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Monday, August 8, 2022
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What has gone wrong with the Tavares line and how to fix it

The Leafs have been mired in a bit of a funk in which they have wracked up some wins while also showcasing some uninspiring performances, resulting in five losses in their last seven games. While they remain in great shape as the season inches closer to the trade deadline, their cushion ahead of the Bruins is getting smaller and the gap behind the Lighting and Panthers is starting to widen.

While we could talk about the concerning display from the blueline or untimely goals allowed due to poor goaltending, I want to focus instead on the porous play from the second line over the past ten games. More specifically, why the trio of John Tavares, William Nylanderand Alex Kerfoot has been struggling of late and what can be done to get them out of their slump.

Tavares is currently in the midst of a ten-game goalless drought, with his last goal coming on January 29th against the Red Wings (an ENG) and his last tally against a goalie on January 26th against the Ducks. For reference, this is his longest goalless slump since an 11 game stretch during the 2011-12 season. Meanwhile, Nylander went through a goal slump of his own that lasted eight games and was recently snapped on Saturday with two tallies against the Blues. Kerfoot has a combined five points but the caveat is that two of those games in that stretch were multi-point nights, meaning there have been seven games where he went pointless.

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Make no mistake, the three players remain integral pieces to the Leafs and this recent slump isn’t indicative of their lack of talent or potential decline in the captain’s case. For team scoring heading into tonight’s game against the Wild, Nylander sits in second place, Tavares in third, and Kerfoot in seventh. They have been among the team’s most integral pieces all season but are currently struggling to produce, so what has gone wrong?

Let’s start with the numbers. Here is a full breakdown of their scoring output since January 31st:

PLAYER GOALS ASSISTS POINTS EV POINTS PP POINTS
TAVARES 0 7 7 5 2
NYLANDER 2 5 7 4 7
KERFOOT 1 4 5 4 0

For reference, two of Tavares’ assists and three of Nylander’s assists over this past 10 game stretch have come on the power play, equating to roughly 29% and 43% of their respective points. And while Kerfoot has not been utilized on the man advantage this year, his other point during this stretch was an assist short-handed. But getting a combined three goals from the second line simply isn’t good enough for the Leafs to have any chance at success.

When taking a gander at the underlying metrics for the Tavares line throughout the season and over this past ten-game stretch, it paints a different picture as to what has gone wrong:

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Stats from Hockey-Reference.com and Natural Stat Trick.

Salary information from PuckPedia.com.

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