The white hot Maple Leafs ran the table last week, rattling off three straight wins. Injuries accumulated as they lost both Victor Mete (lower body injury) and Nick Robertson (shoulder). However they just keep chugging along. Next man up is the mindset for this group. Conor Timmins, Mac Hollowell, SDA and Joey Anderson have all stepped in and have not looked out of place. The positive on the injury front is that Toronto got TJ Brodie back. Jordie Benn is back skating with the team. No timetable has been set for his return however he is inching closer which is good news.
Given the adversity this team has faced they have thrived. The defense of the team as a whole has been outstanding. The team is currently fourth overall in goals against (70) going into this week. The goaltending has been terrific as both are posting some terrific numbers. Murray is sporting a .926 save percentage along with a 7-1 record. Samsonov’s numbers are even better .933% save percentage coupled with an 8-2 record. The big four have been firing on all cyclinders lead by Marner and his 22 game point streak along with Matthews and his 7 game streak of his own.
This week starts off with hosting the floundering Ducks on Tuesday. Toronto heads out on the road for games against the Rangers on Thursday and they conclude this weeks schedule with a clash against the Caps in DC on Saturday night. Time to unpack what transpired this week.
Game 30: Duck Hunt. Maple Leafs vs Ducks. 7-0 Win
Going into this game Toronto has points in 14 consecutive games. The thing is that these are the games that should be a gimme to win. However historically the Maple Leafs squander the easy points. Unfortunately for Anaheim this was not the case. The last time these teams faced each other it was on the tail end of Toronto’s west coast swing and the Leafs coughed up a 3-1 lead to lose the game in overtime thanks to a Trevor Zegras goal. Toronto would be looking to exact some revenge for that game, and that they did.
Toronto wasted little time to start filling the scoresheet. Just shy of two minutes into the first period Pierre Engvall sets up Alex Kerfoot who one times it past Anaheim starting netminder John Gibson to make it 1-0. This was first offical shot on net for the Maple Leafs recorded. Toronto would be outshot early on by Anaheim. The shots we’re 7-3 in favor of the visitors but the goal scoring edge was in Toronto favor. They would add to the goal total at the 8:41 mark when Mitch Marner threads the needle to John Tavares for a tap in on the door step. That was the captains 14th of the season and the primary assist on the play extends Marner’s point streak to 23 games. Anaheim would go into the first intermission with a 16-12 lead but that was short lived.
Toronto would take it to the Ducks in the second period. They were peppering Gibson with shots in the second. Gibson ended up being lifted from the game midway through the second with discomfort. He was replaced with Lukas Dostal. Gibson gave up two goals on 27 shots. Dostal was instore for a rough night. The very first shot he faces is a wrister from TJ Brodie which finds it’s way to the back of the net and just like that the Leafs are up 3-0 with 7:45 remaining in the second period. In Dostal’s defense the shot did deflect off of one of his own players as it hit the skate of Benoit and redirected in. Bunting would add to the Maple Leafs goal advantage with about three and a half minutes remaining in the second. Marner puts a shot from the point on the net that Bunting would bang home the rebound. With the goal Bunting extended his point streak to 9 games. This would round out the scoring for the second period. Toronto would go into the third period with a 31-22 shot advantage.
Once again Toronto would hit the scoresheet early in the final frame of the evening. Alex Kerfoot would net his second of the game just 2:37 in to extend the lead to 5-0. Mark Giordano notches assist number 400 of his illustrious career on the Kerfoot goal. Pierre Engvall would add another goal at the 5:42 mark to make it 6-0. Joey Anderson added one last tally with 1:40 left in the game. Some frustration boiled over shortly after the final Leaf marker. But that was all for not. Toronto walks out with the 7-0 victory. Samsonov earns his second consecutive shutout stopping all 28 of the shots directed towards him. Auston Matthews also extended his point streak to 8 games with the assist on the TJ Brodie goal. Toronto’s bottom six carried the brunt of the weight in this one. Seeing this is welcomed sign as the big boys have been the primary offense providers thus far. Having some depth scoring is much needed as that as of late has been the only flaw the Maple Leafs have had during this stretch. Also another pleasant thing to note was Conor Timmins had a 3 point night. Next up for Toronto is a date in NYC with the Rangers.
Game 31: Broadway Blues. Maple Leafs vs Rangers. 3-1 Loss.
The Maple Leafs venture to the big apple for a date with the Broadway blue shirts. Toronto comes into this game looking to continue the hot streak. New York is on bit of streak of their own coming in winners of five straight. Also on the line are personal point streaks of Mitch Marner who is looking to make it 24 games straight with a point. Matthews looks to extend his to 9 games as well as Michael Bunting looks to push his to 10 straight with a point.
New York came out with some jump right out of the gate. Meanwhile Toronto just seemed to be a step behind in this one. They lacked the crispness that they’ve possessed since the calendar turned from October to November. New York gets on the board first in this one. Mark Giordano was sent off for a slashing penalty sending the Rangers on the power play. New York make the Leafs pay when Filip Chytil finishes off a cross ice pass and rockets one in to give them an early 1-0 just 3:52 in. Toronto would respond with just under six minutes left in the first when Michael Bunting buries a rebound to even things up at 1-1. Toronto was fortunate to go into the first intermission even as they were significantly outclassed by their foes.
Much like the first the Rangers were the better team again in the second period. Toronto got opportunities but passes were off the mark or when they would just come up short on scoring plays. A trend Toronto has in recent years is former faces scoring on them. Tonight the familiar face to burn the Leafs was Jimmy Vesey. He had a brief cup of coffee with Toronto back in the 20-21 season before being claimed by Vancouver March 17th 2021 after playing 30 games for the blue and white. Vesey victimizes Toronto for the first of two goals at the 15:33 mark of the second period when he roofs a beautiful shot over the right shoulder of Matt Murray to put the Blue shirts back up 2-1. They would not look back from this point on. Jimmy Vesey would later add an empty net goal in the with just over a minute left in the third period to cap off the scoring in this one as New York would take this one 3-1.Timothy Liljegren would leave late in the second period with an apparent injury to his right hand. He was seen leaving MSG with his right hand wrapped. An update on his status is to be given after he is assessed on Friday.
All but one of Maple Leafs streaks ended on this night. Toronto lost for the first time in regulation over a month ending their 15 straight games with at least a point. Marner’s franchise record point streak ended at 23 games. Matthews streak was ended at 8 games. The lone streak to remain intact is Michael Bunting’s point streak which has now been extended to 10 games. The Maple Leafs will look to get back on track on Saturday when they head to Washington to take on Ovi and the Capitals.
Game 32: Wash-ed Out. Maple Leafs vs Capitals. 5-2 Loss.
This weeks schedule ends with a trip to the US capital Washington DC. Toronto looks to get back on track after losing two nights ago against New York. One of the major stories going into this game is the Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin pursuit of history. He is currently sitting at 800 career goals, only a single goal behind Mr Hockey Gordie Howe who is second all time in goal scoring. Trailing only the Great One Wayne Gretzky. However Ovi’s march into the record books would have to wait for another night as he was held out of the goal column in this one.
The Capitals got all but one of their goals by the defense corps on this evening. Erik Gustafsson got his first career hat trick in this one. Which also happen to be the rearguards first three goals of this season. Trevor van Reimsdyk also put one on the board to lead Washington to a decisive victory.
Toronto for the first time in quite some time had a bad game. The team lacked the structure to their game that we’ve grown acclimated to seeing over the last month and a half. Washington stuck first to open the scoring just over 11 minutes in when Erik Gustafsson puts home his first of the season and his first goal in 31 games as he banks one past Ilya Samsonov to make it 1-0 Washington. In typical Toronto fashion they respond two minutes later when William Nylander one times a bullet past Washington netminder Charlie Lindgren to even it up. The Caps retake the lead just over a minute and a half later when Trevor van Reimsdyk puts one off of the leg of Mark Giordano and past Samsonov to make it 2-1.
Washington extended their lead just under three minutes into the second period when Erik Gustafsson puts home his second of the night to make it 3-1 Capitals. The Leafs were caught puck watching on the play as everyone was admiring the pass and lost track of the pinching D-man. Toronto battles back just over three minutes later when Auston Matthews tallies his 16th of season to bring the blue and white back within one to make it 3-2. Toronto kept pressing for the equalizer but came up empty as the score remained 3-2 Washington heading into the closing frame of the game.
The Capitals took the wind out of the sails of Toronto 10 seconds into the third when Garnet Hathaway picks up a loose puck wrists one past Samsonov to all but seal the deal for the home side. This made it 4-2 Caps. Erik Gustafsson would complete his hat trick just three and a half minutes later when he snipes a perfectly placed shot top shelf to complete the scoring in this affair. Washington takes home the 5-2 victory over the Leafs.
The Wrap Up
Toronto lost back to back games in the regulation for the first time in the season. Like the old metaphor goes. All good things must come to an end. This week we saw Toronto’s team and individual streaks come to an end. However its not all bad. Timothy Liljegren who left the game against the Rangers on Thursday was back in the line up on Saturday. Toronto has a light schedule coming into the Christmas break as they only have two games this week, both in which they are at home for. They will look to get back on track when they play host to Tampa Bay on Tuesday and then the Flyers on Thursday.