Both the Toronto Maple Leafs’ five-game winning streak and seven-game road winning streak had to end sometime. That sometime was tonight. In the end, after a stirring comeback from a 3-0 second-period deficit, the team will travel to Manitoba to play the Winnipeg Jets having lost by a 4-3 score.
It might have been better, but it also might have been worse. Trailing 3-0 well past the midway point of the second period, the Maple Leafs came back with three straight goals to tie at 3 3 at the end of the second. There was no scoring in the third period, and the Maple Leafs made one less goal than the Wild in the shootout.
However, the team did leave Minnesota with a single point for the overtime loss. In this post, I want to look at three takeaways from the team’s 4-3 loss to the Wild.
Takeaway #1: The Team Missed Mitch Marner
With Mitch Marner absent from the lineup with an injury, the team’s lineup shuffled around every which way. Not that the Maple Leafs would have won the game with Marner in the lineup; however, with him missing from the lineup, things just seemed topsy-turvy.
Marner’s absence, combined with the Maple Leafs falling behind into a three-goal deficit, meant that head coach Sheldon Keefe was called upon to be very creative. It almost worked.
However, not having Marner in the lineup just proves how important Marner is to the lineup. Things simply calm down when he’s there. That he won’t be able to play against the Jets tomorrow also calls upon other players in the team to step up. Tonight that someone was Jason Spezza: tomorrow night calls for another hero if the team is going to win.
Takeaway #2: This Maple Leafs’ Team Never Quits
It strikes me that, during other seasons in situations similar to last night’s, the Maple Leafs simply would have not come back in the game. In my opinion, this team’s ability to come back from such a large deficit bodes well for them in the future.
The Maple Leafs didn’t win this game, that’s for sure. However, they might have learned that they can mount a comeback and score in bunches when they have to do so.
Learning that they have the ability to come back might just be a small victory. It could motivate the team with the confidence it needs if it ever finds itself in that position again. I’m thinking specifically about the seventh game in the 2020-21 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens when the Maple Leafs simply seemed to lose all energy. I have a feeling this is a different team and there’s no rollover and die in this team this season.
Obviously, I would have liked to see Auston Matthews (or someone else) score another goal and for the team to win this game. That said, there’s a lesson to be taken away and I hope the team learned it. Tonight, the group needs to be commended because it didn’t quit. That, in itself, isn’t a bad thing to pull from a loss.
Takeaway #3: Jason Spezza Proves His Leadership Abilities at 38 Years Old
Jason Spezza rose to lead this team to a comeback shootout loss this evening. Maple Leafs’ fans have seen him do that a number of times over the past few seasons; and, tonight he did it again. Spezza scored twice and assisted on Auston Matthews’ goal for Toronto.
Obviously, Spezza wasn’t alone. On a night where bounces impacted both teams negatively, Jack Campbell had a strong third period and made 37 saves overall. But, without Spezza, I dare say the team would not be leaving with a potentially crucial point.
After the game, coach Keefe noted that it was a “remarkable effort by him (Spezza). If you look at what is going on in the game, our team was trying to find its way there. A guy like Spez just won’t let us go away. He gets us that big goal. There was some luck in that (Spezza bounced the puck off the side of Wild goalie Cam Talbot’s face mask into the net from behind the net), but there are a lot of things that lead up to it that give us a chance for that shot and that luck to go our way.”
Keefe also noted that Spezza (and others) made two great plays with the man advantage to tie the game. Keefe noted that this team needs “guys to step up like that when we are missing people such as Mitch. It is good to see Spez do that today. It was tough to see him go out there in OT and not be available for that power play or for the shootout.” [Spezza got hit right no the never and had to leave during the overtime period. Otherwise, he would have been one of the guys taking a shot on the goalie.]
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