Matthews and Keefe Were Right to Call the Toronto Maple Leafs "Immature"

A substandard result against the New Jersey Devils brought out a terse reaction from the Leafs head coach and star center. The miscues and head-scratching plays have been a long-time problem for the team in blue and white.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks
Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages
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Finally, someone on the Toronto Maple Leafs called it like it is. Head coach Sheldon Keefe and star center Auston Matthews were not pleased with the Leafs most recent lackadaisical home performance at Scotiabank Arena.

After an uninspiring effort in a 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils, both Keefe and Matthews used the word "immature" to describe the play of their team.

The game itself was a microcosm of the Leafs season. There were flashes of brilliance, blown leads, and mental miscues. Sixty minutes of consistent hockey was not evident.

The Leafs have struggled with much of the same issues throughout the season and for much of the Keefe and "Core 4" era.

Matthews and Keefe Were Right to Call the Toronto Maple Leafs "Immature"

Keefe has had moments of frustration throughout the Leafs season, but his exasperation seems to have reached a peak.

The first period against the Devils brought to mind previous iterations of the Leafs. They dominated the underlying statistics such as puck possession and shot attempts, yet trailed 2-1 after the buzzer.

The shot clock read 25-10 in the Leafs favor, but glaring miscues led to the first-period deficit.

Joseph Woll let in the first shot he faced just moments after Tyler Bertuzzi had given the Leafs the lead. Keefe was not happy at that turn of events. He expressed his disappointment in Woll for letting in the first shot of the game, for two consecutive games.

The Leafs then gave up a late-period 2-on-1 that resulted in the Devils' second goal with just over two minutes left in the first.

The start of the second period saw the Leafs flash their brilliance. First, came a nice regroup outside the Devils' blue line that resulted in William Nylander getting his 40th goal of the season. Next, a long pass from the defensive end from Ilya Lyubushkin to Matthews that he buried to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead.

The brilliance didn't last long. The ugly hiccups returned.

Timo Meier was left unchecked in the slot to deposit the tying goal before the Leafs were slow to react to a harmless-looking point shot that was collected and put in the net by Max Willman. The Leafs were now chasing the game, trailing 4-3.

The Devils used the third period to demonstrate how to protect a one-goal lead. Hopefully, the Leafs were taking note.

One last error came late in the third period with the Leafs trying to tie the game. Max Domi made a glaring turnover at the Devils' blue line that turned into a Jack Hughes breakaway. He scored and iced the game for New Jersey.

Thus ended another game where the Leafs structure disappeared at inopportune times and a loss, instead of victory, was the result.

The Leafs have had too many such occurrences both this year and in past seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs Postgame Reactions Must Be Acted On

The postgame reactions of Keefe, Matthews, and Nylander were refreshing. Too often in the past, games like the one against the Devils would be met with a collective shrug of the shoulders and cliche answers.

Keefe has called out his team's performance multiple times this season. He realizes it is time for his team to grow up. Even better, the message from his best player was the same.

The trick now is for the Leafs to respond to the words of their coach and their premier player.

The end of the regular season is fast approaching and the Toronto Maple Leafs will soon be facing a formidable postseason opponent. It is a dangerous game to count on flicking a switch and finding your groove for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Leafs key players have taken an important first step in not glossing over the problem. The best accountability comes from within.

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Actions and results will prove how many players within the Leafs dressing room were listening.