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Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 0: Mirage is gone

Let there be no doubt about the state of this team after a high-profile faceplant in Canada

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
We can do this all night.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

In their latest embarrassing showing and arguably their ugliest loss of the season, the New York Islanders continued the disturbing, escalating futility that they have exhibited over the past two months Wednesday night in Toronto.

This time, though, they really turned it up to 11.

(Note: The coach did not see it that way. Not at all. More tweet/quotes from Newsday’s Laura Albanese at the bottom of this post.)

The 5-0 loss to the Maple Leafs was never in doubt. It wasn’t so much how they were dominated, it was how unstructured and chaotic they were. Sure, this continues their run of form, but occasional goaltending thefts or refreshing-mediocrity-and-luck performances have helped their record slightly mask the death spiral.

After tonight (and last night for a one-two punch), hopefully the powers that be running this franchise see where they really are.

It doesn’t just raise the question — it vaults it to the top of NHL headquarters and blares the question out across the continent: What the hell is this team doing on the ice? What is this franchise doing with its on-ice product?

They have promising assets — enough, even, to think the franchise can turn it around quickly in a salary cap league and give John Tavares good reasons to stay and finish what he probably hopes he started.

But they so clearly need changes. From the top. Without friends and insiders who will perpetuate this constant self-sabotage. Without people who will sit on the things they got right (or stumbled into?) while hoping everything else will just fall into place.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

I’m not going to waste too much space here unpacking the events of this game. After a lifeless showing at home against a weak team last night, traveling into Toronto for a back-to-back against a team playing its optimal lineup had all the makings of a disaster.

And so it went.

Shots were 13-3 for the Leafs in the first period. Control of the puck and shot attempts weren’t quite that lopsided, but the Isles’ approach to defense was its usual mind-boggling mess, while the Leafs did a good job of short-circuiting the Isles through the neutral zone and on zone entries.

Even when the Isles had pressure (so, like if John Tavares or Mathew Barzal had the puck, basically), the Leafs limited the danger. It’s almost like Cronin Theory, except applied successfully, and with enough possession the other way to not ever feel under siege.

That was how it started. That was how it was all gonna go.

Lines Though

Andrew Ladd was back in the lineup (Shane Prince was place don IR as Ladd was activated, if you missed it). Rather than return Ladd to the Barzal line with Jordan Eberle, they left Anthony Beauvillier there and put Ladd next to Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera.

Casey Cizikas in his second game back remained on wing (mostly) with Tanner Fritz and Cal Clutterbuck, likely protecting the hand/wrist/whatever injury he’s recovering from.

Oh, and Dennis Seidenberg was in for Sebastian Aho on the blueline. Speaking of which...

Seidenberg Is the (a) Reason for the Season

The first goal 5:37 in was just great. So great. Seindeberg sets the tone behind the net, teammates follow suit.

Let’s Leave Matthews Open

The second goal was bad in different ways. You don’t see the first mistake in the gif below, but Nick Leddy was split way too easily, then he and Scott Mayfield both chased ... leaving Auston Matthews all alone in the slot, where he is kind of good.

Barzal probably should’ve stuck closer to him, but maybe Barzal doesn’t expect both defensemen to abandon ship.

Shots? We don’t need no stinking shots

The second period was...oh why bother. The Isles didn’t.

They reached the halfway point with an impressive six shots on goal for the game. Mitch Marner made it 3-0 with a deflection at 10:32.

Someone named Travis Dermott -- a 21-year-old rookie who played really well on defense all night — scored his first NHL goal to make it 4-0.

Justin Holl made it 5-0 in the third period, a real stinker given up by Thomas Greiss, for Holl’s first NHL goal in his NHL debut. In accordance with the prophecies.

The Leafs pulled some crap with Barzal late, some high-sticks and stupid away-from-the-play stuff that went uncalled. Sure, show off your toughness for the dads.

It was one of those games where everyone across the continent — new school analytics fans and old school grumpy columnists — could see the Islanders for the absolute mess that they are.

(Had to get an old-school grump in there, ya know?)

Granted, Wednesday night was a special brand of futility, but it’s interesting that many outside observers still don’t realize that they’ve been that way for going on two months now. But those of us suffering through this season’s particular route to futility know.

Where We Are

Take it away, Carey:

(There were more tweets in that thread, but these capture the spirit of the thing.)

Weight’s View

I swear I watched a different game.

Up Next

Death, taxes and a loss Saturday against the Blue Jackets?