The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a high-scoring game last night to the Vancouver Canucks. Going down 3-0, then coming back to tie it up, only to lose 6-4, it was not the team’s best effort. While a win would have put the Maple Leafs back on a more positive trajectory, it wasn’t all bad. There were four positives to take away from the game.
Four Positives for the Maple Leafs in The Canucks Game
From William Nylander scoring, to Jake McCabe contributing and others helping on offense, we can find light at the end of the tunnel. During the game, at least four good things happened for the Maple Leafs.
Good Thing One: William Nylander Found His Lost Offense
First, Nylander finally got back to his offensive ways for the season. He scored two goals on the night. Both came from far out; and, it seemed, he was aware that Canucks’ goalie Thatcher Demko was screened. The first goal came when Tyler Myers was completely in front of Demko. And, at 6-foot-8, that’s a lot of body to be used as a screen.
Nylander’s second goal came from distance as well, with a hard wrist shot that deflected off a Canuck defender’s stick. With the two goals, Nylander became the first Maple Leafs player to reach the 60-point mark this season. He’s currently tied for fifth in NHL scoring.
Good Thing Two: Jake McCabe Is Becoming an Offensive Player
Second, defenseman Jake McCabe – who is known more for his physical defensive play – contributed offensively with a goal on a beautiful pass from Mitch Marner. That continues McCabe’s trend of increased production over his more recent games. Surprisingly, he’s on pace for a career-high in goals and points, which is both surprising and noteworthy.
During the 2023-24 season, McCabe has maintained a consistent offensive pace with 16 points in 38 games. His offensive contributions are becoming a reliable part of his game. If he maintains this pace, he’s on track to set a career-high in points, potentially surpassing his previous best of 22 points in a single season. McCabe’s offensive game has evolved positively, especially in recent seasons. His move from the Chicago Blackhawks marked a turning point. Since joining the Maple Leafs, he’s made a notable offensive improvement in a relatively short time.
Good Thing Three: Morgan Rielly Is Having One of His Best Seasons
Third, Morgan Rielly played a key role in the game by assisting on both Nylander goals. Rielly is currently on a hot streak that has seen him put up 21 points in his last 22 games. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and is approaching several career milestones.
For example, Rielly is just nine points shy of 500 points in his career. That puts him only a single point behind Doug Gilmour for 18th place on the Maple Leafs all-time points list. He’s also fourth on the all-time scoring list for Toronto defensemen. He needs just eight points to pass Maple Leafs’ legend Tim Horton for third.
Good Thing Four: Mitch Marner Could Hit 40 Goals This Season
Fourth, Mitch Marner’s shorthanded goal was his 20th goal of the season. It came after he was stung by blocking a shot when his team was a man down. However, Marner then snuck into the passing lane to steal a cross-ice pass and break in alone on Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. He didn’t miss.
That shorthanded goal tied Marner for 13th place in the all-time Toronto list for shorthanded goals. Marner is on pace for a career-high in goals. He put up 35 goals in the 2021-22 season. While Marner is known more for his playmaking abilities, there’s an off-chance he could hit 40 goals this season with a bit of a push.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Tonight, Toronto faces the Seattle Kraken. Ilya Samsonov is expected to start in goal. The game will be important for the team after last night’s loss in Vancouver. It seems, even at this early stage of the season, that the Maple Leafs need to take home a win.
The team has a crucial home-and-home series against the Winnipeg Jets and the All-Star week break. Those games will be tough.
[As a note, I want to thank my often co-writer Stan Smith for his thoughts on the game.]
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