Ex-Leaf says the team's key issue in the playoffs isn't on D or in net

Ben Hodgson
April 29, 2024  (9:57 PM)

Without Auston Matthews, the Leafs stand little chance of extending their season on Tuesday night.
Photo credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

According to former Leaf Mike Johnson, the Leafs' biggest issue in the playoffs isn't defense or goaltending, it's scoring.

The Maple Leafs are in deep trouble heading into game 5 of their first round series against the Boston Bruins tonight. Down 3 games to 1, and now possibly missing Auston Matthews, it's likely that their season comes to a disappointing end after game 5. The debate has raged for years over what the Leafs' biggest issue is, and why such a good regular season team hasn't managed to break through in the playoffs. According to TSN analyst and former Leaf Mike Johnson, the biggest issue is actually goal scoring.
Challenge for the Leafs, is not goaltending, team defense or even the perceived lack of effort (which I don't buy) it's their inability to create offense, can't pass it to create chances off rush and the PP has been off for two months. Again, they can't score in Playoffs. - Mike Johnson on X

For the entirety of Dubas' tenure, the claim was that the Leafs didn't do well because they were too soft for the post season. If it wasn't softness, it was defence or goaltending. Brad Treliving brought in toughness, added «snot» throughout the lineup, and beefed up the blueline this season. Unfortunately, the Leafs have somehow performed even worse than in past seasons.
The truth is, the real problem is that when the games get tighter, they simply can't find new ways to score. The powerplay goes dry and even their normally prolific 5 on 5 scoring takes a nosedive. It's awfully hard to win games while only scoring one or two goals, but that's been the case in most of the games the Leafs have played over the past 2 playoffs. It doesn't help that Mitch Marner is recovering from a high ankle sprain, or that William Nylander missed 3 games due to a strange migraine-related issue, or that Auston Matthews has managed to pick up the type of horrific virus my kids have been known to bring home from daycare. They are also missing their breakout depth scoring threat in Bobby McMann. For a team with no room for excuses, there are actually a lot of valid ones in this post season. Unfortunately after 1 round win in 8 years, those excuses fall on deaf ears.
Recognizing this issue may be the key to fixing this team we all love so much. Maybe the Core 4 need to be broken up, and the team shift some of the focus to scoring throughout the lineup. Maybe the Leafs need to change the complexion of the blue line to include more offensively capable players that also bring toughness. Maybe a coaching change is needed.
It's hard to say exactly what the solution is, but the first step towards solving a problem is recognizing the cause of it. Let's hope Treliving and company can do that this off season.
29 AVRIL   |   678 ANSWERS
Ex-Leaf says the team's key issue in the playoffs isn't on D or in net

What do the Leafs need to change to have playoff success?

Top guys need to score22533.2 %
Trade one of the core 421031 %
Better defence13820.4 %
Better goaltending10515.5 %
Latest 10 stories