Fresh off the hottest November in team history which saw them go 11-1-3. The Toronto Maple Leafs look to continue their winning ways in December. Although they fell short 4-3 in an Overtime loss to Tampa Bay this past Saturday they still managed to get a point which made it 11 straight games they were able to obtain at least 1 point. Toronto will look to continue building on this again the week as they are set to take on Dallas on the road on Tuesday. Then return home for an encounter with the Kings on Thursday and wrap up the week on Saturday when they take on a familiar foe as they welcome Nazem Kadri and the Calgary Flames. Let’s dive into the weeks festivities shall we.
Game 27: Shooting Stars. Maple Leafs vs Stars. 4-0 Win
The Maple Leafs headed into the lone star state on Tuesday to take on the Dallas Stars. Much like Toronto, Dallas are currently riding the coat tails of a red hot young star. Jason Robertson was entering this game on a 18 game point streak. During this stretch he has put up some ridiculous numbers, scoring 21 goals and adding 13 assists good for 34 points. Dallas’ record during this run is 10-4-4. Meanwhile Mitch Marner is looking to push his streak to 20 games. During his run he’s put up 9 goals, 17 assists for a total of 26 points. Toronto has posted a record of 11-2-6 during Marner’s streak (stats courtesy of NHL PR).
However on this night one of these streaks came to an end. It wasn’t Marner’s though as he wasted little time to extend it. As 4:52 into the first period with the Leafs in the Stars zone Marner puts one on net and John Tavares jumps on the loose puck and puts it past the Stars netminder Jake Oettinger to make it 1-0 Toronto. The Leafs extend the lead with 2:24 left in the first when Auston Matthews puts home his 13th of the season making it a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. Dallas outshot Toronto 15-10 in the opening frame.
Moving onto the second period, Toronto got into penalty trouble early on. Just a minute in Justin Holl is sent off for tripping. The Leafs successful kill off the penalty. Dallas proceeds to take a penalty just 32 seconds after Holl is released from the sin bin. Dallas is able to kill off the extra man advantage and gets an extended one less then 20 seconds after as Pierre Engvall is sent off for a High-sticking double minor. Matt Murray stood tall as he faced 7 shots in the extended power play. The buds would build on the momentum they gained from the massive penalty kill. The Leafs have Dallas scrambling in their zone and after a Bunting puts a couple whacks at the puck before Rasmus Sandin would get the loose puck and find twine to extend the lead to 3-0 Maple Leafs with 7:41 left in the second. Toronto would find them back in penalty trouble again in the latter stages in the second as with less then two minutes left Mark Giordano goes off for a delay of game penalty. Justin Holl would join him in the box just 22 seconds later for closing his hand on the puck putting the Leafs down on 5-3. This was the defining moments of the game. It could go one of two ways but Toronto would weathered the barrage they faced and would kill off the two man advantage the would carry over into the third period.
The third period was a far more disciplined period as neither team took a penalty. Dallas kept pressing the play and with over five minutes left in the game the Stars pull their goalie to go up 6 on 5. However this was all for not as Alex Kerfoot gets a gorilla off his back and pots an empty net goal to end a 22 game goal less drought. this would cap off the scoring as Matt Murray backstopped the Leafs to a 44 save shutout performance to secure the victory. A couple noteworthy items. Conor Timmins made his Maple Leafs debut logging 14:49 of ice time with a shot and a hit. Also Semyon Der-Arguchintsev made his NHL Debut. The 2018 third round pick was a +1 with 7:16 of ice time. Both looked decent.
Neither of the two looked out of place. Head coach Sheldon Keefe also had used SDA and William Nylander on the penalty kill which both made the most of it as they both got some short handed opportunities. Unfortunately yet another Maple Leafs sustained an injury in this one as Victor Mete left the game in the first period with lower body injury. The pairing of Sandin and Liljegren were outstanding in this game and were leaned on heavily. Especially after Mete went down. Neither of the young Swedes never waivered at the adversity presented and showed a lot of what we as fans and management saw when they were drafted. They were pivotal in helping making Dallas go 0-7 on the powerplay. The team then travelled back home to prepare for LA.
Game 28: Crowned. Maple Leafs vs Kings. 5-0 Win.
Toronto got some much needed positive news on the injury front in the morning prior to this game. TJ Brodie who has been sidelined with an oblique injury. He was placed on the IR back on November 14th and was expected to miss at least two weeks. His recovery took a bit longer then expected but he will be a welcomed return to the blueline. Brodie has been one of the most consistent and calming factors for Toronto’s back end. He will be paired with recent acquisition Conor Timmins on the third pair. Another roster note is Toronto loaned Semyon Der-Arguchintsev back to the Marlies.
The Maple Leafs dominated this game right out of the gate and Los Angeles were flat. This would be the theme of game. Toronto were relentless on the attack. Just short of the midway point of the first Kings defensemen Matt Roy lands a illegal hit on Nick Robertson which launches in the boards. The hit caused Robertson to land awkardly. After being down for a bit and the play is blown dead. He is able to skate off under his own power but was in significant distress. He would not return due to a shoulder injury he sustained on the play. Given the optics of the hit. Early speculation is he will be gone for an extended period of time. Roy was assessed an interference penalty on the play which Toronto was unable to capitalize on. The two teams remained scoreless going into the first intermission.
Toronto continued there dominance in all facets of game in the second period. Just over three and a half minutes Zach Aston-Reese dropped the gloves for a very brief tussle with Blake Lizotte. It was over as quick as it started. Both went off for fighting majors. Moving ahead to just over the five minute mark of the period the Leafs are on a power play and after sustaining some offensive zone time Pierre Engvall puts on past Kings goalie Quick to finally break the deadlock. The Leafs are now up 1-0. Toronto quickly added to their lead as seconds later, David Kampf wrists one home to double up the lead to 2-0. William Nylander caps off a three goal in 66 second barrage when he gets in alone on Quick and undresses him to nonchalantly tucks it in. That wasn’t the end of the scoring in this period. With just 6:41 left in the second, after some offensive pressure is put on by the Leafs. LA was able to clear zone, only to have one of their plays pass it back to no one in their end. Mitch Marner wastes no time and without missing a bit he slaps one past Quick to extend their lead to 4-0.
LA. gets a five minute power play after Pierre Engvall gets sent off for a high sticking major. The Kings think they have finally got one on the board with 1:43 left in their power play. However Toronto challenges the call and win the challenge as the play was offside thus erasing the Kings marker. Auston Matthews would add to the lead midway through the third to close out the scoring in this one as the Toronto would take this one 5-0.
Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves to earn his first shutout in a Maple Leaf uniform. Toronto have now earned points in 13 straight games. Michael Bunting also has a 9 assists on his current 7 game point streak and will look to add some goals to that total as he’s been getting chances but they haven’t been going in. Our bottom six certainly did their part in this one opening the scoring and paved the way for the big boys to do their thing. They will look to continue the solid play on Saturday when they host the Calgary Flames.
Game 29: Fire on Ice. Maple Leafs vs Flames. 5-4 OT Win
Fire wagon hockey at its finest took place on this Saturday night. The all Canadian match up featuring Toronto and Calgary was one to remember. It was a jousting match with each team equaling one another blow for blow. Or in case goal for goal. There were a few line up changes in this one. We found out that Nick Robertson who was injured against the Kings will be out 6-8 weeks but will not require surgery. Also Pierre Engvall was going to miss this game as he is serving a one game suspension that he was issued on the high stick on Sean Durzi of the Kings on Thursday. Drawing into the line up in their place was Wayne Simmonds and freshly recalled Joey Anderson.
This spirited bout got off to a fast start. Calgary comes in off a disappointing 3-1 loss to Columbus the night before. Head coach Darryl Sutter had some choice words about there performance against the game against the Blue Jackets. Toronto came into this riding back to back shutouts. Just over five minutes into this one with the Leafs on the man advantage Auston Matthews snipes one past Dan Vladar to Toronto up 1-0. Matthews now has a seven game point streak of his own. Calgary responded at the 9:13 mark when Matthews attempted to drop pass it but no blue jersey was in sight and the Flames take it up ice where Noah Hanifin puts home his second of the season past Matt Murray to even it up 1-1. Calgary would take the lead shortly after when surprise, surprise a former Leaf comes back to haunt them. Nazem Kadri scores his 11th of the season to put the visitors up 2-1. Toronto would even it back up with under three minutes left in the opening stanza. After Mikael Backlund got sent off for cross checking. The Leafs gain the offensive zone. Marner feeds it to Matthews at the point, Matthews passes it to Nylander and he rifles it five hole on Vladar to even it back up 2-2. Marner extended his point streak to 22 on the secondary assist.
Fast forward to the 11:11 mark of the second. After Backlund rings one off the post. Trevor Lewis pounces on loose puck and snipes one past Matt Murray to put Calgary back on top 3-2. Once again Toronto has an answer. With just over two and half minutes left in the middle period, William Nylander receive a pass from Matthews and wires one towards the Calgary net. It deflects off of the Flames defender Tanev and redirects in to knot it back up at 3-3. The score would remain this way until 3:31 into the third period. Calgary is on the power play, they gain entry in the Leafs zone. Noah Hanifin puts what appears to be a relatively harmless shot on Murray. The whistle blows, however in the meantime the puck crosses the line. Murray never had full possession of the puck. After video review the officials deemed it a good goal to put Calgary back on top 4-3. Toronto battles back less the three minutes later when Michael Bunting who has been snake bitten as of late is creating a screen infront of the Calgary net. Matthews slaps one wide and the puck comes right back up front where Bunting is able to tap it in to square it up once again at 4-4.
The game was forced to goto an extra frame. The Leafs who have not faired well in OT this year change things up. Instead of the usually Matthews, Marner pairing upfront to start. Toronto sent out. David Kampf, Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. Right off the opening face off of overtime the Flames go short handed to due Jonathan Huberdeau high stick. Toronto made short work of this as Mitch Marner buries one of his own rebound just 43 seconds into Overtime to claim the extra point and the victory for the Maple Leafs.
The Wrap Up
Well another week wrapped up with 3 victories. Two of them of the shutout variety. Toronto has now earned points in 14 straight games. The last time the Leafs have lost in regulation was November 11th. it was a 4-2 loss to the Penguins. The big boys are all just humming along. Marner’s streak is sitting at 22 games. Matthews is riding a 7 game point streak. Bunting has an 8 game streak of his own as well. His goal on Saturday was the first goal for him since November 15th against Pittsburgh. That’s a stretch of 12 games between goals. Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov looked fantastic in their shutout performances. Murray was average on Saturday but the team lifted him up when he faltered to still walk out with the two points against Calgary.
Not much has gone wrong for Toronto over this stretch with the exception of injuries. News on Nick Robertson’s injury was not great but not as bad as it could have been. He will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury, however he does not require surgery.
Toronto looks to continue on their winning ways as their schedule resumes on Tuesday when the Ducks of Anaheim roll in for a visit. Toronto will travel to NYC to take on the Rangers on Thursday and finish off the weeks schedule when they head to DC to take on Washington on Saturday night.
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