The Toronto Maple Leafs stayed hot on the first half of their back-to-back, coming out on top 2-1 in an overtime victory over the Calgary Flames. While the win was one of their uglier ones, the two points all count the same in the end. Friday night’s win marked their seventh in their last eight games, improving their record to 9-5-1 on the season.
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While the first two periods were pretty quiet, the action started to pick up in the third period. Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington scored on a breakaway to open the scoring less than five minutes into the third period. Still, a tip-in from Ondrej Kase sent the game to overtime, where Auston Matthews finished the job.
I had the pleasure of taking in this game in person, and while there’s usually an arms-length list of things to talk about from every Leafs game, tonight’s was pretty straightforward. Without further ado, here are three takeaways from tonight’s win against the Flames.
Maple Leafs’ Nylander Stays Hot, Registers Two Points
The best forward in tonight’s game was William Nylander, and frankly, nobody else came close. He was the only one who consistently found himself generating high-danger chances, and it was nice to see him rewarded for it. Nylander’s one-timer with just over seven minutes left in the game set up Kase for the tip, ultimately sending the Maple Leafs to overtime.
Then, Nylander tallied his second point of the night on Matthews’ overtime winner. Speaking of which, tonight was ironically enough Matthews’ worst game of the season by far up until the overtime goal. But since they got the two points tonight, nobody’s going to talk about that. And Nylander’s performance was a big part of how they were able to secure the win.
With his two assists tonight, Nylander now has 15 points in 15 games, which is good for the team lead in scoring. I can confidently say that he has been the Maple Leafs’ best forward this season, all things considered. That $6.9 million contract is looking better by the day, and it continues to shed light on how funny it is that he was ever considered to be overpaid.
Maple Leafs’ Power Play Struggles Come Back
Like I said earlier, this wasn’t one of the Maple Leafs’ prettier wins. And that’s okay. Good teams don’t come out and dominate for 60 straight minutes in every single win they get. But I can tell you right now that I thought the Maple Leafs’ lack of production on the power play was going to come back to bite them. They tried a slightly new look tonight, leaving Nick Ritchie as the net-front presence on the first unit while bumping Tavares down to the second unit. And it didn’t go too well.
The Maple Leafs had three power plays in a row, all in the first half of the game, and not only did they fail to convert on any of them, but they struggled even getting set up. There were a lot of missed passes and failed zone entries, which embodies what the Maple Leafs’ power play was all about for the first month of the season.
They ended up getting the win, so it’s hard to put too much stock into this. But having said that, this is something that the Maple Leafs need to tighten up for the long haul. In my takeaways piece about their win over the Boston Bruins last Saturday, I mentioned that their power play has to be one of their best assets for a team that brands itself as a skill-heavy, offensive team. And while it has been much better as a whole lately, they need to cut down on games like these ones with the man advantage.
Maple Leafs’ Campbell Making the Most of His New Workload
It seems like every takeaways piece I write, one of them is about Jack Campbell. But hey – I’m definitely not complaining. With Petr Mrazek re-aggravating his groin injury a week ago, Campbell has had to take on a workload similar to the one Frederik Andersen boasted in Toronto for so many years. Basically, start every game unless there’s a back-to-back.
And while Campbell’s injury history has been a concern, he’s looked better than ever so far this season. While there weren’t too many high-danger chances on Calgary’s end on Friday, Campbell did exactly what the team needed him to and shut the door when it mattered most. And it’s hard to even blame him for the goal he did allow, a breakaway goal by a defenseman in which Mitch Marner covered the wrong player.
Nevertheless, Campbell finished the night, stopping 30 of 31 shots and earning himself the second star of the game. He now has a record of 8-3-1 through 13 games with a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.82 and a save percentage of .939. At this point, you have to ask when we can start including Campbell in the early conversation for the Vezina. It’s only November, obviously, but you have to wonder where the Maple Leafs would be in the standings if not for Campbell.
Maple Leafs’ Woll Will Make His Debut Tonight Against Sabres
The Maple Leafs will re-ignite the battle of the QEW tonight when they face off against the Buffalo Sabres at Keybank Arena. The last time these two teams played was Feb. 16, 2020, when the Maple Leafs lost 5-2. Both teams are coming off a Friday night win, with the Sabres defeating the Oilers 3-2 at home. However, tonight’s storyline will be centered around prospect Joseph Woll as he makes his NHL debut.
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The 23-year-old has had a bit of a rough go with the Toronto Marlies in his young career, but he’s also had the drawback of playing in front of some very bad Marlies teams. The Sabres have started off the season better than expected with a record of 6-5-2 and always play the Maple Leafs hard, so Saturday night’s game will be an interesting one.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.