Three, that is how many times that the Toronto Maple Leafs have lost to the New York Islanders in as many opportunities during the 2023-24 season.
Tuesday night after tying the game late, the Toronto Maple Leafs, led by Sheldon Keefe, found another way to lose to a non playoff team.
In the post game interviews Keefe was asked about the Kyle MacLean goal in the second period after their powerplay when MacLean came out of the penalty box and stated "This is the National Hockey League, that's Peewee stuff, that's nothing to do with the season anything like that, you play on the powerplay in the National Hockey League they should not get behind you coming out of the penalty box."
There was plenty of blame to go around in the loss.
Peewee Players Taking Lesson from Coach
In the second period, minutes after tying the game at one, MacLean stepped out of the penalty box to go on a breakaway and regain the one goal lead. The notch was MacLean's first career NHL goal.
This was the first powerplay of the game for the Maple Leafs, which again looked horrendous with blind pass turnovers and their inability to gain the zone lost any momentum they had after Marner tied it up seconds before they went on the man advantage.
While the comments are 100% correct by Keefe, there is enough blame to go around, including the coach himself.
Keefe Struggling With Deploying Team
Keefe stated earlier in the season that he doesn't know who to trust, but it is clear who he doesn't trust. The Maple Leafs bench boss had six forwards play under eleven minutes, with four of those players skating for less than ten minutes.
The club has a trio of shooters that have the potential to put the puck in the net anywhere on the ice in William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Nicholas Robertson. Despite his scoring prowess, Robertson has been unable to get out of Keefe's doghouse. With the team down a goal late and the goalie pulled, Keefe elected to go with Tyler Bertuzzi who has one goal in his last 28 games and less goals on the season despite many more opportunities than Robertson.
The Maple Leafs former second round pick finished the night with just 8:38 of ice-time despite scoring four goals in his previous eight games all while averaging less than 12-minutes a night.
The defense core is a hot mess with constant turnovers and an inability to make any type of decent breakout pass. Morgan Rielly who did pick up a powerplay assist had one of his worst games of the season and his late turnover led to the game winning goal. The club was hoping to depend on former first round pick Timothy Liljegren this year, however he may be nursing an undisclosed finger injury as he has not been able to make a pass in weeks.
Father time has passed Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie by with the two constantly making poor decisions with their lack of being able to clear the puck on the penalty kill, unable to make a clean breakout pass or unforced icings.
The defensive core has been struggling all year long and general manager Brad Treliving has yet to do anything to address the issue.
Keefe is 100% correct that the MacLean goal was a Peewee level defensive play by his team, he is also showing the coaching and management is working at the same level by not fixing the problem or adjusting.