The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for a five-game winning streak when they play the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow. As well, they’re looking to sweep both Alberta-based teams – they’ve already won two times in Calgary against the Flames and won the first game against the Oilers 4-3 on Thursday night.
The Oilers have actually done better in Toronto, where on January 21, they played a tight defensive game and beat the Maple Leafs on their home ice.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has a simple bottom-line – winning. He noted, “I like the way that we’ve found ways to come out on the positive side of it when it counts the most. Whether it’s how many games now we’ve had a really big penalty kill very late in the game with the game on the line, we find our way through those. We gave up the lead and then we bounce right back and get it and then make sure we finish the job. That’s been a theme. I like that.”
He added, “I think the thing I like most of all, for the most part, we’ve defended really well as a team, not perfect, but we’ve defended — I guess, well maybe is not the right term, we’ve defended hard.”
In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news that came from the team’s first-game victory against the Oilers. Then, I’ll look more closely at some of the successes within the first nine games of the 2020-21 season.
Item One: Morgan Rielly’s Riding a Three-Game Point-Scoring Streak
It might be modest for some players; however, Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly is currently on a three-game point streak. During the 4-3 victory over the Oilers, he had a power-play assist and was generally involved in the game with a couple of hits and a couple of blocked shots as well.
Rielly’s success was the third-straight game that he’s hit the score sheet. During those three games, he scored six assists. As it stands currently after nine games of the season, the 26-year-old defenseman has seven points. Although he had a bit of a fallow few games, overall Rielly’s is having a good season’s start.
Item Two: John Tavares also Adds an Assist on Thursday
John Tavares scored an assist and two hits in the 4-3 victory over the Oilers. His assist came on a first-period goal by William Nylander. Tavares started the season very hot, but he’s slowed down a bit and some of this teammates have taken over his slack. Still, overall, the veteran center has scored eight points in nine games.
After he scored five points during the season’s first two games, Tavares has only had three points in the last seven contests. One day soon, the 30-year-old team captain will have another breakout game. He’s simply too good to hold off the score sheet.
Item Three: Mitch Marner Gets Another Power-Play Assist
What a letdown. Marner has averaged at least two points during each game recently, but against the Oilers he only registered one power-play assist. His assist came when he fired a shot at goal and Wayne Simmonds, who was parked in front of the net, tipped the goal home to give the Maple Leafs their third goal of the game.
Even though Marner scored the assist, he lost his tie for the NHL’s scoring lead because his opponent on the evening – Connor McDavid – has a two-assist evening. Marner now has scored five goals and eight assists (for 13 points) in nine games.
Item Four: Frederik Andersen Wins His Fifth Game of the Season
Frederik Andersen picked up another win on Thursday when he stopped all but three of the 29 shots the Oilers threw his way. It might not have been the most aesthetic game, but it was effective. Over the course of the game, the Maple Leafs led by two goals for most of the game but the Oilers kept coming to tie the game at 3-3 through the midway part of the third period. Then Auston Matthews came through with his game-winning power-play goal.
Although his save percentage is a poor .896 on the season (with a goals-against-average of 2.87), Andersen is winning and has a 5-2-0 record in seven games. Some of his lack of success holding goals out of the net has to do with the fact that the North Division is so high-scoring.
Andersen will try to help his team win its fifth game in a row to extend its lead in the division. The Oilers are looking to get back into the win column. Edmonton has been 1-3-0 since defeating the Maple Leafs on Jan. 20 and has a 3-6-0 record after nine season’s games.
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