TORONTO -- After blowing a four-goal lead to the NHL’s last-place team, the Toronto Maple Leafs rested their bodies.
But they didn’t rest their minds.
“Obviously we needed to have a discussion,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said before Wednesday’s rematch with the Ottawa Senators. “When you get a loss like that, the way that it went down, you don’t want to let it fester.”
For Keefe, Monday’s 6-5 overtime loss to Ottawa offered a chance to reset some fundamentals with his North Division-leading team. He’s identified sloppy puck management seeping into their play of late and met that head-on. He hopes the negatives attached to squandering a 5-1 lead can be turned into opportunity for further growth after an 11-3-2 start to this campaign.
It’s notable that there was no old-school skating punishment or lineup reshuffling.
In fact, the only small tweak being made is moving Joe Thornton to the net-front on the top power play unit. Otherwise, the Leafs are rolling back with the same lines, defensive pairings and Frederik Andersen starting in goal.
The main objective is rediscovering the tight, patient game that’s become their hallmark these last few weeks.
“I think that’s what we’re looking for here, is just to refocus and get back to the way that we played throughout the game [Monday] because the reality is the same team that gives up the lead is the same team that built the lead,” said Keefe. “We need to be more like the team that started the game and more like the team that we’ve been for the majority of the season that has us in first place in our division.”
While there’s no getting around the historic nature of Monday’s loss -- it was the first time in Senators history they won a game after trailing by four goals -- the Leafs players believe it was buried with a video session on Tuesday.
“For what we had going, the amount of turnovers we had were unacceptable,” said Mitch Marner. “We kept them around the game the whole time and gave them life. We talked about that. We know what we need to do to be better. We’ve got to control the puck more, keep it in our hands more.
“As much as we want to play with the puck in our hands sometimes there are plays to be made [where we] put it behind them and stuff like that.”
Added Zach Hyman: “You just need to reset and you need to bring a positive energy to the rink. You review the tape and you talk about it. You address the issues so there’s no elephant in the room. You hit it head on and once you do that like we did yesterday then you come back to the rink and you have a positive mentality and you get ready to play.”
The Leafs are in the middle of a hectic stretch with back-to-backs against Ottawa on Wednesday and Thursday, a visit to Montreal on Saturday and home games with Calgary next Monday and Wednesday.
There isn’t much time to dwell.
“I thought yesterday was a great day for us to kind of regroup and just review the tape and just look at it and make sure that it obviously doesn’t happen again,” said Hyman. “I think that we’ve addressed it in the locker-room. I don't think it was anything that they did extremely well. I think we just kind of gave them opportunities and they were able to capitalize."
In this type of situation, the new NHL schedule with multiple games against the same opponent may actually benefit them. They can immediately right a wrong and remove any lingering bad taste.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, especially with where we are in the standings and how things have gone, to kind of just reset and get back to the game that we know we can play,” said Hyman.