The Toronto Maple Leafs began the 2023-24 NHL season on a winning note, with their offence mainly contributing to their first two victories on the year.
The “core four” of the Toronto Maple Leafs combined for a whopping 9 goals, 10 assists for 19 points in total in those two games and appeared to be unstoppable.
Alas came the game against the Chicago Blackhawks when reality finally checked in. The Leafs were stymied by unheralded goalie Arvid Soderblom as they ended up falling 4-1 to last season’s third-last place team in the league.
With the first two games, many of the warts in the Leafs game were masked by their dominance in their offensive side of the game. However, their weaknesses began to really show during the third game against the Blackhawks.
3 Things of Concern So Far for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2023-24
As a result, there are three main concerns for the Leafs as they head out on their five-game road trip for the coming week and a half.
Despite their prolific scoring ability being on full display in the early going, one area of concern is their lack of secondary scoring from the bottom-six group.
Aside from goals by Noah Gregor and Calle Jarnkrok, the Leafs had all of their offensive output coming from the top two lines in the first three games of the season.
That’s fine when they are all firing on all cylinders, but when opposing teams begin to limit their scoring chances with smothering defense, some of the scoring slack will need to be picked up by the bottom two lines.
Otherwise, opponents will begin to play matchups against the Leafs top lines and soon they will find scoring hard to come by in the proceeding weeks.
In addition, both defense and goaltending have been quite underwhelming to say the least to start the season. The Leafs have given up a total of 14 goals in three games, while at the same time their goalies haven’t been as sharp as they should be as well.
The defense also doesn’t appear as solid and steady as when Luke Schenn, Rasmus Sandin, and Justin Holl used to be around. Hopefully the Leafs can turn that around soon, otherwise it could be a long season ahead of them.
Finally, the Leafs have been pulverized in the hits department so far in 2023-24. In the first three games, opponents have out-hit them 114-78, with the Blackhawks leading the way, dishing out 42 bone-rattlers in their tight contest.
After losing both Schenn and Noel Acciari to free agency during the offseason, everyone knew there would be some void left as a result.
But with the signings of Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Ryan Reaves, it was believed some of their grit and sandpaper style of play could make up for some of it. Unfortunately at this rate, if this keeps up for the season, the Leafs could find many of their players wearing down as the season progresses, which could severely affect their scoring effectiveness eventually.
As a result, they should start adapting a more “mean” style of play to make sure opponents don’t continue to take liberties on them to neutralize their play. (All stats from NHL.com)
It may be early, but if the Leafs can clean up these aspects of their game sooner than later, they will most likely find much better sustained success down the road.