Frederik Andersen rescues Maple Leafs in ugly effort in Philadelphia

Andersen bailed out the Leafs in Philly. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Andersen bailed out the Leafs in Philly. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.

Frederik Andersen needed 10 saves in the shootout, but the Toronto Maple Leafs did manage to avoid what would have been an immensely disappointing loss Saturday night, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 after 22 shooters in the skills competition.

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Toronto will jump on a bird and return home to prepare for three games at Scotiabank Arena this week.

Until then, three quick points:

First Point: Have to credit Fred

Toronto has discovered no shortage of paths to leaving points on the table through the opening month of the season. Without legs on back-to-backs and prone to costly penalties in overtime while oddly ineffective in the shootout, failures to deliver in moments that carry with it real consequence in the standings have left the Maple Leafs lodged in the middle of the Eastern Conference running through the opening 15 games.

Given the sluggishness shown in the second period and the nightmare start to the third in Philadelphia, thoughts of escaping with a single point, at times, seemed overly optimistic. But when Mitch Marner scored a massive goal on a tremendous individual effort, the opportunity to secure two points — however undeserved — was once again in front of them.

And again, the Leafs seemed to do everything they could to again waste that opportunity.

If a point seemed unlikely earlier, securing both should have been considered nearly impossible after Andersen had to make 18 total saves as the Leafs once again put themselves on the back foot with another penalty in overtime and then managed to waste nine of their 11 attempts in the shootout.

Freddy, though, was that good when it mattered most.

A loss in Philadelphia would have probably gone down as the Maple Leafs’ worst from an inadequate and tremendously disappointing first month of the season. While the netminder can’t be excused from criticism, he was the reason his team escaped it tonight.

Second Point: The Spezza thing

Scoring his first in a Maple Leafs sweater and prolonging the shootout with a conversion on Brian Elliott, Jason Spezza had a pretty significant hand in the victory.

But aside from those two moments, his limitations, and the reservations Mike Babcock seemed to have about him, seemed to be on full display.

From failing to handle Kevin Hayes while marking deep in the defensive zone and taking a penalty, to sitting again when high-sticking Joel Farabee after the teenage star slipped him with speed, to allowing Justin Braun to catch him from behind on a breakaway feed from Auston Matthews, Spezza simply struggled with the responsibilities of a middle-six centre on Saturday night.

Which is, to cover the ice effectively.

Still, despite speed proving to be a significant issue, his role in Toronto’s second goal and finish in the shootout are examples of the certain things that Nick Shore, his direct competition for a roster spot, can’t really offer.

It will be interesting to see what’s prioritized when Zach Hyman returns, and the decisions that need to be made.

Third Point: Keep it simple

While admittedly a broad stroke, one thing that seems to be holding the Leafs back is just the simple fact that they are trying to do too much.

There were numerous examples tonight of the importance of simplicity — and also examples of strange decisions to complicate matters.

An example of what worked: A simple flip into space for for the Leafs’ most impactful forward on the night, Kasperi Kapanen, to burn the Flyers with speed.

An example of what didn’t: Not one, but two attempts to recreate the Nikita Kucherov Houdini shootout move.

Not a good look to fail a second time with the move with critical points at stake.

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