The Toronto Maple Leafs were shutout for the first time this season against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night - and it really shouldn't be surprising.
They've been trending towards this result, seemingly scoring less and less goals as of late, regularly getting massively outshot in the process.
Without Auston Matthews, their offense is beginning to run dry, especially with key players in William Nylander and Mitch Marner struggling to find the back of the net.
Following Thursday night's game, Mike Babcock gave a short press conference and his comments are rather concerning.
“It was much the game I expected, to tell you the truth," Babcock said, as reported by The Athletic's James Mirtle. I thought we did a lot of really good things. We turned it over on the first goal – and we actually did it on the second goal, too – it was an east-west play. But we had lots of opportunities, lots of looks, and played a pretty good road game.”
“I don't know why they would be squeezing their sticks; they've got no reason for that. To me, we're a team that feels pretty good about ourselves and playing pretty well. I don't know what that would be about. To me, I thought their goaltender had a good game, and I thought they protected him well. I didn't think either team gave up very many opportunities, so it was a night for the goaltenders that way."
What's concerning about these quotes is that he thinks the team is playing well right now. Sure - they've been winning more often than not, and have a nice 20-11-2 record 33 games into the season, but their underlying play has been concerning.
A quick gauge of fan opinion on the team right now shows that everyone sees what's going on - the team is straying away from its creative and speedy game, opting for a lot of dump and chase and perimeter plays.
Teams are starting to know the book on the Leafs and have adjusted to their strategies. If Babcock is content with the way the team is playing, they are in for some real trouble as the toughest part of the season approaches. They need to return to the style of play they exhibited at the beginning of the season, offensively anyways.
Is Babcock overly optimistic, or is he delusional? Or do they go hand in hand?