Keefe says Maple Leafs played ‘soft and purposeless’ after losing another lead

Toronto Maple Leafs Sheldon Keefe
Jared Silber, Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are under some immense pressure to win this season. Probably more than any other team in the league given the expectations and lack of postseason success with this current core. Every loss, every flaw, every decision is put under a microscope and examined to an insane, almost irrational degree, even when the team is playing well. Such is life in a hockey mad city that has an unquenchable thirst for a championship.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe may have given everybody even more reason to throw his team under a microscope on Wednesday night following a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers, a game that saw the Maple Leafs blow a 3-1 lead.

To say that Keefe was angry with his team’s performance would be an understatement. He used the word “soft” on more than one occasion, said nobody played well, nobody coached well, and that even if they had converted on some of their third period chances and produced a different result it would not have changed the way they played overall.

“Today I just thought we played soft. We made poor decisions defensively, we could not sort anything out. I just thought it was far different,” said Keefe after the game on Wednesday. “Each game has been different, so it is hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we have been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft and purposeless and just kinda playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.”

Yikes.

For a team that has consistently been criticized for being poor defensively, and not gritty enough, and always needing to add toughness comments like that, even if they refer to just a single game, are like throwing blood in the water for the team’s critics.

On one hand, his frustration is understandable. Even though it has not consistently burned them, the Maple Leafs have developed a bad habit lately of blowing leads.

They lost a 4-1 lead against Colorado that resulted in a 5-4 overtime loss, a 3-1 lead against Vegas that required a shootout to win, and a 3-1 lead against St. Louis that required two late third period goals to give them a regulation win. Then there was Wednesday’s game against New York. All of those games were just over the past five games (and the fifth game was a 2-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes). Not really a trend you want to see happening, and definitely something you want to fix now before it carries over to more important games in April and (hopefully for Toronto) May.

But it does show the level of pressure this team is facing when it is 24-10-3 for the season, and 6-3-1 over the past 10 games, gets ripped to shreds like that by its coach after a game. Now we get to see if this becomes a talking point again as the season progresses, or the Maple Leafs figure this out and make things easier on themselves.

 

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

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    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

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    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

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    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

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    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

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