Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost this game to the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime by a score of 4-3. It was the second game the team has lost in two consecutive nights. However, if I’m to play with words, the one positive is that there were so many more positives in this game than there were in the 5–2 wipeout at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens last night.
Last night the team was overwhelmed, Tonight it was the case of a few bad bounces combined with weaker-than-necessary goalie play by Jack Campbell that put the Maple Leafs in the position where an overtime goal by Patrik Laine carried the team from Ohio’s capital city to the win.
In this edition of Maple Leafs Takeaways, I’ll look at three aspects of the game that I believe are worthy of comment.
Takeaway One: The Second Line Isn’t Cutting the Mustard
Unfortunately, recently the second line of John Tavares, William Nylander, and Alex Kerfoot has been having trouble scoring five-on-five. On top of that, they seem to be giving opponents a lot of odd-man rushes.
Last night’s game was better for the second line in that they put pressure on the Blue Jackets in their defensive zone. There was nothing wrong with the line’s style of play; but, it does seem like Taveras is a bit snake bit. He seemed frustrated last night.
Given the strong play of Pierre Engvall in last night’s game, Maple Leafs’ fans have to wonder if it might not be crossing the coaching staff’s mind to give him a shot on the Tavares’ line. I’m a huge Kerfoot fan, but wouldn’t it be fun to see another look – if only for a game or two?
It might also be a way to reward strong play on Engvall’s part. He was quite a physical presence against the Blue Jackets last night.
Takeaway Two: Auston Matthews for the Hart Trophy
Auston Matthews started a new point-scoring streak tonight with three points, coming on a goal and two assists. Although his team lost, Matthews seemed back on his game. No excuses, but I have to think he was hurting more than we thought from his collision with the iron against the Pittsburgh Penguins a few games ago.
Matthews is an equal-opportunity offense creator. His assist came on goals by Michael Bunting (the rookie) and Jason Spezza (the vintage veteran). The Matthews’ assist on the game-tying Spezza goal can be seen below.
Matthews then scored a goal of his own just as the second period was coming to an end. The Spezza goal turned out to be the difference that gained his team a point in the standings.
For the season, Matthews has scored 34 goals and added 28 assists (for 62 points) in 47 games. For me, this brings up a topic that I don’t think has been spoken about as often as it should. That’s the possibility that Matthews should be considered for the Hart Trophy. Most people believe it’s given to the NHL’s best player; instead, the Hart Memorial Trophy is given “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”
That award seems to have Matthews’ name on it to me.
Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs’ Goalie Play Has Been Second-Best Too Often Recently
The truth is that, when you break down success for NHL teams, the team that gets “out-goalied” almost always loses the game. That was the case with the Maple Leafs last night. Jack Campbell was the second-best goalie on the ice.
Early in the season, Campbell was standing on his head was stealing game after game for his team. So, obviously, he’s capable of that kind of play. But it isn’t the way things have gone recently. I, for one, thought he was back after his game against the Penguins. But, now that seems like a one-game anomaly.
Plain and simple, goaltending was the difference last night in which team won the game. The defense was leaky and there were honestly a few odd/bad bounces. However, earlier in the season those mistakes and bounces would have been covered by the last line of defense – Campbell. He had been stopping those same shots earlier in the season.
What happens to this team if Campbell can’t refind his mojo and get it going again or if Peter Mrazek can’t regain his former skill? The recent losses are certainly not all on the goalies, because there’ve been a number of defensive miscues, but goalie play might be the undoing of this team.
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