The Toronto Maple Leafs early exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins obscured a successful regular season, as the club reached the 100-point plateau for the second straight year.
The Leafs failed to advance in the postseason in spite of getting career-best performances from center John Tavares, wingers Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Zach Hyman, and defenseman Morgan Rielly. This will likely lead GM Kyle Dubas to make roster changes to improve his club to get past the first round for the first time since 2004.
Here is a final report card of the players, coach, and management of the Leafs for the 2018-19 season:
A case can be made for Andersen being the Leafs most valuable player, as he finished third in the NHL with 36 wins and was widely considered a Vezina Trophy candidate until a bad stretch in March took him out of the running. The Leafs starter was a workhorse, starting 60 games and facing 1958 shots (2nd only to Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck), with a 2.51 GAA and .917 save percentage, but heavy usage by head coach Mike Babcock caused Andersen to miss time in December with groin issues.
The 29-year-old played much better in the playoffs than last season, with a .922 save percentage, 2.75 GAA, and great performances in Games 1, 5 and 6, but a subpar outing in Game 4 prevented Toronto from taking a commanding lead in the series and a bad opening goal in Game 7 cost the Leafs in the deciding game.
Final Grade: A-
A roll of the dice on Andersen’s backup ended up costing the Leafs, as Dubas opted to keep the Calder Cup winning Sparks over veteran Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard. The 25-year-old was inconsistent early in the season and received cover from Toronto’s potent offense, but his play declined in the second half, losing eight of his last 10 starts and finishing the season with an under .500 record (8-9-1), and below average GAA (3.15) and save percentage (.902).
The lack of confidence in Sparks was made quite apparent just prior to the playoffs, when veteran Michael Hutchinson was called up from the American Hockey League to serve as the backup in the playoffs.
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