When the St. Louis Blues went down two key players with injuries, Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans had to see the writing on the wall. It was going to be a tough game to win. That seems to happen often in the NHL. The undermanned team often rises up to beat the next team they play.
That’s exactly what happened in Toronto last night. Two Blues’ stars were out – forward Vladimir Tarasenko (with a hand injury) and captain Ryan O’Reilly (with a broken foot) – on injured reserve. St. Louis rose up, played a solid first period, and hung on to push the game to overtime and then the shootout.
The Blues’ win pushed their record to 18-17-3. The Maple Leafs’ record fell to 23-8-7. The Maple Leafs, after a really strong game in Colorado against the Avalanche, laid a clunker.
Takeaway One: The Maple Leafs Could Not Take the Lead
The Blues kept taking the lead, while the Maple Leafs kept coming back. But perhaps it was as much as the Maple Leafs losing the lead rather than the Blues taking it. Toronto kept giving up the lead. It wasn’t the team’s best game.
Last night’s game was the Maple Leafs’ first shootout final this season. The Maple Leafs have been horrible in overtime and the shootout periods. For a team this good, they should have a better record in the extra periods.
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game that it wasn’t his goalie’s fault (because his team played the way it did). However, it’s hard to say if he really meant that. Goalie Ilya Samsonov could have been better during the game. All around? Not so good. Lucky to get a single point for the shootout loss.
Takeaway Two: Micheal Bunting Keeps Scoring
Michael Bunting scored twice, including on a power play, for the Maple Leafs. It was the second game in a row that Bunting had scored two goals. It was also the sixth two-goal game of his career. With his assist, he had a three-point night. He’s on a roll.
Interestingly, there has been a lot of news about the Maple Leafs and Bunting’s “side” talking about next season’s contract. The word is that the Maple Leafs and Bunting have “touched base” so as to start conversations. No one can say that Bunting doesn’t have a sense of timing. Each goal he scores – and he’s now up to 13 on the season – is likely another dollar or two on his next contract.
Bunting now has 13 goals and 16 assists (for 29 points) in 38 games. Wouldn’t it be interesting if he were to hit a point-a-game pace?
Related: Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews: Scoring Less on Purpose?
Takeaway Three: Auston Matthews Gets Two Points to Break 500-Point Barrier
Auston Matthews added a goal and an assist on William Nylander’s goal, finishing the game with 501 career points. What was so interesting about Matthews’ assist is that he didn’t actually touch the puck – at least not on purpose. Ironically, the puck bounced off his skate to Bunting who got it to Nylander for the goal.
I say ironically because, in Colorado, one of the Avalanche goals was a seemingly harmless pass that bounced off Matthews’ skate and past Matt Murray for a goal. What goes around comes around in hockey, it seems.
With his two points, Matthews became the fastest player in Maple Leafs’ franchise history to hit the 500-point milestone. It took him 445 games. Darryl Sittler did it in 517 games.
Related: 9 Things You Might Not Know About Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews
Takeaway Four: The Maple Leafs Bottom Six Players Great Hockey
The Maple Leafs’ fourth line now consists of Pontus Holmberg, Dryden Hunt, and Zach Aston-Reese. It is a really good line last night and played with some physicality last night. Hunt had a chance to win the game but couldn’t. The line didn’t hit the scoresheet, but they played with determination and toughness.
Hunt has some size and is a physical force in ways Denis Malgin never could be. He was also good with the puck. Holmberg’s has been good for a while, as has Aston-Reese.
In fact, the entire bottom six was really good. The third line generated offense. Engvall scored a goal, while Kampf and Kerfoot each had an assist. Engvall has been solid for a while.
Related: MAPLE LEAFS LAST TWO SEASONS: DEJA VU, ALL OVER AGAIN, HOPE NOT!
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January 5, 2023 at 11:43 am
I would play Timmins and sit Holl, Keefe needs to look at Holl and his mistakes on the ice.
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