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What’s the difference between the Leafs and recent Cup champs? The answer is a giveaway

In first period action, Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Nicolas Hague (14) takes Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) into the boards in the Knights’ end.In first period action, Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Nicolas Hague (14) takes Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) into the boards in the Knights’ end.

Give Erik Källgren credit score for earnestness. Overwhelmed on an additional time breakaway roofer by Vegas ahead Reilly Smith on Tuesday night time, the Maple Leafs’ pinch-goaltender of the second was nonetheless beating himself up after apply on Wednesday afternoon.

“I don’t actually have the outcomes on breakaways the final couple of video games that I need to,” Källgren stated. “So I’m going to have to observe some video as we speak and I’ll take it from there.”

You are reading: What’s the difference between the Leafs and recent Cup champs? The answer is a giveaway

Any person ought to inform the child to loosen up. He did cease 4 different breakaways earlier than he lastly succumbed to a fifth in Tuesday’s loss. In different phrases, when you had been going guilty somebody for the Leafs squandering a third-period lead it actually shouldn’t have been the man sporting the masks. And the tone in Leafland, past Källgren’s self-criticism, was principally rosy. Taking seven out of eight potential factors in Toronto’s 4 most up-to-date video games – and 5 of six factors in opposition to the elite likes of Vegas, Boston and Carolina – has gone a good distance towards enhancing the collective temper. Head coach Sheldon Keefe’s job safety is not a moment-to-moment concern.

“We got here a good distance right here on this little stretch,” Keefe was saying Tuesday.

Nonetheless, if the Leafs are who they preserve saying they’re — a group with Stanley Cup ambitions — there couldn’t have been loads of satisfaction in taking a single level from Vegas when a barely extra conscientious effort would have seen them take two.

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Keefe known as the end result “an indication we’ve nonetheless received a methods to go when it comes to managing the sport.”

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Certainly, as a lot as order has been restored, and Toronto is again to displaying indicators of being a superior regular-season group, one other track stays the identical. The Maple Leafs, to Keefe’s level, nonetheless tend towards the premature giveaway, the uncalled-for mind cramp, the unforced error that basically items an opponent a objective. Tuesday’s sport in opposition to the Golden Knights noticed the Leafs cough up a season-high 17 giveaways. They rank third within the league in giveaways this season.

Why does that matter? Final season the 2 groups that coughed up the fewest giveaways, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, ended up within the Stanley Cup closing. Since 2019-20, the season the Lightning gained their first of two straight Stanley Cups earlier than shedding in final spring’s closing, Tampa Bay has surrendered the fewest turnovers within the league. Over that very same span, the Maple Leafs have given the puck away greater than any group not named the Montreal Canadiens. Each the Lightning and Leafs are stacked with expertise. Each boast one of many highest-scoring offences within the league. And perhaps one of many largest variations between the 2 is that the Lightning aren’t within the common behavior of gift-wrapping their opponents free scoring probabilities.

Tampa has discovered to favour practicality over creativity, championship-proven prudence over all-out offence. It speaks to why the Lightning have turn into so environment friendly at successful video games, each within the common season and within the playoffs. And, on the opposite finish of the spectrum, it goes a protracted approach to telling you why the Leafs have come up quick within the huge sport, time and again. To guard a lead, you need to defend the puck. In Tampa, it’s a given. In Leafland, too typically, it’s a giveaway.

“I believe loads of it’s psychological,” Keefe stated after Wednesday’s apply, requested about his group’s ongoing training in sport administration. “It’s understanding what’s occurring. It’s the choice making. It’s understanding the place to place the puck. It’s understanding the transitions.”

It’s understanding, Keefe stated, when to play offence over when to play defence — a steadiness that’s but to be totally grasped by the offence-loving Leafs.

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“Typically within the transitions when pucks are in query it’s possible you’ll shade on the offensive aspect whenever you want a objective — effectively, you positively must shade on the defensive aspect whenever you’re defending a lead, simply so as to preserve the construction that you just apply and you’ve got in place,” Keefe stated. “Usually talking within the NHL, when groups are in construction it’s fairly tough for the opposition to get by means of. So when you may have the lead and also you don’t essentially want to attain the following objective, when you nonetheless need to push and management play — and when you can rating, it’d be nice — you want to take action ready the place you possibly can preserve construction as a lot as potential.”

As Leafs ahead Alex Kerfoot was saying on Wednesday: it’s a effective line.

“I don’t suppose by any means we need to sit again when we now have leads. But it surely’s the entire time-and-score factor, understanding whenever you make performs and when to only actually discover methods to get a win,” Kerfoot stated. “It’s about hopefully discovering the perfect of each worlds, the place you’re not sitting again — you’re taking part in with an assault mindset, however you’re doing that in a sensible approach so that you just’re not giving up odd-man rushes. The tough factor is, you begin feeling your self, you’re making too many performs, then your D get energetic otherwise you lengthen shifts a bit bit and you then quit issues the opposite approach.”

Issues like breakaways en masse. Which brings us again to Källgren. Together with his .890 save share, no one is complicated him with a bankable No. 1. So it’s a very good factor Matt Murray advised reporters on Wednesday that he’s nearing a return, maybe as early as this weekend. Nonetheless, you possibly can malign Toronto’s goaltending all you’d like, and you’ll level to the holes within the defensive corps which were uncovered by the damage to Jake Muzzin. However as Keefe was saying Wednesday, and as Tuesday’s additional time loss proved, the fallacious type of giveaway in opposition to the fallacious group makes even the perfect goaltending, and even the perfect defencemen, all however helpless within the face of a counterattack.

“You’ll be able to’t defend whenever you give the opposite group the puck in unhealthy spots they usually can counter with a ton of velocity,” Keefe stated. “You don’t even get an opportunity to defend.”

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