In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll take a look at several players on the team who contributed to winning the game last night. Among those are members of the team’s first line – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Michael Bunting.
I’ll also look at the strength of the team’s depth players and suggest how these players also contributed to last night’s successful team win.
Finally, I’ll look at Maple Leafs’ goalie Petr Mrazek’s game last night. He did give up the number of goals, which I’m sure made Maple Leafs’ fans less than happy with him. However, I don’t think he’s as bad as fans think he did. I’m becoming less worried about the goalie play during the regular-season translating into the postseason.
Takeaway One: The First Line Has Amazing Chemistry
One of the best parts of the game for me was watching Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting arguing over who scored the goal that Bunting got credit for. They were having fun, and they should on all sorts of counts. First, they won the game. Second, they’re just young guys playing a fun sport and are highly paid to do it.
The upside of this relationship is that the first line has a great deal of positive chemistry. It’s a nice group of complementary players. No one is as skilled as Matthews as a goal scorer. Few players combine the defensive and the offensive acumen of Mitch Marner. And, Bunting goes to the dirty areas of the ice and has enough skill to thrive there.
It’s a strong line and one I hope will be together for a long time in Toronto. The fact that they really like playing with each other is a huge bonus.
Last night all three scored goals. Bunting also had an assist and was plus-3. Bunting now leads rookie scorers with 20 goals and he also has 25 assists (for 45 points). He got the game-winning goal last night.
Takeaway Two: The Maple Leafs’ Depth Is Really Strong, Skilled, and Capable
A number of the Maple Leafs’ depth players stepped up tonight, and I’ll mention two. First, Alex Kerfoot scored the team’s go-ahead goal on a beautiful shot. Kerfoot’s 4-3 goal was huge for the team and he was set up by Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds, which allowed him to come and have a clean shot. But the shot was gorgeous.
In fact, the entire Maple Leafs’ bench played well – especially at even strength. I’m constantly impressed by Ilya Mikheyev’s ability to speed by other players. Tonight was no different, and he scored on a persistent effort in the tough areas as well. He’s now up to ten goals in his short season, which is great for the amount of time he gets.
Mikheyev is effective on the third line, on the penalty kill, and sometimes on the second-unit power play. He adds a lot to the team and, while he was not so present in the middle of the action as the team’s first line is because he plays fewer minutes, he was one reason for the win tonight.
Takeaway Three: Maybe There’s Less to Worry About with the Goalies than We Thought
I know fans are going to discredit Petr Mrazek’s game tonight given that he was scored on four times. But I thought he looked solid and (mostly) under control. It seems as if the Blue Jackets were effective with the man advantage (or the goalie pulled), but less effective in five-on-five play.
Perhaps that means that the Maple Leafs cleared the front of the net. Newcomer Ilya Lyubushkin absolutely laid a Blue Jackets player out who was hacking around in front of Mrazek. Perhaps the other players will pick up on that behavior.
Specifically, about Mrazek, he has won four of his last five games. On the season, Mrazek has posted a 10-5-0 record, with a goals-against-average of 3.28, and a save percentage of .890 in 15 games. He’s allowed goals during that span, but the team seems to be playing for him now in the same way they played for Jack Campbell early in the season.
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