Heading into the season, the Leafs big players had their big contracts and with the four biggest dollar values on the top two lines, the preseason eyes were fixed on how the bottom six would perform.
A month and two games into the season and it wouldn’t be over the top to suggest the Leafs bottom-six has outplayed the top six by a good amount. Point totals show the top-6 are firing at a solid rate, but the inconsistency of the big guns has put unfair pressure on the bargain players on the bottom two lines. The silver lining? The bottom-six has picked up the slack.
The most recent game against the LA Kings proved this. Yes, Auston Matthews and William Nylander grabbed two points each, assisting on each other’s goals, but outside of that 30-second instance where both players scored, they were invisible on the night.
The shot total showed this as well, with the porous LA Kings defense keeping the Leafs to just 23 shots on goal. This shouldn’t ever be acceptable for an NHL team, but the skill gap between the Leafs forwards and the Kings’ defenders should have seen been enough to push the Buds in the 40-shot range. Especially when you factor in the number of lopsided losses they’ve had this season.
Alexander Kerfoot’s game-tying goal in the second period, an unassisted goal created by a speedy forecheck and a great interception, capped off a solid night for the third-line center who also fought off concussion spotters to get back on the ice. Kerfoot has been great this season and is a driving force for the bottom-six’s contribution.
There isn’t much to conjure up from this game other than the Leafs top-six have more and more mounting pressure on them to contribute consistently. Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen, Frederick Gauthier, Trevor Moore, and Nick Shore have all kept up their end of the bargain, but the Leafs aren’t going to be anything unless their top-six start earning their money more consistently.