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Michael Bunting Is Making Maple Leafs’ Fans Forget Zach Hyman

The Toronto Maple Leafs came back to beat the Detroit Red Wings 7-4 thanks to Michael Bunting’s hat trick. Can Bunting replace Zach Hyman?

Just before I started to write this post, I took a look at Zach Hyman’s statistics with the Edmonton Oilers and then at Michael Bunting’s statistics with the Maple Leafs. On the season thus far, Hyman is having a good season with the Oilers and has scored 13 goals and 11 assists (for 24 points) in 34 games. Hyman scored two goals and added an assist last night as his Oilers’ beat the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-2.

Bunting is also having a surprisingly good season with the Maple Leafs and in 40 games he’s scored 12 goals and added 15 assists for 27 points. I’m a huge fan of Hyman, but at his $5.5 million salary measured against Bunting’s $950,000 salary I know who I would pick as the best bang for the buck. As I’ll note below, Bunting scored a hat trick in the Maple Leafs’ 7-4 win over the Red Wings.

Related: Maple Leafs Hope Petr Mrazek Can Help Rescue Slipping Jack Campbell

Bunting Recorded His First Maple Leafs’ Hat Trick

Bunting recorded his first Maple Leafs’ hat trick in last night’s 7-4 win over the Red Wings. There’s no doubt that Bunting right now is a complementary piece to the other stars on the team; but, he’s a great complementary piece. He was exactly where he needed to be to score those three goals.

On his first goal, Bunting’s good hand-eye coordination came into play as he tipped a shot from the point and knocked it down into the net. On the second, he again stood in front of the net tipped the puck up into the air; and, quicker than a cat, he reached around to swat the puck out of the air into the net before the goalie saw what happened. 

On his last goal, Bunting saw Mitch Marner bearing toward the net and skated along into the perfect line in synch with Marner, who slid the puck to Bunting for a tap-in goal. In those three goals, not only did Bunting show his willingness to take the position in front of the net; he showed the quick hand-eye coordination needed to utilize his stick quickly and accurately; and, he showed great hockey IQ. 

Remember Bunting is an NHL rookie this season because he hadn’t played more than 25 games before this season and he was 26-years-old on September 1 (September 15 is the cutoff date).

Bunting Carried the Maple Leafs to the Victory

After Tyler Bertuzzi gave his Red Wings a 3-1 lead in the second period, Bunting scored the next three Maple Leafs goals. He got one in the second period and then got two more in the third period to tie the game at 4-4. After that it seemed only a matter of time before the Maple Leafs wore down the road-weary Red Wings.

MIchael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs

As NBC’s noted, Bunting stepped up in the third period to “singlehandedly drag” his team back into the game. “It’s one thing to notch a hat trick. it’s another to do so in tight, crucial moments such as those the Maple Leafs experienced on Saturday.” Whoever wrote that got it right.

Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Loved Bunting’s Level of Compete

After the game, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe talked about Bunting’s level of “compete.” He noted that, 

“He (Bunting) was around the net a lot and got rewarded for it. He is a competitor in there. His linemates did good things to bring the puck to that space. Huge night for him.”

Keefe added, “On a big night here on Hockey Day in Canada in Scarborough, it is fitting that Bunts comes through like that. It is terrific to see for a guy who just competes out there.”

Suddenly, Bunting looks like he might have a case for the Calder Trophy.

Related: Any Chance the Maple Leafs Trade for Zdeno Chara at Trade Deadline?



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