Maple Leafs 3 Stars of the Second Quarter

After 20 games, we named who we thought were the three stars for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first quarter of the season. Those first-quarter stars included #1 Jack Campbell, #2 William Nylander, and #3 Morgan Rielly.  

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Today, as All-Star weekend begins to get into full swing, we’ll share who our three stars are for the 21 games that made up the second quarter of the 2021-22 regular season.  

Second-Quarter First Star: Auston Matthews

In the first quarter of the season, it was ridiculously easy to pick who the first star was. Jack Campbell was by far the best Maple Leafs’ player in those 21 games. 

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In this quarter selecting Auston Matthews was just as easy. After missing the first three games of the season, Matthews had a relatively quiet start to the season (for him), scoring seven goals and adding eight assists (for 15 points) in 17 games. That start put him fourth on the team for points and tied for second on the team for goals with William Nylander, one goal behind John Tavares, who was first. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the second quarter, Matthews not only rediscovered his scoring touch, but he has also scored at an amazing goal a game pace, netting 21 goals in 21 games. Matthews has also added 13 assists for a total of 34 points. Right now, he’s on pace to score 59 goals this season and finally break Rick Vaive’s 54-goal Maple Leafs’ single-season record. 

During the past 21 games, the Maple Leafs have posted a 15-4-2 record and have scored 95 goals. Matthews scored 22 percent of those goals himself and was involved in 36% of them. We can honestly say that we have never seen a Maple Leafs’ player as dominant as Matthews was in this quarter.

Second-Quarter Second Star: Morgan Rielly

Morgan Rielly scored 13 points during the first 20 games; but, more importantly, he finally solidified the fact that he was the Maple Leafs’ best defenseman by improving his overall 200-foot game. Rielly was earlier rewarded with an eight-year $7.5 million contract extension. He’s taken his game to the next level, scoring two goals and adding 23 assists (for a total of 25 points) in 21 games. That’s better than a point-a-game pace. 

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Rielly’s on pace to surpass his best 72-point total from the 2018-19 season. If he keeps scoring at the same clip he has to this point of the season, he’s on target to finish the season with 76 points.  

Rielly’s presently seventh in the NHL in scoring by a defenseman, three points out of fifth place, and six points behind the NHL leader for defensemen Victor Hedman. If he can continue to score at the rate he has in the last 21 games, he’ll be a solid candidate for the Norris Trophy.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rielly has the honor of being one of our stars in both the first and second quarters of the season. We’re sure he’s deeply excited by that honor.

The Difficulty of Choosing a Third Star

As it was in the first quarter, picking the third star was not as cut-and-dried as the first two stars. A number of candidates could have been chosen. Both Tavares and Nylander scored 24 points in those 21 games. We could have easily picked either one of them.  

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Michael Bunting has made us, while not entirely forget, definitely not miss Zach Hyman as much, especially for $4.55 million less in salary. We could have chosen him. But our pick for the third star of the second quarter of the regular season is Alex Kerfoot.

Second-Quarter Third Star: Alex Kerfoot

In the past 21 games, Kerfoot has scored four goals and added 16 assists (for 20 points), just one point shy of a point a game pace. While that’s four points less than either Nylander or Tavares, Kerfoot gets the nod for two reasons. 

First, he’s plus-14 over that period, plus-5 better than Matthews or Bunting, who were tied for second. He is also plus-10 better than Tavares and plus-11 better than Nylander.  

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Second, when Kerfoot’s on the ice the team generates a lot of goals. The statistic of “on-ice” means a player’s been on the ice when a goal is scored for his team. Although that player might not have been credited with a goal or an assist, he was part of the play at the time. 

For the Maple Leafs, as we noted, Matthews’ on-ice play generates a lot of goal scoring. In fact, he was on-ice for 3.50 goals per 60 minutes played. However, Kerfoot was on-ice for 3.40 goals per 60 minutes played. 

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What makes that statistic even more amazing is that Kerfoot rarely plays on the same line as Matthews. If we compare Kerfoot’s per-60, on-ice scoring rate with Tavares and Nylander, Tavares was on-ice for 2.79 goals per 60 minutes, and Nylander was on-ice for 2.58 goals per 60 minutes. 

William Nylander, Morgan Reilly
Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly celebrates with teammate William Nylander. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hans Deryk)

For whatever reason, Kerfoot does not seem to get much love from Maple Leafs’ fans. Maybe part of it is because he was the returning piece on the deal that sent popular Nazem Kadri out of town. 

However, Kerfoot’s quietly having the best season of his career. If he continues to produce at the same rate the last half of the season that he has the first half, he’ll end up the season with 12 goals and 49 assists (for a total of 61 points). That’s 18 points more than he had his rookie season with Colorado, which was his best season to date.  

Who Will Be the Third-Quarter’s Three Stars?

We have to hope that the third quarter’s three stars are difficult to choose from. That would mean the team would likely be playing well throughout the lineup. Everyone will be needed on board if the Maple Leafs are to extend their season and do well in the postseason.

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It would be great to see Matthews chosen as the team’s first star again because it would likely mean he’s doing well in the NHL’s goal-scoring race.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]