The Toronto Maple Leafs scored a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. That victory stopped the Rangers’ winning streak at four games and pushed the Maple Leafs’ winning streak to five games. Toronto’s record now stands at 12-5-1 on the season.
This was a good game played by two good teams. The Maple Leafs carried the first part of the game, but the Rangers pushed back during the third period. Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell was once again stellar in the net. Campbell’s load was pretty light first part of the game, but it got very heavy during the second part of the game for him. But even as hard as the Rangers pushed, he was able to meet and stop every advance.
In this post, I’ll take a look at the game and share my three takeaways.
Takeaway One: Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Has this Team Playing Good Defense
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe has been preaching two things over the past few weeks since the team’s five-game losing streak in October. First sermon: be ready and willing to play strong defensive hockey. Second sermon: start games quickly. Have the will to work harder than your opponents and then make them chase you during the game.
For the past few games during the team’s five-game winning streak, the players have both bought into and are actively practicing those lessons. In tonight’s game, the Maple Leafs came out buzzing during the first period and it took the Rangers some time to catch up. By the time they did, it was too late.
The Maple Leafs played well defensively and held on – with the help of Campbell – to carry the game home and wind up with a 2-1 win. That, by the way, is the same score – but in reverse – that the Maple Leafs lost to the Rangers exactly a month ago to the day (October 18).
Note that the Maple Leafs have scored only 48 goals all season in 17 games, which isn’t even a three-goal-a-game average (2.87 to be exact). They are winning tight games and doing it against good teams. The defense is carrying them.
Takeaway Two: Jack Campbell’s Stock Can’t Climb any Higher, Can It?
Jack Campbell stopped all but one of 28 shots the Rangers took on net during Thursday night’s 2-1 win. He was solid once again tonight; and, except for one stinker of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he’s been solid all season.
Campbell shut the door both when the going was easier and then when it got a whole lot harder. The 29-year-old only gave up one goal during the game and now has won four games in a row. On the season, Campbell has a 10-3-1 record with a minute goals-against-average of 1.63 and a rising save percentage of .944.
He’s been good, and there’s no doubt the Maple Leafs’ management is working to figure out how to keep him for the next few seasons. Given his winning personality as well as his on-the-ice winning hockey talent, I can’t even imagine the organization considering letting him escape. There’d be a riot.
Takeaway Three: Remember When the Maple Leafs’ Defense Had Only Scored One Goal on the Season?
Wasn’t it just last week that there was concern that the Maple Leafs’ defense had scored only one goal on the season? That changed earlier during the week, but Morgan Rielly doubled down on that statistic last night when he scored both goals in the 2-1 win over the Rangers.
Similar to the previous game when Auston Matthews scored early and the Nashville Predators were forced to play catch-up, last night Rielly gave his team the one-goal lead with less than four minutes gone in the first period. Then, for good measure, he scored again to make the score 2-0 halfway through the second period.
On top of that, Rielly played over 25 minutes during the game. Since the Maple Leafs extended his contract a couple of weeks ago, Rielly has been proving that he’s worth the added cost. The 27-year-old offensive defenseman is on a three-game point-scoring streak (collecting five points in those games).
Rielly’s now totaled 13 points (on three goals and 10 assists) in 18 games this season. It was the fourth time he’s scored two goals in a game during his NHL career.
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