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Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 3-1 Win over the Wild

The Toronto Maple Leafs skated to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild last night. What were three takeaways from the game?

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll look at three aspects of the team’s 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild last night.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Bunting Completes Matthews & Marner on the First Line

Takeaway One: Petr Mrazek Has His Best Game of the Season

Petr Mrazek was bounced all over the ice against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night and gave up five goals in just 24 shots to take the 5-2 loss. But, the next night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, starting goalie Jack Campbell could do no better and let in a couple of questionable goals as his team lost in overtime by a 4-3 score. So last night, it was Mrazek’s turn again as the Maple Leafs looked to find some consistency in the net.

Well, Mrazek played his best game of the season by a long shot. He bounced back nicely and only allowed a single goal in 30 shots as the Maple Leafs took a 3-1 victory. It was as much a throwback victory to how the team was winning at the first part of the season – it was a host of 2-1 games one after another. 

Mrazek did his part, and the Maple Leafs’ team defense also did its part. All that was left was to see if Auston Matthews could score a couple of goals to carry his team to the win. And, that’s exactly what happened.

Petr Mrazek Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek Maple Leafs

Mrazek now has improved his record to 7-4-0 record this season, with a 3.16 goals-against-average, and a save percentage of .890 in the 10 games he’s played. It wasn’t necessarily an easy win. The Wild scored first and Mrazek had to hold his team in the game until the team came back. When the score was tied 1-1, Mrazek stopped 13 shots in the third period. Matthews and Alex Kerfoot scored, and that was the win.

Takeaway Two: Auston Matthews Moves It to a New Level

If it hadn’t have been for Auston Matthews, it would have been a really boring game. Really, both team’s defenses locked down; and, – as a result – not much was happening. But, of course, Matthews plays at a different speed. He simply exerted his dominance over the game both defensively and offensively and scored the game-tying and then the game-winning goals. 

Those goals were his 35th and 36th goals of the season. Not only did they win the game for the Maple Leafs, but they also vaulted Matthews into first place in the NHL’s goal-scoring lead ahead of the Edmonton Oilers’ great Leon Draisaitl. 

By the way, Matthews led the team out of its three-game losing streak. He’s the real deal and plays at a different level than most NHL players. Is there any better goal-scored in the NHL? That’s a rhetorical question. There isn’t.

After a two-game scoreless drought, Matthews registered five points in his last two games. On the season, he’s scored 36 goals and added 28 assists (for 64 points) in 48 games. He needs only 14 goals in the next 31 games to hit 50 and there’s an outside chance he’ll total 24 more goals for 60 goals on the season. He’s incredibly almost exactly on that pace.

Takeaway Three: The Beauty of Boring

As I noted earlier, had it not been for Matthews the game would have been boring. And, probably for Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, boring is beautiful. When a team plays solid team defensive, that’s often the result. 

The Maple Leafs’ defense was solid and disciplined. The players committed to keeping the play simple and cleaned up in front of the net; and, as coach Keefe noted, it was a “low-event” game. Except for Matthews, the team wasn’t great offensively. But they were disciplined, and that was the difference. 

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Marlies AHL
Sheldon Keefe Toronto Marlies – posted to Flickr by TheAHL at https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/42307301044

Keefe made a special note to the media not to question the team’s goalie play. Instead, he noted that questions about the team’s goalies were really questions about the team’s responsibility to defend in front of the goalie.

Last night, the team committed to defending its goalie; the goalie got comfortable; and, the reward was a win for the Blue and White. It really seems that easy.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Prospect Rodion Amirov Diagnosed with Brain Tumour

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Afp1961

    February 25, 2022 at 8:24 am

    The game was far from easy however. Mrazek kept the leafs in it which was refreshing to see considering our goaltending issues of late. Gave the bus a chance to catch their breathe and rally from a goal down against a very tough opponent.

    That rwsembled more like playoff hockey than a mid season game. Great on Matthews.

    Defensively they played a containment game and when Minnie did cycle and win many of those low post battles Mrazek came up big. Size does matter it seems. To be fair Sandin Dermott Liljegren and even Morgan lost a few too many half board battles against a big gritty battle tested Minnie team. But that is the adjustment this team needs to make with more expected from the rookies. Good overall test and experience gained.

    Did anyone miss Holl….??

    • Old Prof

      February 27, 2022 at 1:32 am

      Thought Holl has played well recently – I don’t think they’ll trade him.

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