Auston Matthews scored twice. Mitch Marner scored once and added two assists. And, goalie Jack Campbell stopped all 26 shots that came his way. The result was a 4-0 shutout victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs over a short-handed Vegas Golden Knights squad in Tuesday’s game. It was the Maple Leafs’ third straight win and stopped the Golden Knights’ winning streak at four games.
In this post, I’d like to share and comment upon my personal takeaways from this Maple Leafs’ victory.
Takeaway One: Marner and Matthews Might Be Back
For those counting goals and thinking that Auston Matthews might actually have a chance at the Rocket Richard this season, he entered the game eight goals back of Alex Ovechkin. He ended the night now “only” six goals back. Three more games like this and Matthews might just be back in the hunt.
Matthews played well offensively, but he also played well defensively as well. Perhaps it’s not his season to lead the NHL in goal scoring, but he might just be the Selke Trophy winner. His defense is that good.
As far as Mitch Marner goes, his Spin-o-Rama goal was vintage. While Marner’s not much of a threat to look for his own shots on net, when he’s given a pass like the one John Tavares put on his stick, he’s creative enough to score. Welcome back to the scoresheet, Mitch.
Takeaway Two: Did Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren Have a Good Game or Not?
If the definition of being a good defenseman is never having to play defense at all, then Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are amazing defensemen. It’s easy to miss what they do on defense because they always have the puck and/or they’re always moving the puck to the offensive zone. Did they play in the defensive zone much at all?
As Ian Tulloch of Maple Leafs Hot Stove reported after the game, Liljegren “controlled over 90 percent of the expected goal share at 5v5 tonight. The main reason: Toronto didn’t give up anything dangerous when he was on the ice, mainly because they had the puck.”
Sandin has led the Maple Leafs in shots and scoring chances against the opposition all season, and now Liljegren has joined him. These two speed up the game when they’re on the ice in ways that Justin Holl cannot – they’re completely different players. The young Swedish twosome simply moves the puck quickly up the ice toward the other team’s goalie. Holl plays good defense in his own zone.
Liljegren and Sandin do it – so far in two games – night after night – and seem to do it with much fanfare at all. Interestingly, advanced analytics offers insights that one can miss with the eye. And these two just keep moving the puck up the ice and into the other end of the ice. It works, and positive things have resulted.
Takeaway Three: Sign Jack Campbell to an Extension This Week
One might conclude that Jack Campbell did little or nothing to earn a shutout tonight. Who noticed him really? But, I’m convinced that part of the strong defensive play in front of him is that he inspires it. He brings out the best in his teammates.
I think his Maple Leafs’ teammates simply want to play hard for him when he’s in the net. The Maple Leafs outshot the Golden Knights to the tune of 34-26, and 14 of Vegas’ shots came in their desperate third period. Otherwise, most of the game was played in the Golden Knights’ end of the ice.
The rumors are that, similar to what Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas did last week with defenseman Morgan Rielly’s contract extension, negotiations are underway to re-up Campbell to his own contract extension. The team should do it, and the sooner the better.
When asked after the game, Campbell didn’t confirm the there were negotiations underway, but he made it very clear that he wanted to stay in Toronto. Campbell responded that “I truly love it here. It’s a special group and a special city. There is nothing more I would love than to stay here.”
For me, extending his contract is a no-brainer. As I say, he didn’t do very much to earn tonight’s shutout against an injured visiting team. However, I believe he’s laid the groundwork with his positive persona and his winning attitude as a teammate. Plus, he’s a good goalie.
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