Maple Leafs Look to Carry Momentum From November

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ hot month of November has come to an end and they now look to carry the momentum and winning streak into December. The team was off to a slow start to the season but has turned it around. If they can keep collecting the points, they can join the Boston Bruins and skate away with the Atlantic Division. Toronto sits just three points behind their bitter rival, and they hope to keep this streak alive and take over the top spot from them.

Mitch Marner John Tavares Timothy Liljegren Celebrate Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Timothy Liljegren celebrate a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This month has also seen another type of streak, an individual game-point streak. Mitch Marner has officially tied the record for the longest game-point streak in team history. His 18-game streak stands alongside Darryl Sittler, and Eddie Olczyk, as the most. He can extend it to 19 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 3. The Maple Leafs will also be looking to carry their five-game winning streak into the next month.

Maple Leafs Forward Group

After a slow start to the season for the core four, November was all too good for them. All four of the big-name players up front seem to have found a rhythm. Marner has a point in his last 18 and is one away from breaking the record for the longest point streak in Maple Leafs’ history. John Tavares has been one of the team’s most consistent from the start and carried that through the month. He had 16 points in 15 games and sits third on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 14 assists.

Related: Maple Leafs Turnaround Sparked By John Tortorella

Latest News & Highlights

Auston Matthews’ struggles had the fans breathing heavily, but since the turn of the calendar, he has shown that his old self is in there, somewhere. He has three goals in his last five games, and nine of his 12 total goals came in the last month. Although he has 12 goals on the season and sits second on the team in scoring, something feels different still. It feels like he is playing more of a two-way game and letting his defence lead to offence, which aligns more with the team mentality.

With that being said, we can’t talk about the offence and consistency of the core four and not mention William Nylander. He has been lights out this season for the team and because of his play from the start, he leads all players in goals with 13. He has split with both Matthews and Tavares down the middle, but has sparked Matthews’ and Michael Bunting’s play, and has since been a mainstay on that line. 

The depth forwards also have been an area of improvement during November. The line of Denis Malgin, Zach Aston-Reese and David Kampf was able to build chemistry and find success at both ends of the rink. Pontus Holmberg has made the most of his time in the lineup and doesn’t look to be leaving anytime soon. Coach Sheldon Keefe had this to say about Holmberg’s game, “…I can’t find this guy making a mistake.”

Although Calle Jarnkrok got injured in the game against the Sharks, he also showed improvements and spent some time on the second line to round out the month. Alex Kerfoot is the only player on the roster that didn’t stand out, at all. Typically, he is the utility guy, but this season he hasn’t even been good at that. He has managed to collect 10 points, but only had five points in 15 games — some would say a month to forget. 

Not Your Usual Defence Core 

In a month that saw three injuries, the Maple Leafs lost two of the most important defensemen on the team. Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, as well as Jordie Benn all went down, which left the team scrambling to find help. However, they found it, and on a rare occurrence, they found it within. Yes, they acquired Connor Timmins from the Arizona Coyotes, but he has yet to see game action.

Instead, fans saw the emergence of players like Mac Hollowell and Victor Mete. Mete had time with the team earlier this season, but it has been his best hockey during this stretch. Hollowell has stepped into a third-pairing role and has looked comfortable. During his five games in the NHL, he has collected two assists and looks to have gelled with the club. 

Mark Giordano Toronto Maple Leafs
Mark Giordano, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Justin Holl and Mark Giordano were never a number-one pairing that anyone would have seen coming, but it’s here, and it works. Both players have logged big minutes on the back end to help the team. Holl has seen an average of 23:01 of ice time in his last five games, and as for his defence partner, Giordano has seen 22:56. From Nov. 2 to Nov. 11, Giordano saw an average of 19:12, and for a 39-year-old defenceman to see an increase of 3:44 in ice time on a nightly basis, he still played well.

Related: Mitch Marner on the Cusp of Maple Leafs Record with Point Streak

Lastly, Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. This was their time to show the coaching staff and management that they can play top-four minutes and succeed. They have, which is nice to see, especially with them paired together. However, at this point in their careers, it should be the expectation that they come to play nightly. The team just happened to have a top-four defence core, which has prevented them from moving up the depth chart faster, but this could be the turning point for them. This opportunity could allow them more responsibility even after the return of the injured players.

Maple Leafs May Have Best Goalie Tandem in the League

There have been a lot of bright spots on the team this season, but the goaltending tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray might be the biggest one. Statistically, they are the best goalie duo in the NHL, and although they have only played 16 games combined, things are looking good between the pipes. Although most people would suggest that we give them both a larger sample size and see how they perform, it’s hard because they have looked very dialed in, and that’s promising. Samsonov has a .924 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.09 goals-against average (GAA), which puts him in the top five in the NHL. Murray has a .927 SV% and a 2.44 GAA, which puts him in the top 10.

The Maple Leafs are the only team in the NHL that have both goalies in the top 10 in those stats. This is not something that either the defence and/or the fans are used to — usually the team has one above-average goalie and the backup is the one who isn’t as good. As a result of that, the team has seen previous starting goalies be burnt out by playoffs. That shouldn’t be the case the year with both the goalies splitting time and getting the much-needed rest to help prevent injuries.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Murray & Samsonov Tandem Exceeding Expectations

Overall, Toronto had an outstanding month, one that was needed after the start they had. The team also made franchise history in terms of points in a month with 25. Toronto should be proud of the performances they displayed during November. The team was on fire, and as a result, was able to get a point in all but one game this past month, which came on Nov. 11 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, on the night that the team honoured Borje Salming.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120