What a week for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Four games, four wins. A huge eight points secured in a tight Atlantic division race. After a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Canadiens last Saturday, the Leafs turned up the heat and didn’t look back. Scoring twenty-four goals in just four games, the boys definitely came to play. And with only fourteen games left in the regular season, they couldn’t be heating up at a better time.
Maple Leafs vs. Panthers: 5-2 W
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Leafs faced off against the top team in the Atlantic division; the Florida Panthers. And as many fans had predicted, the Leafs played their worst hockey against the Canadiens and their best hockey against the Panthers. Experience the Toronto Maple Leafs, am I right?
This game was exactly what you would expect between these two teams: fast-paced, high energy, and a lot of fun. If this was a preview of a playoff matchup, it sure was a sexy one. The whole team played a full sixty minutes. The Leafs special teams were exceptional against the Panthers, going 2-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. John Tavares was especially impressive, scoring both of the Leafs power play goals. It was so nice to see the Captain doing Captain things out there. After the heat he was catching from the fans and Toronto media a few weeks ago, it felt really good to see him have a dominant performance like that. Petr Mrazek also played one of his best games of the season. He made 34 saves on 36 shots, ending his night with a tidy .944 SV%. Against the best offensive team in the league, no less. You love to see it.
Honourable mentions: Morgan Rielly (1 goal, 2 assists), Mitch Marner (3 assists)
Maple Leafs vs. Bruins: 6-4 W
Is there anything better than an original six rivalry game? Absolutely not. With the Leafs playing in the all-Canadian division last season, I almost forgot about the strong hatred I had for the Boston Bruins. But this game reminded me that those feelings are still alive and well.
The battle between two teams neck and neck in the standings did not disappoint. Although the Leafs lost Petr Mrazek, Justin Holl, and Ilya Lyubushkin to injury in this game, the rest of the team really stepped up in their absence. The Leafs scored five unanswered goals to give them a 6-1 lead over the Bruins. And that’s when all hell broke loose. The Bruins let their emotions get the best of them and started taking retaliatory penalties (Taylor Hall, you’re on my list). When the game got chippy and the referees decided to put away their whistles, not one Leafs player backed down. They fought hard, held the lead, and got the two points; something that many of us wanted to see from this team in previous seasons. So I think we can put the “Leafs can’t hold their own against physical teams” narrative to rest. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly all stood out in this game; each notching one goal and one assist. Erik Källgren also deserves a shoutout for coming in for Mrazek and making 23 saves to secure the win.
Honourable mentions: The Harvard boys, who else? Alex Kerfoot (1 goal), Colin Blackwell (1 goal)
Maple Leafs vs. Jets: 7-3 W
After their last meeting in Winnipeg, there was definitely some bad blood between these two teams. And rightfully so. The way the game ended in Winnipeg in December left a sour taste in many fans mouths, myself included. Four months later and those ill feelings are still very strong. And with Clifford and Simmonds both in the lineup for this game, you knew things were going to get extra spicy. Just how I like it.
Your girl was at Scotiabank Arena for the game on Thursday and it certainly did not disappoint. Tickets: $118. Wine: $22. Seeing Auston Matthews score his 50th goal of the season live? Priceless. It was a night of milestones. Mark Giordano scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf. Auston Matthews scored his fiftieth goal of the season; and empty net or not, it was an iconic moment. The crowd was absolutely electric. I got to celebrate with some of my friends from Leafs Twitter. It was truly a night to remember. Sure, it started off a little rough with those two quick goals against. But once the Leafs tied the game and drowned out the noise, it was a powerful team win. “Is there anything better than beating the Leafs?” Mark Scheifele had asked his team after their 6-3 win over the buds in December. And to that I would say yes – being remembered as the team Auston Matthews scored goal number fifty against.
Honourable mentions: William Nylander (2 goals, 1assist), Ilya Mikheyev (1 goal, 2 assists)
Maple Leafs vs. Flyers: 6-3 W
The Leafs playing a weaker opponent; we’ve all seen this one before. Saturday’s game started off as a bit of a snooze fest, but the Leafs overcame a slow start and picked up the pace in the third period. With Jack Campbell returning from injury and Nick Abruzzese playing his first game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, there was a lot to look forward to.
After the first two periods, the floodgates opened up for the Leafs. The game quickly intensified. Wayne Simmonds woke up and chose violence on a Saturday night; scoring against his former team and getting into a fight. He made his presence known. It was about time we saw that side of him again. Absolute legend. Props to Zack MacEwen though, fighting Wayne Train doesn’t seem like a very enjoyable experience. Pierre Engvall also had a great game, scoring a beautiful shorthanded goal in the third period. He deserves more attention for the season he’s having. He’s one of the most improved players on the roster this year. With a price tag of 1.25M AAV, that’s something to get excited about. How about the PK though? Unreal. And with the Leafs leading the NHL in shorthanded goals, it’s almost as if I find myself getting excited when the opposing team gets a power play. Me? Calm when the Leafs are shorthanded? Who is she? But seriously. Wow.
Honourable mentions: Morgan Rielly (1 goal, 2 assists), Mitch Marner (2 assists), Jack Campbell (29 saves, .906 SV%)
The Leafs are heading to Tampa on a four-game winning streak. Another game against an Atlantic division team, another big two points. After seeing how the boys lined up against Florida and Boston, I cannot wait to watch this Toronto vs. Tampa matchup. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for full chaos. Go Leafs go, baby.