Breaking Down the Toronto Maple Leafs Road Trip

(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs just concluded a significant, season-long road trip with an overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.

It was a disappointing end to an otherwise successful trek. With the point earned against the Predators, the Toronto Maple Leafs collected seven out of ten possible points on the trip and stayed close to the early-season, Atlantic division pace-setting Boston Bruins.

Considering that the excursion started with a loss to the Florida Panthers, and was followed by an early two-goal deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs rebounded nicely.

The excellent play of Joseph Woll highlighted the trip and William Nylander continued his hot start to the season. There were also some concerns to keep an eye on as the Leafs return to Scotiabank Arena for five of their next six games.

Breaking Down The Toronto Maple Leafs Road Trip

Woll and Nylander have been the best players on the Leafs so far this season. Their play has carried the team, and that continued during the road trip.

Woll allowed the Leafs to find their game against the Lightning and eventually come from behind to win. His play stole two points against the Washington Capitals. When defensive lapses occurred against the Dallas Stars, his huge saves kept the momentum on the Leafs side.

Of more concern is the play of Ilya Samsonov. The presumptive preseason starter has struggled. After being pulled against the Lightning, head coach Sheldon Keefe shelved him for a few games to gather himself.

He started against the Predators and saw limited action in the first half of the game. Samsonov looked uncomfortable and lacking confidence. He was hesitant in his movements and gave up a soft first goal to former Leaf Ryan O-Reilly.

The good news for the Leafs is that Samsonov’s play settled as the game wore on. He looked more under control and made important saves while the game was tied in the third period to help the Leafs earn a point.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Lack Secondary Scoring

Nylander’s play continues to impress. He has found a new level. His renewed persistent forechecking has elevated his game.

He must maintain it, because, at the moment, the Leafs lack secondary scoring.

Aside from Matthew Knies’ two-goal outburst against the Lightning, the core forwards plus Morgan Rielly are scoring almost all of the Leafs goals.

This can not continue. Inevitably, the production from the star players will level off. Without more help from newcomers Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi or some defense scoring losses will begin to mount.

Other Concerns to Watch For

Timothy Liljegren was added to the list of injured defensemen in the game against the Predators. The weakest part of the team is becoming a bigger concern.

William Lagesson was not noticeable (a good thing) with his performance against Nashville. With Jake McCabe out a little while longer and Conor Timmins out long-term, the supply of capable substitutes on defense is depleting.

Another area of concern is the Leafs penalty killing. The Predators scored two power-play goals that kept them in a game that the Leafs were controlling.

The Leafs shorthanded units find themselves ranked in the bottom half of the league with a less than 80% success rate. Should the team’s highly-ranked power-play stumble, an uptick in success while shorthanded will be necessary to help win games.

Overall, the Leafs did what they needed to do on this trip. The Atlantic division is much improved. By winning three of five games, plus the single point in Nashville, the Leafs have put themselves in a good position.

The next goal of the Toronto Maple Leafs is to take advantage of the upcoming six games, five of them at home.

Next. The Leafs Top 10 Prospects. dark

Dominance at home is necessary for a team with eyes on a division title.