Skip to main content

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) attempts to block a shot with Anaheim Ducks centre Rickard Rakell (67) in front of goal during the third period at Honda Center.

Let's start with an obvious statement: The Toronto Maple Leafs don't have a Ryan Getzlaf.

Or a Corey Perry, for that matter.

Boy do they need one though.

Getzlaf was the difference on Wednesday in Anaheim. Perry, too. After a close first period that cost the Leafs when they gave up a goal on a 5-on-3, it was all the Ducks top line the rest of the way, as they manhandled whoever they were on the ice against.

Final score: Ducks 4, Leafs 0.

The story we're going to hear an awful lot of is how few goals the Leafs have scored under new coach Peter Horachek, but the bigger issue here is what exactly is he – or any coach for that matter – supposed to do with an unwinnable matchup like Getzlaf-Perry on the road?

He doesn't have the horses.

"It's the most complete game we've had in a while," Ducks netminder Frederik Andersen said afterward. "It's always fun when you shut a team out."

It's not so fun on the other side, especially with the losses mounting.

The Leafs haven't beaten a goaltender with a puck since the first period of last Friday's game, when they rang four past Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets, a span of more than 162 goalless minutes.

Some are going to hang that on Horachek, four games in, but the reality is the Leafs haven't been scoring for a while. In Randy Carlyle's last nine games behind the bench, Toronto had only 20 goals, seventh last in the league, and it was one of about 12 reasons they went 2-7-0.

Add those two stretches together and things are really ugly: Three wins and 27 goals scored in 13 games. So it's not the system change.

But it does mean the Leafs slim playoff hopes are truly dire now.

Almost all of the playoff teams in the East have caught fire lately. The eighth place one, the Boston Bruins, is on pace for 97 points after putting their season back together, pushing them up into the mix with the red hot Rangers and Capitals.

For Toronto to get there, it'd have to go 25-13-0.

That's just not happening with where this group is at.

So we can blame Horachek for the team not scoring much in three out of four games (which could just be variance) or we can look at what the last 38 games of the season really are, which is a chance to evaluate this team and this core in a system which is much more likely to produce results in the future than the old one.

Yes, maybe the Leafs can be a slightly higher scoring team under Carlyle. Maybe that's a fact. But another fact is they only had the eighth most even strength goals in his 188 games as coach, and their goal differential was still one of the worst leaguewide despite solid goaltending.

Those goals came at a cost, and we know for a certainty – after nearly three years – what that was and what that topped out as.

It wasn't very good.

After four games, we don't know what the Leafs are when they play in games that don't involve 35-40 shots against every night. We don't know if they're going to produce offensively under Horachek because this could easily be just a brief blip against two of the better teams in the NHL.

"There certainly is a balance, and we're going to work at it," Horachek said. "Ten scoring chances – that's what I recorded for us in that game – it's not enough."

"We've definitely got some tough puck luck right now," defenceman Cody Franson said.

And they do. Their shooting percentage has dipped to 7.9 per cent the last 13 games after it was 11.4 per cent in the first 31.

That wasn't going to continue, no matter who was coach. This latest drought won't either.

But if we accept that making the playoffs is going to be exceptionally difficult – has their chances down to 21 per cent – then what this season becomes is about much more than those scoring variances in four (or 13) games.

It's about seeing what the Leafs look like when they play a reasonable facsimile of the style the best NHL teams are winning with against the best NHL teams and using that as a measuring stick of how far the roster has to go.

On Wednesday, the answer wasn't pretty.

The solutions aren't going to be either.