Nylander and Matthews setting up on the powerplay
Photo credit: NHL

Sheldon Keefe calls out one specific unit in Toronto over poor execution

Published January 22, 2024 at 10:30

The Toronto Maple Leafs grinded their way back into the win column last night in Seattle against a Kraken team who happen to be battling a nasty illness that has swept through their locker room of late. The Leafs skated away with a 3-1 victory, with goals from Auston Matthews, Nick Robertson and Jake McCabe to move to 2-4-1 over their last 7 games.

A huge reason for the Leafs' struggles of late has been the execution of their special teams units. Their penalty kill has been giving up a little more than they'd like to be giving up, allowing 6 goals on the PK over the past 7 games. On the other end of the spectrum, their powerplay has been nowhere near as lethal as it was last season. The Leafs have gone just 1/15 on the power play over their last 7 games.

None of this is lost on Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, who commented on Sunday about his team's struggling powerplay.

"Execution has been off. When execution is off and passing is off, entries aren't as clean. You don't spend as much time in the offensive zone & don't put as much wear and tear on the opposition. That is really it."

Obviously, with the Leafs being as top-heavy as they are, the team sinks or swims based on whether or not they're converting on the powerplay. With the amount of star power at the top of the lineup in Toronto, they should be scoring at least 1 powerplay goal per night. That simply hasn't been the case, which is one of the reasons why the team has been coming up short in close games.

Last season, the Maple Leafs had Spencer Carbery running the powerplay. With Carbery now the head coach in Washington, the Leafs brought in ex-NHL head coach Guy Boucher to run the team's powerplay - something he wasn't really known for during his career. That's likely one of the reasons why the team has struggled in that area this season.

Another reason for the struggles with the man advantage is the unexpected drop off in production for Leafs captain John Tavares, who at 33, is really beginning to slow down. Tavares led the team in powerplay goals last season with 18, finishing with 5 more powerplay goals than Auston Matthews, who had 13 goals with the man advantage last season.

This season, Matthews already has 9 powerplay goals, so he'll almost certainly surpass the 13 he scored last season, while Tavares has just 4 powerplay goals on the year, which puts him on pace for around 7-8 PP goals this season. That's not just falling off. That's plummeting.

There's still just under half of a season to work with here, and with the talent in Toronto, there's a good chance they can turn this around and begin to produce on the powerplay again and go on a bit of a heater. However, if you're looking into why things aren't rolling right now, you can certainly start with the team's struggling powerplay, as Keefe has alluded to.
January 22   |   652 answers
Sheldon Keefe calls out one specific unit in Toronto over poor execution

Should the Leafs change up their powerplay units?

Yes, we don't need to load up one single unit35354.1 %
No, loading up the top unit is smart14021.5 %
Don't care, just win15924.4 %
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