary scoring, and he’s delivered through two games.

Shaky start for Joseph Woll

An early shot trickled through Woll, and he was fortunate that it stayed out of the net. He made a nice save on a shot from Drake Batherson on Ottawa’s first-period power play, but later let in a point shot that went off his pad and in.

Claude Giroux beat him one minute into the second period, but at least there was a tough cross-ice pass ahead of the goal.

His team struggled in front of him on this play, but he probably could have had this save against Jakob Chychrun.

The Leafs were down 3-2 heading into the second intermission, and it felt like they should have been tied at worst. I can’t fault Woll too much for the fourth goal, as the puck went off Mark Giordano’s skate and in, but this certainly wasn’t his best effort. Ottawa’s fifth goal was nice, but the sixth was solely on Woll.

Tough night for Toronto’s second pair

What defence pair was on for Ottawa’s first goal? The Giordano-John Klingberg pair. What pair was on for Ottawa’s second goal? The Giordano-Klingberg pair. What pair was on for Ottawa’s third goal? The Giordano-Klingberg pair.

Woll could have saved at least one of the three, but he’s also bailed them out plenty of times as of late. Giordano is being asked to play top-four minutes at 40, so I’ll give him a bit of a pass. Klingberg, on the other hand, is earning top-four money. He’s been terrible in terms of expected goals against this season, and he’s now been on for at least one five-on-five goal in five straight games. Toronto’s had cheap offensive defencemen play on the third pair in recent seasons, but when you make over $4 million, you can’t just be a power play specialist. The fourth goal against went off Giordano’s skate and in, and Klingberg was on for the fifth goal against.

The bottom six score, but still get outscored

Ottawa’s first goal came quickly after Domi lost a defensive-zone face-off. Domi was on again for Ottawa’s second goal, and Toronto’s fourth line was caught out against Tim Stützle’s unit on Ottawa’s third goal. The gap between the top-six and bottom-six looked massive in the first two periods, but fortunately, Domi’s line was able to make up for one with a Robertson goal in the third.

Unfortunately, the fourth line couldn’t do the same, and the Leafs have now been outscored 9-0 in Ryan Reaves’ minutes this season. Robertson is proving that Marlies players can come up and make an impact, and it might be time to give Bobby McMann a look. At this point, the fourth line can’t get much worse.

Game score

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Final grade: C

The Senators ranked 29th in the league in five-on-five expected goals percentage entering play, and the Leafs were expected to outplay them. While Toronto looked like the better team for quite a while, it’s too easy to find holes on this roster.

When you spend under $5 million on goaltending, you have to expect a few rough games from time to time, and you shouldn’t only have confidence in one defensive pair and two forward lines. We saw this team overcome plenty of weak starts from Petr Mrazek, Jack Campbell, and Matt Murray in recent seasons, but this team simply isn’t dominating on a nightly basis.

What’s next for the Leafs?

Staying home to play the Calgary Flames on Friday at 7 p.m. on TSN.

(Top photo: Steve Russell / Toronto Star via Getty Images)

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