Coming into the last week of November the Toronto Maple Leafs have been red hot. Much like last season November has been a good month for them as their record reflects that. Going into this week the Maple Leafs record is 9-1-3 in November. They look to continue to build on that and finish of the month strong and carry it forward into December. The schedule maker has provided a little lighter of week for the buds with only three games on the docket. First up is a classic original six match up against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday to conclude their road trip. They return home on Wednesday for a match up against the San Jose Sharks followed up by a trip down to Tampa Bay for a Saturday night to take on the Lightning.
Game 24: Streaks and Milestone. Maple Leafs vs Red Wings. 4-2 Win
Toronto came into this game winners of three straight as they looked to close out their four game road trip with a clean sweep. However, Detroit was coming in on a four game win streak of their own. Tonight one of these streaks were going to come to an end now it is just a matter of who will walk out of this one with it still intact. On the subject of streaks, there was yet another one hang in the balance on this night as well. That would be the 16 game point streak Mitch Marner is currently on. He’s amassed 5 goals and 17 assists for a total of 22 points during this heater he’s been on. The other impressive stat is the fact that Marner has a point in all but one game so far this season.
To the game itself. Detroit came out firing on all cylinder’s in this one. Less then five minutes into the first. The Red Wings get in on a 2 on 1 break against rookie blue liner Mac Hollowell, He does his best to help neutralize the opportunity for a one timer pass. Which forces Dominik Kubalik to put it on net. Murray makes the initial save but the puck squeaks free and is left exposed behind the Leafs netminder. A made scramble ensues, Hollowell does his best to help keep the puck out but it’s all for not as Moritz Sieder is able to bang home the puck to put Detroit up 1-0. At this point the Leafs could have folded and said “it’s not our night” and coasted through the rest of the game. That isn’t the make up of this team. Instead they battled back and less the four minutes after Detroit opened to scoring. Auston Matthews snipes a rocket past Detroit’s backstopper Husso to even up the score. Mac Hollowell registered his first career NHL point on that play as he got the secondary assist. Toronto wasn’t done there. Detroit’s David Perron takes a high sticking penalty just 13 seconds after Toronto got on the board. The Leafs make the most of the opportunity as Rasmus Sandin puts on the net and William Nylander pounces on a juicy rebound and roofs it to put Toronto up 2-1 thanks to his team leading 13th of the season and his 150th goal of his career. This and the Matthews goals come 50 seconds apart. The goal also snapped a 0-10 drought on the power play for Toronto. Detroit outshot Toronto 10-5 in the first period.
Moving onto the second period and much like the first Detroit was dominating both possession and shots on net but Toronto was leading in the most important category, the scoreboard. The buds waste no time adding onto their lead when the white hot Mitch Marner puts on past Ville Husso to make it a 3-1 Maple Leafs lead. The goal extends Marner point streak to 17 games. Fast forward just over seven minutes later Ramus Sandin follows the old adage of just put it on net and good things will happen and that it did as his seeing eye shot finds twine to put Toronto up 4-1. With this goal that chased the starter Husso from the game. Nedeljkovic would take over the crease. Once again Toronto was out shot 15-14 in this period.
Heading into the final frame of this one Detroit kept peppering Matt Murray as they put 19 shots on the Leafs tender and he is able to stop all but one as Adam Erne scores his third of the season at the 12:41 mark to draw the Red Wings within 2 of Toronto however that would be all the could muster as Murray slammed the door shut making 42 saves for the victory. Nedeljkovic made 12 stops in relieve for Husso. Final shot totals were 44-25 for Detroit. Next on the agenda is head back home for a day off. Then back at it Wednesday against the Sharks.
Game 25: Eighteen. Maple Leafs vs Sharks. 3-1 Win.
Toronto returns home after a clean sweep of their four game road trip and the first time playing at home since the passing of Borje Salming. The Maple Leafs held a pregame ceremony honoring the Legend that was concluded with a 21 second moment of silence. A fitting tribute to the icon that wore number 21. Salming’s banner also hung at half mass for the entirety of the game.
A couple changes were made to the lineup for this game. Ilya Samsonov made his return to the Leafs line up after three weeks absence due to a lower body injury. Also returning to the lineup is Nick Robertson. He’s been a healthy scratch. Robertson last saw action on November 23rd against the New Jersey Devils. With Robertson inserted into the lineup Denis Malgin was the odd man out on this night. There was rumblings of Conor Timmins making his Maple Leaf debut on this night however Mac Hollowell play as of late earned him another shot.
Once the puck was dropped on this one, Toronto was buzzing early on as the Marner, Tavares, Jarnkrok line was buzzing on their first shift and nearly score in the opening minute of the game. The Leafs onslaught of attack kept pressing with each shift they take. The Marner lead line especially had some grade opportunities in the opening few minutes of the game but Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell kept them off the board. The Sharks were up to the challenge as for every opportunity Toronto had San Jose would counter with one of their own, but Samsonov was equally up for the challenge and would keep them off the scoresheet. The game would remain scoreless going into the first intermission with Toronto leading in the shot column 10-7.
The second period started off with a bit of a precarious play as San Jose dumps one into Toronto’s zone and what seemingly should have been an icing. San Jose forward Kevin Labanc is able negate it by beating Mark Giordano to the hash marks and the puck to turn a harmless play into a scoring opportunity. Samsonov was alert and made the stop to keep the Sharks off the board. Fast forward a couple minutes later when Toronto is on the attack, after Buntings one timer on net creates a big rebound. Mac Hollowell puts a perfect slap pass on the tap of Matthews who redirects it home for one of the easiest tap in goals of his career to put the Leafs up 1-0. San Jose battles back just over three minutes later when they get some sustained time in the offensive zone and Logan Couture feeds a pass out from behind the Leaf net to Matt Nieto and he wrists one past Samsonov to even things up.
The score would remained tied until the late stages of the third period. Both teams exchange chances back and forth but each opportunity is turned aside be the respective goalies. The deadlock looked to be extended into an extra frame until the 17:33 mark of the third when David Kampf intercepts a pass in the neutral zone. He proceeds to send it over to Alex Kerfoot whom assesses the situation and purposely puts a shot on net that leads to a big rebound that Pierre Engvall with his stick between the legs of the Sharks defender Matt Benning wrists it over the outstretched glove of Aaron Dell to put Toronto ahead 2-1 with 2:29 left in the third. San Jose wastes little time to pull their goalie to get an extra attacker out to try to tie it up. Meanwhile head coach Keefe does his part to get Marner out there to try to extend his point streak with the empty net. Marner gets an opportunity to put one in the empty net but being the unselfish type he proceeds to pass it off to Bunting instead which comes up fruitless. Mitch gets another opportunity from distance but rings it off the post. However third time is a charm as Kerfoot picks off pass sends it up to Marner and this time he makes no mistake about it and puts it in the yawning cage to seal the victory and extend his point streak to tie the franchise record that is held by both Darryl Sittler and Ed Olcyzk. He will look to break the record on Saturday when the Leafs head back on the road to take on divisional rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Once again the injury bug nipped Toronto in this one as Calle Jarnkrok left midway through the second period with a groin injury. An update on Jarnkrok was released on Friday indicating that he will miss a minimum off two weeks due to the injury.
Game 26: Fell short. Maple Leafs vs Lightning. 4-3 OT Loss
A rematch of last years opening round playoff match up between these two divisional rivals. Also Corey Perry’s 1200th career game and prior to the game there was a pregame ceremony to honor Tampa Bay captain, Steven Stamkos 1000th point he attained the previous game. When the puck dropped on this affair it had a playoff style feel to it. The atmosphere was electric and the style of play both teams were playing had that familiar from the previous spring.
The only thing documented on the scoresheet in the first was two penalties a piece for each side but neither team could capitalize on the man advantage. Moving onto the second period when things began to pick up. 5:18 in the Maple Leafs strike first. With Wayne Simmonds in the box serving a interfere minor. Mitch Marner picks off a pass in the oppositions zone and gets in on the Lightning goaltender Vasilevskiy and is able to outweight him but is not able to put it in. However the play is kept alive and David Kampf does the work behind the net and is able to thread a pass out front to a wide open Marner and he makes no mistake this time around and buries home his 9th of the year and at the same time extends the now franchise record point streak to 19 games. The Leafs are up 1-0. Tampa answers back just over two and a half minutes later. The Lightning get a shot off from the point that is blocked but Vlad Namestnikov pounces on the available puck and snaps a quick shot past Matt Murray to even this one up at one each. For Namestnikov it was his first of the season and by his celebration is was a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. Tampa would take the lead with just over three and half minutes left in the second period or so they thought. Brayden Point would put it past Matt Murray however the goal was called back after the Leafs challenged as the play was offside returning the score back to 1-1. 28 seconds after that Toronto would retake the lead as William Nylander nets his 14th of the season capping off some hard work and a nice passing play from his linemates Bunting and Matthews. Toronto is now ahead 2-1 going into the third period.
Four seconds into the third period the Leafs are sent on the PK as the refs send Mitch Marner off for tripping. This would prove costly as Tampa would even the game back up in the closing seconds off the power play thanks to a snipe from Nikita Kucherov. Tampa would take the lead for real just over two and a half minutes on the power play. Tampa is set up in Toronto’s end. Ross Colton finishes off a cross ice passing play and puts one past a diving Matt Murray to put the Lightning up 3-2. Toronto answers back with a power play goal of their own of the stick of Mitch Marner as he puts home his 10th of the season with 8:05 left in the third period. The game once again is tied and would remain this way at the end of regulation.
An all too familiar script plays out in Overtime as just 33 seconds into the extra stanza. Toronto gains entry into the Tampa Bay zone only to promptly give up the puck on a bad pass by Matthew. Tampa rushes up ice and Alex Killorn buries the game winner past Murray to give the Lightning the 4-3 overtime victory. Toronto played a great game and deserved a better outcome on this night. They outshot Tampa 39-33 and for the most part were the better team on this night but just came up short.
The Wrap up
Toronto finished off the month of November only losing once in regulation. Their record was 11-1-3 in the 15 games they played. This is pretty impressive given the injury woes they have endured through in the first quarter of the season. They’ve been without their top two goalies, their top three defensemen. Add in having Jordie Benn and Calle Jarnkrok on the list of members of this roster to spend time on the IR. Just further adds to how well this team has been playing on both sides of the puck. They look to continue the momentum they’ve accumulated in November and build off of it to have a strong December.
Congratulations to Mitch Marner on setting the new franchise record for 19 games and counting. This is quite the accomplishment for the hometown kid. He will look to extend it to 20 games on Tuesday when the Maple Leafs visit Dallas to take on the Stars. The Leafs will then return home to face the Kings on Thursday followed by a match up with the Flames on Saturday.
On a positive note TJ Brodie has traveled with the team for this short two game road trip. There is a possibility of him drawing back into the lineup on Tuesday but that has yet to be confirmed. Also one other roster note, the Maple Leafs have called up Semyon Der-Arguchintsev from the Marlies. In 20 games for the Marlies so far, SDA has 6 goals and 12 assists for a total of 18 points.
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