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The Toronto Maple Leafs may be trendy but right now it is not in a good way.

In fact, if the current trend continues the Leafs will be eaten alive this week by the Winnipeg Jets in a home-and-home mini-series on Wednesday and Saturday. After a quick start to the NHL season with lots of goals, the high-powered Leafs offence was ground to a halt in two consecutive games by the equally quick Pittsburgh Penguins and by the big-but-determined St. Louis Blues.

Both the Penguins and the Blues put a dent in the Leafs attack before it could get out of its own zone. Turnovers have become the big problem for the Leafs, at both ends of the ice. They are choking the offence before it can get started and in their past two games the Leafs forwards have not been able to establish a fore-check when they get the puck deep in the offensive zone. Plus the slot is being taken away from them, too, forcing the Leafs into a perimeter game.

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St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak (21) battles for a puck with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) during the third period at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 20, 2018.Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Throw in the fact the Blues beat the Leafs to almost every puck in Saturday’s 4-1 loss and nothing but trouble is on the horizon with the Winnipeg series. The Jets are big, fast and determined. They should have even less trouble taking the middle of the ice away from the Leafs attack than the Penguins and Blues.

After their fourth goal in the third period of last Monday’s 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Leafs did not score over a stretch of 116 minutes, 37 seconds against the Penguins and the Blues. The shutout streak ended with Morgan Rielly’s goal at 4:22 of the third period against St. Louis.

“I think obviously there have been some adjustments by a couple of our opponents,” Leafs centre John Tavares said after the loss to the Blues. “They’re competing hard. We’ve got to stick to what we do well.

“[The Blues] are a big team, they’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been in the league for a while and understand the game very well. They use their reach, use their size, use their body really well, just making it tough to get to the middle of the ice. We didn’t generate a whole lot there. We’ve got to do a better job coming out of our own end, a bit cleaner, allowing us to use our speed and get on the fore-check and be tenacious and hungry for pucks.”

The signs of trouble arrived in the Kings game, even though the Leafs cruised to an easy win. Up to that game, the Leafs used their speed and skill to dominate in giveaways and takeaways. In their win over the Washington Capitals on Oct. 13, for example, the Leafs gave the puck away just once and had 10 takeaways. But against the big, slow and mediocre Kings, the Leafs had 18 giveaways and just eight takeaways.

It was just as bad against the Penguins and Blues. In the 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, the Leafs had 10 giveaways and five takeaways. The giveaways ballooned to 21 against the Blues, with just six takeaways. Five of those giveaways were from Rielly, easily the Leafs’ best defenceman until that game, and the focus of the Blues’ fore-checking.

“[The Blues] were on the inside, they back-checked, they worked hard,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. “We stayed on the outside, never got the puck to the net, never got inside. In the end, they worked hard and they competed harder on the puck, in the hard areas, and we turned the puck over. We weren't good enough.”

In the first six games of the season, Babcock said, “we scored early, we scored easy, it was pretty loose and everything was great. Now we're finding out it's in the NHL, it's hard to score, teams compete hard on you, teams adjust and they're going to play you hard. We've got to get our mojo back by going to work and we'll do that.”

Someone who needs his mojo back before facing the Jets is Auston Matthews. He went from the hottest scorer in the NHL with 16 points in the first seven games to being practically invisible in the past two games. Then again, Matthews has lots of company in this, as Tavares and Mitch Marner have not been scaring opponents, either.

Babcock shuffled his lines and defence pairs in the third period of the Blues game, but was non-committal afterward about doing the same against the Jets. For Sunday’s practice, the most notable change came on defence, as Travis Dermott, who was on the ice for three of the Blues goals, was replaced on the third pair by Martin Marincin. The only change on the forward lines saw Tyler Ennis take Andreas Johnsson’s spot at left wing on the fourth line.

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