The praise will go to William Nylander and the winning goal to Morgan Rielly, but don’t discount the role Wayne Simmonds played in the Toronto Maple Leafs victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. In the opening contest for the Leafs of the 2020-21 NHL season, Simmonds did his job — a job he was brought to the organization to do.
The line combinations and the power play plan going into the 2020-21 NHL season was heavily discussed when it came to the fresh new NHL season. It was the Leafs top two lines getting most of the attention, with a healthy dose of discussion focused on how the third line would mesh. Few were talking about the Leafs fourth line, where Simmonds resides. Still, the members of those first two lines and the players who showed up often on the score sheet will tell you that the Leafs don’t win that game, if not for Simmonds and the critical role he played.
Toronto Got Outplayed
The Montreal Canadiens outplayed the Maple Leafs for most of the opening-night game between the two teams. But, it was Toronto’s high-end offense that came through, led by two goals from William Nylander and a game-winner in overtime from defensemen Morgan Rielly.
The Leafs will head into Friday’s matchup against the Ottawa Senators 1-0, but it’s clear the team needs to come out with a better start. Many insiders were on social media early in that game noticing the Leafs looked flat.
Simmonds Played His Role
When the Leafs got down 2-1 to end the first period and the group came out uninspired in the second, things looked bleak when the Maple Leafs went down 3-1 thanks to a goal by Tomas Tatar. It was then Wayne Simmonds did what Wayne Simmonds was supposed to do.
He dropped the gloves with Ben Chiarot who inexplicably decided to accept the fight. Simmonds won pretty handily and looked back at his own bench with a message: ‘Wake up!’. “That was a turning point in the game for sure,” said Nylander. “It pretty much changed the whole game,” added Joe Thornton.
That seemed to spark the team into getting on their horse and they used the power play and capitalized on a few key moments to take the game back. “I felt really good and I thought the boys needed a little bit of a spark there,” Simmonds said of his contributions.
While Simmonds simply said, “I know my role on this team. I’m happy I could help turn the tide for our team.” It’s clear now how important that role is.
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