The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche played a tight (often boring in a playoff sort of way) game last night. In the end, the game couldn’t be decided in overtime so it went to a shootout. The Maple Leafs put their three top scores out, but William Nylander couldn’t score, nor could Auston Matthews, nor could Mitch Marner.
Ilya Samsonov let in a shootout goal to Nathan MacKinnon, and that was the game.
Takeaway One: Who Would Have Expected a Tightly Played Game from the Maple Leafs and the Avs?
The Avalanche and the Maple Leafs played a back-and-forth strategic game. The game was tightly contested from start to finish, and both teams played well defensively. Two high-scoring teams playing playoff hockey was what the fans got.
For the Avalanche, MacKinnon is a dominant force. He pushed his point streak to six games and scored the shootout goal that led to the win. Mikko Rantanen scored his team’s only goal on a power-play. And, goalie Alexandar Georgiev was solid in the net, even if he faced only 19 shots (and made 18 saves).
For the Maple Leafs, Morgan Rielly scored an early goal, but it was the only goal the team could generate. Ilya Samsonov played a really strong game, making 28 saves in the losing effort.
Even in the overtime period, the Maple Leafs couldn’t generate a single shot on the Avalanche’s net. Colorado outshot them 4-0 in overtime. Not enough pucks on the net for the home team.
Related: WOULD AUSTON MATTHEWS REALLY LEAVE THE MAPLE LEAFS?
Takeaway Two: Ilya Samsonov Is the Maple Leafs Number One Goalie
Really, the Maple Leafs’ fans have known this for a while now. But Ilya Samsonov is the starting goalie (he’s number one) in Toronto. Samsonov played really well last night against a strong Avalanche team, especially considering that his head coach Sheldon Keefe had noted this past week that he wasn’t 100%. It was his first start in over a week.
As the game turned out, it’s unfortunate that his performance wasn’t built on by his team. He did enough to steal a point for the Maple Leafs, but he couldn’t steal the win. When his high-scoring, offensively gifted teammates can’t generate a shot in an overtime period, it’s pretty clear that a win is going to be tough to get.
That said, it’s a positive sign that Samsonov was so sharp. He stepped up to make key saves when he was needed. In fact, the only goal he gave up wasn’t going to be close to the net, but it, unfortunately, bounced off Jake McCabe’s stick and went between Samsonov’s legs for the score.
Samsonov’s home record is impressive. That record now stands at 17-2-2, and his road record is currently 6-6-1. His overall record is 23-8-3. That kind of percentage will win any postseason series he plays. But it probably means that home-ice advantage will be crucial.
Related: Three Reasons Mitch Marner Is the Maple Leafs’ Best Player
Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs Fourth Line Continues to Play Well
The Maple Leafs’ fourth line of Noel Acciari, David Kampf, and Zach Aston-Reese played well last night. It seems as if coach Keefe kept throwing them out against the Avalanche’s top line and they didn’t blink. In fact, if anything that line pushed the play right at the Avalanche’s defense.
That threesome might not be as gifted or skilled as the Maple Leafs’ top-six units, but they play hard and always seem to be deep in the Avalanche’s end of the ice. That bodes well for the team in the postseason. In previous seasons, the Maple Leafs didn’t have scoring options outside of the top five or six players. This season they do.
Related: Remembering Maple Leafs Tough Guy Jim Dorey
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