Toronto Maple Leafs Power-Play Is Getting Hard to Watch

Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs power-play used to be their biggest strength, but now it’s their worst.

When you have the best goal-scorer and one of the best passers in the NHL, you should be lethal with the man-advantage. Instead, the Toronto Maple Leafs are lost when they’re on the power-play.

When Alex Kerfoot tied the game 2-2 against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, the Leafs had all of the momentum. Continuing to pile up multiple chances, it felt like Toronto was going to take control and win the game.

Typically when you’re dominating the game and you get a power-play, it would be the best feeling in the world. Especially if it’s a four-minute advantage in the third period, with only 10 minutes remaining. However, when Rasmus Andersson high-sticked Joe Thornton, it may have been the smartest defensive play Calgary made all night.

Toronto went from being the most dominant team in the period, to being slow and unfunctional. For whatever reason, both power-play units don’t know how to generate scoring opportunities right now. Even with so much talent out there, they can’t seem to get the puck into zone easily and set up great chances to score.

Right after the power-play went cold, the Leafs managed to get more chances and almost won the game before ultimately losing to Calgary in overtime.

But, the question remains: “What is wrong with Toronto’s power-play?”

Toronto Maple Leafs Power-Play Could Cost Them Mightily

Throughout the Auston Matthews Era, the Toronto Maple Leafs power-play has been impressive. In fact, they’ve finished sixth, ninth, second and second in the four seasons prior to this year. However, at this current stage, they’re 11th overall.

Although they’re a respectable 11th in the NHL, they’ve been nonexistent in the past 16 games, which is almost half the year. Without the hot start that they had, they’d be one of the worst in the entire league.

The fact that Toronto has one goal in its last 38 opportunities is so bad, however the shots on goal is just as disheartening. Essentially, the Leafs are averaging 1.34 shots per power-play. No wonder they never score, because they rarely get a shot on net.

Former Vancouver Canucks forward and current associate coach of the Leafs, Manny Malhotra, runs the power-play, but how much of this falls on him? I know that he is in charge of designing the break-in and getting everything set up, but at what point does it fall on the players?

John Tavares had kind words to say about Malhotra a few weeks ago, but their struggles have continued since (via:

"“I think Manny has done a great job of keeping us organized and and well-focused and adapting and making sure that we’re focusing on the right things. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way so we’ve just got to stay with it.We know we’ve got to be better in some areas but I think there’s been times when we’ve done a lot of good things and haven’t been rewarded. Certainly last night we could be a lot better than we were, but you just stay with it.”"

For the first month of the Leafs season, their power-play was unstoppable. Every time they stepped on the ice, they seemed to score. However, teams have clearly figured them out, and it makes sense, since they’re only playing the same six opponents all year.

Here were their two power-play lines against Calgary:

  • 1st Unit: Wayne Simmonds-Joe Thornton-Mitch Marner-Auston Matthews-Morgan Rielly
  • 2nd Unit: Zach Hyman-John Tavares- Nick Robertson-Alex Galchenyuk-Jake Muzzin

I know that William Nylander and Nick Foligno weren’t in the lineup, who will be shortly, but I think the Leafs would be in a much better situation if they loaded up the first unit and went all-in with it for either the entire two minutes, or just short of it.

If Malhotra wants to keep his job, he should do something crazy like this when everyone’s healthy:

  • 1st Unit: Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch-Marner-Auston Matthews-William Nylander
  • 2nd Unit: Nick Foligno-Jason Spezza-Nick Robertson-Alex Galchenyuk-Morgan Rielly

When you have the man-advantage, you need to have the most skilled players on the ice. I don’t understand why you need an actual defenseman back there when Matthews or Nylander have no issue wiring a puck from the blue-line.

Put your five most offensively gifted skilled players on the ice and see what happens. If you give up an odd-man rush, that’s unfortunate, but the good outweighs the bad, in this situation.

Toronto has more offensive skill than almost any team in NHL, but they continue to put out Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton, who do nothing on the power-play. They’re good players and chip in every now and then, but I’d rather have a crazy amount of skill, then some balanced first and second unit.

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Either way, the Leafs power-play used to be the most fun thing to watch in hockey, but now it’s the worst. Hopefully, Malhotra shakes things up when Nylander and Folgino are both in the lineup, because they need some serious help.