The Toronto Maple Leafs lost last night’s game big time against the Ottawa Senators, falling 6-2 on home ice. Nothing seemed to go right for the team.
William Nylander and Joey Anderson scored, but the team looked like it was without its star center, Auston Matthews. He will be out for three weeks because of a sprained knee he suffered in the New York Rangers’ game.
Usually, the Maple Leafs play hard when their star player is out for a game, and have put together a record of 31-17-2 when he’s not in the team’s lineup. That wasn’t the case last night.
Ottawa won on the Maple Leafs’ home ice for the first time in more than four seasons. Forget the 23-point difference in Atlantic Division standings, the Senators took it to their Ontario rival last night.
Item One: Matt Murray Couldn’t Go in Last Night’s Game
Auston Matthews was not the only Maple Leafs’ player to suffer an injury. Last night just prior to the game, Matt Murray was pulled from his starting role. Murray had expected to start in the home game against the Senators. However, just prior to the game, he was suddenly removed with an unknown injury.
After the game, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that Murray had been dealing with an injury and that it had “flared up.” The game would have been Murray’s first game action in goal since January 17th. On the season, he has a record of 11-5-2, a 2.73 goals-against-average, and a .911 save percentage.
Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-2 Win Over the Islanders
Item Two: Ilya Samsonov Loses at Home for the First Time
With Murray unable to play, Ilya Samsonov became the starting goaltender for the game against the Senators. It seemed to catch the Russian goalie by surprise and he didn’t look on his game. It was one of his poorer games of the season.
Samsonov had hoped to extend his winning streak on home ice; however, he could not. As a result, his record slipped to 16-5-2, with a 2.37 goals-against-average, and a .916 save percentage in 23 games this season. As coach Keefe noted after the game, “We put [Samsonov] in a terrible spot. And then we didn’t take care of him.”
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Lamoriello, Meier, Greig & ZAR
Item Three: The First Versions of the New Top-Six Lines
With Auston Matthews out of the lineup due to a sprained knee, Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares took his place as the team’s first-line center, playing between Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting. Pontus Holmberg centered William Nylander and Calle Jarnkrok on the team’s second line.
It’s tough to say how this first attempt at the top six units worked. The new lines never had a chance to show what they might be able to do because the flow of the play was disrupted right away.
Bunting and Brady Tkachuk engaged in a post-whistle wrestling match/”conversation.” That broke up the line of Bunting, Tavares, and Mitch Marner. In the ensuing 4-on-4 Thomas Chabot scored for Ottawa.
Then, Holmberg was called for a penalty (a double minor). While the Maple Leafs successfully killed it, it still disrupted the flow of the second line. Holmberg, who doesn’t take many penalties, also served another minor penalty. His total of penalty minutes in last night’s game equaled his career 30-game total of penalty minutes.
It was that kind of a game all night long for the Blue and White. Chalk it up to “one of those goofy (hopefully rare) games that come along.”
Related: MAPLE LEAFS’ MATTHEWS OUT 3 WEEKS: THE CASE FOR PONTUS HOLMBERG RISING
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