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Defensive concerns persist for Maple Leafs

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Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the 2019-20 season was whether or not they could improve their defensive play – the most glaring area of weakness for one of the league’s Stanley Cup contenders.

With six games in the books, Toronto still looks to be one of the league’s better teams. But the defensive concerns persist.

There are, largely, two ways to improve a team’s presence in the defensive third. The first concerns structure and tactics.

The Maple Leafs play hyper-aggressively in the offensive zone, regularly taking gambles to create scoring opportunities for their army of skilled forwards. There is a lot less attention to a dump-and-chase style of hockey, with most Leafs forwards preferring to carry the puck in with control. With the offensive weaponry in Toronto’s stable, Mike Babcock and the rest of the coaching staff don’t have much of a choice.

It’s worth noting that the results are there – Toronto finished last season second in even-strength scoring (3.1 goals per 60) and third in expected even-strength scoring (2.8 goals per 60), and that’s been a consistent theme since the rebuild concluded.

Offensive strategy is just one contributor to game flow, of course,........