The Toronto Maple Leafs scored five straight goals in the game, and then held on for a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night. The newly put-together second line of John Tavares, Ryan O’Reilly, and Mitch Marner line had simply an amazing game. The line was dominant right from the start, and the first period was one of the team’s best periods of the season.
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was effusive in his praise. Given the team’s overall play, no wonder. Coach Keefe noted that the team’s counter-attacking style of play was crucial to its offense. It was a full team game, and each line contributed in different ways to the win.
Coach Keefe also emphasized the importance of striving to have games like this one night after night. What a difference from the game on Sunday in Chicago. When the Maple Leafs execute all the facets of its game – like they did last night – it would be tough to beat them.
Takeaway One: Mitch Marner Has Five-Point Night
Mitch Marner had an outstanding game against the Sabres. He had a point on all but one of the Maple Leafs’ six goals (five assists in total). His impressive performance brings his total of points to 20 goals and 51 assists (for 71) in 58 games this season.
This is the third time Marner has passed the 70-point mark in a season. Although most people think that Auston Matthews is THE key player for the Maple Leafs, given this season some votes have to be thrown toward Marner as well. His playmaking skills were on full display, and these make him one of the most dangerous offensive players in the entire NHL.
Coming off a night like this one, Marner suddenly is on pace to exceed his career-high point total of 97, which he set last season. If he continues to play at the level he has over the past while he could reach the 100-point level.
Related: Could Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews Be Past His Prime?
Takeaway Two: Ryan O’Reilly Impresses His Old Fans with Hat Trick
Ryan O’Reilly played three seasons in Buffalo with the Sabres, but he probably never looked as good as he did last night. Talk about a strong start with his new team. He made an immediate impact in his third game with the Maple Leafs, scoring a career-best five points in a 6-3 win over his old Sabres team.
Could he get better with practice? We’ll see. He has not had a full practice with the team since coming in the trade from St. Louis Blues last Friday. O’Reilly’s reputation is one of being a communicator on the ice. Obviously, whatever’s going on on the ice surface is working well. He’s meshing well with his new linemates. The result? He’s making a huge contribution to the game.
O’Reilly shared his excitement about joining the Maple Leafs. From what I’ve read, he dreamed about being a Maple Leafs’ player. Already he’s found great chemistry with his linemates. This impressive performance likely has many Maple Leafs’ fans proposing that this trade might be one of the best the team has made in a long time.
Now for a long playoff journey.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: McMann, Petruzzelli & Bottom Six
Takeaway Three: John Tavares Garners Four-Point Night
As part of the team’s second line, John Tavares also had a strong performance in the Maple Leafs’ win last night. He scored a goal and contributed three assists to the team’s victory.
In 58 games on the season, Tavares has recorded 26 goals and added 34 assists (for 60 points). He’s been hot over his last 11 games, scoring six goals and having 15 points. What’s interesting is that Tavares is playing on the wing, which is something that has been talked about for a long time.
Wherever he plays, Tavares is the captain and a key player for his team. He’s aging, but he remains a consistent offensive threat and crucial to his team’s success.
Related: Sending Some Praise to Maple Leafs’ Defenseman Justin Holl
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February 22, 2023 at 6:52 am
Incredible first period and yes, everyone’s stoked today, which is reasonable. That third period was a bit iffy, though, and while you have to give the Sabres credit, because they are good, I’m looking for the Leafs’ blue line to tighten up over the next six weeks. It still seems the game plan that works against Toronto is speed, physicality and pressure on the D.
February 22, 2023 at 7:01 am
OP – getting this on the record, here, too. I watched the expression on Mitch Marner’s face post-game in an interview that turned into a conversation about Jake Muzzin. There was a subtle smile there and I wondered: either someone is doing something funny off-camera; Muzzin himself is standing there off to the side and listening while Marner is talking about him; or Marner knows something but wasn’t saying it. Could Muzzin be planning to return sometime soon?
February 22, 2023 at 12:20 pm
I see we have our answer this morning.
February 22, 2023 at 9:49 am
the Leafs took advantage of a team that was not starting on time and then 2nd period Samsonov was great. The other point I have is why Holl and Reilly together that has never worked what is Keefe doing, the line matching by Keefe was poor also Matthews line was shutdown and Keefe did nothing to help them.
February 22, 2023 at 10:00 am
Keefe gave the Leafs a pass for the 2nd & 3rd period in which, overall, the Sabres were clearly the stronger team & for the most part took the play to the Leafs. That said I wouldn’t be surprised that if Keefe were honest he would admit that his cheeks were clenched as the game wore down. Not to take anything away from the Sabres, they are a good up & coming team. Kudos to the Leafs, they steamrolled the Sabres in the 1st. However, at least one of the Leaf goals, Buntings (he’s not a sniper) was weak. The Leafs could have that. Type of period against the Lightning but if as the game wore on the Leafs stepped off the pedal as they did last night, the result would be much different. Keefe still has lots of work to get this team to play consistently strong & structured for 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Dubas too has work to do. For the Leafs to have success in the playoffs he needs to acquire a top 4 dman. Rielly & Holl can never ever ever be paired in the lineup. If he isn’t traded, Holl should be paired with Benn in the press box next to the chicken wings.
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