The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled in their last little while playing at home. This has Leafs fans frustrated and turning on members of the roster.
One roster member in particular received a pouring of boo’s from the home crowd, Jake Gardiner. Now, given the lack of effort on the part of the Maple Leafs as a whole while performing at home, it is hard to pinpoint the main cause. However, given Gardiner’s play as of late, it was easy for fans in Scotiabank Arena to aim their frustrations towards the defender. Their most recent performance saw the Maple Leafs surrender a 2-0 lead to the struggling Colorado Avalanche and lose 6-3. The game saw Frederik Andersen return to play after missing some time with a groin injury. Andersen faced 36 shots from the Avs while the Maple Leafs offense only managed 20 shots.
Maple Leafs outscored and outplayed at home
Throughout their last six home games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been outscored 21-13. Not only that, but throughout those six games, the Leafs were shutout twice. The first team to shut them out through this stretch was the New York Islanders when they defeated the Leafs 4-0. Next, the Nashville Predators downed the Maple Leafs 4-0. Given the Maple Leafs roster, there is a lot of confusion as to why they have had such trouble scoring at home. One player, however, feels he cracked the code on how to make the Leafs struggle.
The Maple Leafs were in Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Dec. 28, 2018. The Leafs went onto win that contest 4-2, with John Tavares scoring twice and Mitch Marner putting up a goal and two assists. Though the win did not come easy for the Maple Leafs. Shot were knotted at 29 a team, the Blue Jackets out-hit the young Maple Leafs squad 24-eight and the Leafs turned the puck over 10 times compared to five for the Blue Jackets. During the post-game media scrum, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno told reporters that the Maple Leafs are in fits when a team gets deep into their zone. Foligno made the claim that “they do not like defending down there at all.”
Perhaps other teams heard what Foligno had to say about their defensive struggles because since that game, the Leafs have lost five of their last seven games. That includes the win over the Blue Jackets.
Frustration within the fans…
The paying fans have been frustrated with the Maple Leafs play at home. Just last night, a number of fans present at Scotiabank Arena booed Gardiner. While it is easy for fans who elect to stay home and save money to say that it is not fair for the crowd to boo their players, they may not be aware of ticket costs.
Personally, I would love nothing more than to go watch a game in Toronto and support the team that was truly my first love, however, as a broke college student, I can only dream of affording to do so. Let’s say for the sake of this post, I put forth the funds to go and watch the Leafs at home and they perform as they have been. It is safe to say that I (probably out more than $500.00 on the ticket alone) would be pretty upset. But to boo one player in particular is just unfair.
Now, I’m not saying fans should come armed with their pitchforks and throw their jerseys (or waffles) onto the ice, but it is OK to display frustration. Compared to what Leafs fans have done in the past, I would say that booing is a respectful show of frustration. It is the furthest thing from cheap to see them play in Toronto, they need to perform better for their fans.
What is next?
Gardiner is just one man on an 18 man roster. All 18 players on their roster must be better and they will be tested in their next game where they will play host to the NHL’s top team and Atlantic Division leader, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The last meeting between the two saw Andrei Vasilevskiy return after missing 14 games due to injury. The Leafs lost 4-1 as Vasilevskiy stopped 48 of 49 shots he would see in his return to action. The Leafs and Bolts play on Jan. 17 and puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.
After their trip down to Florida (in which they’ll play both the Lightning and the Florida Panthers, the Leafs will have many games at home. In the next month and a half, they’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes, the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Edmonton Oilers, the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens and a few other clubs. Hopefully, this trip to sunny Florida will rejuvenate the Leafs and they’ll be hungry for some wins at home.
Stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler