Thu, 02 Dec 2021

Maple Leafs, Blackhawks struggling to find goals in early going

Field Level Media
26 Oct 2021, 23:40 GMT+10

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks haven't met since last January, so this old rivalry's renewal will be welcomed when the Leafs visit the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Shared Original Six history has been overshadowed by their struggles in the present.

The Blackhawks have yet to evenhold a lead over their first six games, resulting in an 0-5-1 record. Chicago allowed a season-high six goals in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, though the Blackhawks have surrendered at least four goals in every game.

"Top to bottom, I think our forwards have to help our (defensemen)," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We're just making it too easy for teams to walk into our zone, get possession, stay in our zone, generate shots, win battles. ... It's just finding that consistency and not getting frustrated and staying with our game plan when things aren't clicking, when another team's coming at us."

Chicago has scored only 12 goals in six games.

The Maple Leafs share the same goal total over seven games, and Toronto has been outscored 18-6 on its current four-game (0-3-1) winless drought.

Auston Matthews scored early in Monday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes, giving the Leafs hope of ending the losing streak. But, the Hurricanes scored four unanswered goals in the last 33 minutes for a 4-1 victory.

Toronto is scoreless in its last 14 power-play chances, though a lack of success with the extra attacker is just one of several offensive issues plaguing the Leafs.

"Both our power play and our five-on-five, I think simplifying it will help a lot," said Matthews, who scored his first goal of the season Monday after missing Toronto's first three games due to injury.

"We've got to get (the puck), find a lane, and get sticks on it .... Even in our five-on-five play, (we're) just kind of looking a little bit too much for the pretty play instead of just keeping it a little more simple and just shooting some pucks and then getting those ugly goals," Matthews said.

Jack Campbell stopped 32 of 35 Hurricanes shots, a solid rebound effort for the netminder after he was pulled after allowing five goals in Saturday's 7-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Campbell will likely start against Chicago, as while backup Petr Mrazek is traveling with the Leafs on their three-game road trip, it isn't known if Mrazek is fully recovered from a groin injury.

Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed six goals to Detroit, raising Fleury's goals against average to a nightmarish 5.75 in four games. Backup Kevin Lankinen (2.91 GAA, .884 save percentage) has been better by comparison, and the Blackhawks could opt to give Fleury a game off after his rough outing on Sunday.

Patrick Kane, Jujhar Khaira, Riley Stillman, and assistant coaches Tomas Mitell and Marc Crawford have all been in COVID-19 protocol since the weekend, and may not be available to join the Blackhawks by Wednesday's game.

Chicago has set a new NHL record for most consecutive minutes played (360:57) without ever holding a lead.

The Blackhawks are 8-0-3 in their last 11 games against the Maple Leafs, dating back to the 2014-15 season.

--Field Level Media

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