Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Bunting, Matthews, Sandin, Spezza & Pionk

Make no mistake, the Toronto Maple Leafs deserved to lose last night’s game to the Winnipeg Jets. Furthermore, the 6-3 score makes the team look better than it played.

Without rookie goalie Joseph Woll playing hold-the-fort against an elite set of Jets’ forwards, who can move the puck with the best in the NHL, the Jets might have even had a couple more goals. If you’re Maple Leafs’ fan who didn’t watch the game and reads a reviewer who critiques Woll’s game, don’t believe everything you read.

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The Maple Leafs’ defense was poorly executed during the second and the third periods. It wasn’t as if I’ve never seen the Maple Leafs give up such a high number of odd-man rushes, it’s more that I’ve never seen any NHL team give up so many odd-man chances in one period (the second) of one game. It was an onslaught.

The Maple Leafs’ defense was even gracious enough to gift Jet’s veteran Blake Wheeler a break-way on the celebration of his 1000 NHL career game. Woll stopped him. But there was such a multitude of two-on-one and even an occasional three-on-one. The fifth Jets’ goal came on a four-on-two. Woll couldn’t stop everything. Sure he made a couple of mistakes, but the final score wasn’t on him.

How bad was it? As I was writing this post, I was seeking an example of what I had seen. So, I looked up the title of the Brad Pit zombie movie where the hoards of feral un-dead just kept coming – it was World War Z. Last night’s game had a World Waz Z feel.

In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some game action, fill in some of the contexts, and comment on what that might mean to the Maple Leafs going forward. Of specific interest is how the NHL’s division of player safety will deal with the events of the third period. It was so out-of-hand that even Jason Spezza, who no one should ever accuse of being a dirty player, might have crossed the line when retaliating for a teammate.

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That will be at the disgression of the NHL. First, before I discuss that situation a bit later, there are a couple of tidbits of good things to share.

Item One: Michael Bunting Has Been a Great Season’s Pickup

Michael Bunting scored a power-play goal in the loss. It was his seventh goal of the season; and, in the 25 games he’s played, he now has 18 points. He had been on a five-game, point-scoring streak, but that ended Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. 

Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Maple Leafs’ fans can hope that he’s started a new streak. Bunting’s now scored four goals and added eight assists (for 12 points) in his last 11 games. The 26-year-old has been a great addition to the team. I even spotted him with linemate, Auston Matthews, at a Toronto Raptors’ game the other day. So it seems he’s fitting in nicely.

Item Two: Auston Matthews Is on Quite a Roll

Auston Matthews scored a goal for the sixth game in a row. During that six-game stretch, last season’s leading NHL goal-scorer has scored eight times and has added two assists in that span. He now has 15 goals ad 10 assists (for 25 points) in 23 games. He also has 10 points on the power play. 

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Does the Maple Leafs’ best player have a chance to catch Leon Draisaitl for the goal-scoring lead? He’s starting to make fans wonder.

Item Three: The Sandin, Pionk & Spezza Trilogy

In my opinion, this game crossed the line. Too many non-calls combined with Maple Leafs’ frustrations about the score created a volatile situation. The catylist for the entire mess was when Rasmus Sandin left Sunday’s game against the Jets after a knee-on-knee collision with Neal Pionk. 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In yesterday’s post, I included a YouTube video of Sandin wrecking Blake Wheeler with a check in a game last April and wondered if Wheeler would remember. One has to wonder if there’s any correlation between the events of that game and what happened last night. 

Whatever, the game got further out of hand. Not more that two minutes after Pionk potentially put the Maple Leafs’ young Swedish defenceman on the IR during third period, Jason Spezza of all people – or maybe not, because he’s been playing father on this team for the past three seasons, retaliated.

Wha’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs play again on Tuesday night at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, of real interest is the fallout from the Jets’ game. As it stands now, both Spezza and Pionk will have separate hearings with the NHL Department of Player Safety for what happened last night. Pionk’s hearing will be today and the date and time for Spezza’s hasn’t yet been determined.

Related: Maple Leafs Seeing in Spezza What Babcock Never Could

I would never have imagined that Spezza would be suspended, but if and for how long a lot depends upon what happens with Pionk today.


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