The Maple Leafs returned back home after a tumultuous road trip that saw them only get four of a possible ten points. Some home cooking and a lighter schedule except for the back to back on the weekend featuring a game at home against the mighty Bruins and then a trip to Carolina to take one the Hurricanes on Sunday. This week was a measuring stick of how the Maple Leafs hold up to the top teams in the league. If this week would be a repeat of the previous, the demands for changes or heads to roll would only grow louder. The Maple Leafs instead calmed the market and at least for now quieted to most vocal of critics as they ran the table for a clean sweep of this weeks opponents. Time to break down the events of the week.
Game 11: Oh Captain, My Captain. Maple Leafs vs Flyers. 5-2 Win
Even though it is only November the 2nd, this game had a must win feel to it. After a road trip that started on the right foot with a dominate performance in Winnipeg it quickly went sideways from there as they were only able to salvage two points in the following four games. However on this night we saw a team that came to play, with the John Tavares leading the way with a hat trick in this evening encounter. Auston got on the board and Mitch got a couple apples as well. Even Zach Aston Reese potted his first in the blue and white. This game was littered with penalties and the gritty brand of hockey that is the standard for the Flyers, but the Maple Leafs were up for the challenge not backing down at all. As the game was winding down in the final minutes tempers boiled over and Travis Konecny had a back forth battle with Matthews that was dropping the mitts. The Leafs superstar wasn’t backing down but it was the veteran blue liner Giordano that answered the bell in his place which was great to see them standing up for each other.
When the dust settled the Leafs walked out with a much needed victory. Some pretty outlandish takes came out after this game calling out Matthews for the way the situation unfolded during his scrum with Konecny. Matthews is one of the faces of the league the last thing the Maple Leafs, the fanbase and the league itself wants to see is him dropping the gloves and getting injured. Also to have an issue with his team mates to come to his defense is just a head scratcher. These are the same people that called the team “soft” and no one stands up for one another.
The narrative that is projected is just frustrating. So to see someone like Giordano come to the aid of the Matthews is great to see. There will be a time and a place for Matthews to step in and return the sentiment to a team mate but that wasn’t the time. The fact we saw this team show signs of playing for one another is a positive step and can not be discounted. Either way when the dust settled the Maple Leafs walked out with a much needed win.
Game 12: Taiming the Bear. Maple Leafs vs Bruins. 2-1 Win
How suiting the first meeting between these original six rivals happens on the grand stage of Hockey Night in Canada. The news that broke earlier this day casted a bit of a dark cloud over the visiting Bruins as they announced they had signed the controversial young player Mitchell Miller to a entry level contract which was rescinded the following day. Many Bruins players fielded questions on the signing, and all were adamant in their displeasure in the recent events. This seemingly loomed over the Bruins as they seemed to come out a bit flat even distrached looking to start while Toronto was buzzing right off the hop. The Leafs were relentless in constantly pressing the play. Just over half way through the first stanza Auston Matthews opens the scoring to put the Leafs up 1-0.
The Bruins got a power play just before the quarter mark of the second frame. While on the power play Boston gets awarded a penalty shot after Brodie trips Brad Marchand. Marchand makes the best of the opportunity and puts one past Samsonov to knot the game back up at even. Matthews added a second goal of the game on the power play at 14:06 of the second period, that turned out to be the game winner. Erik Kallgren took over in the third as Ilya Samsonov was injured on the Marchand penalty shot. Once again Toronto showed great resiliency and battled hard through the game against the Bruins. It was a tough pill for the Leafs to lose yet another goalie but full marks for the team to rally together and finish strong infront of Kallgren has he held the fort to secure the two points against the red hot Bruins.
Game 13: Rally in Raleigh. Maple Leafs vs Hurricanes. Leafs Win 3-1.
A tough back to back on a normal set of circumstances. However, this one was especially hard as the Maple Leafs flew out immediately after the game for a 5pm EST puck drop in Raleigh, NC. This was a game that had some many out clause’s for the reason the Maple Leafs to lose this game and early on it looked as it was going to be one of those nights. Keith Petruzzelli had just inked a NHL contract midway through his game with the Marlies Saturday night in Belleville before flying out at 6am Sunday morning to join his new teammates in Raleigh to serve as the back up due to Samsonov’s injury the night before.
The Leafs were flat for the first thirty minutes of the match up and it resulted in Carolina’s Stefan Noesen scoring on the power play 8:07 into the first period to put the Canes up 1-0. Toronto just kept hanging around and Kallgren made some timely saves to hold up his end. Denis Malgin who has been much aligned by the fans and media was a stand out in a positive way on this night. He may not have gotten on the score sheet but he was working hard and really driving play when he was one the ice. Midway through the second period the tide began to turn in the Leafs favor as they started showing signs of life. The hard work and effort of the bottom six paid off as Calle Jarnkrok notch his third of the season with 90 seconds framing in the second to tie the game up. From that point on, Toronto’s big boys to it over from there. The captain, John Tavares scored his eighth of the season on a beautiful passing play that was started by the youngster Nick Robertson to put Toronto up 2-1 and then William Nylander extended the lead as he slid one five hole on Freddie Andersen to cap off the scoring for the night and the Leafs leave Carolina with another notch in the win column.
The Wrap up.
My how a lot can change in one week. Last week there was out cry from both mainstream media and some corners of the fanbase demanding changes either to the management group, coaching staff and personnel on the ice. This week the team took it upon themselves to help quiet the critics and rang off three straight wins with the latter two victories coming against two of the top teams in the league on back to back nights. This group seems to be starting to get the swagger back and our big boys are rounding into their true form. The outspoken members of the media and the fanbase have been hushed a bit. However, some of the takes are just preposterous. The team is beginning to show signs of galvanizing and showing their true potential as well as standing up for one another. Which the critics still find ways to nitpick about. Fact of the matter is these critics don’t mean anything and is just white noise in the grand scheme of things. The important fact is this team is looking more like the dominate faction it is capable of being. October was a month to forget and November has started off with a bang. Toronto returns home for a much needed day off before hosting the top team in the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. It will be another measuring stick game which if Toronto replicates the efforts of this week they will be in good shape to continue to keep the momentum going and climb further up the standings.