In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Commentary, we’ll take a look back at the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win against a very strong Carolina Hurricanes team. Although the Hurricanes were not ahead of the NHL’s point totals because they have so many games in hand over the leading NHL teams, they did enter Monday’s game with the best winning percentage in the NHL.
Here we’ll comment on some of the players and the play that we saw during this great game. First, we’ll take a look at how Mitch Marner has really amped up his play over the past eight games. Second, we’ll comment on Matthews’ sudden rise up the Maple Leafs’ franchise scoring totals in his short career. Finally, we’ll look at how well Petr Mrazek played against his old Carolina Hurricanes team.
Item One: Mitch Marner Was Poised to Start this Game Well
It was obvious that, from the beginning of the game, Mitch Marner was determined to help his team win. On his first shift, he drove for the net, was the last man back to retrieve a puck, and then provided a screen on Andersen when Matthews shot the puck.
Had Matthews hadn’t touched the power-play goal that was headed into the net off Nylander’s stick, Marner would have had his second consecutive four-point night. As it was, he’s had three straight three-point games. In his eight-game goal-scoring streak, Marner has 10 goals and nine assists (for 19 points) in eight games.
Prior to his hot streak, Marner was seventh in Maple Leafs’ scoring, 15 points behind Nylander, who was second, and 13 behind Tavares, who was third. Marner now sits in fourth place, a point back of Nylander, who’s third, and two points behind Tavares in second.
Marner’s on pace now to score 34 goals and 86 points in 73 games for the season. On January 14, Marner was tied for 129th in NHL scoring with 21 points in 26 games played. Over the last eight games, he’s passed 84 players to move into a tie for 40th.
Marner’s eight-game goal streak ties him for third all-time for the Maple Leafs with Auston Matthews. John Anderson holds the record for scoring a goal in 10 consecutive games. Darryl Sittler sits second with nine straight games.
Item Two: Auston Matthews Can’t Be Stopped
Carolina did a great job smothering Matthews in the first half of the game. Matthews had shots on net, but not really good scoring chances. However, Matthews is Matthews. He got his stick on the puck for one goal and then used his one-timer to score a second goal.
Matthews has now moved into 10th in all-time goal-scoring for the Maple Leafs. After 374 games, he’s tied with Ted Kennedy, who had 230 goals in 696 games. Matthew is now only 21 goals behind Bob Pulford, who holds the ninth spot with 251 goals.
For the Richard Trophy, Matthews is only two goals short of league leader Chris Kreider’s 33 goals. He now has two more goals than Alex Ovechkin, and one goal fewer than Leon Draisaitl. Matthews needs 23 goals in his last 39 games to catch Rick Vaive for the all-time Maple Leafs season goal-scoring record. Seems like a given.
Item Three: Petr Mrazek Wasn’t Perfect, But He Was Good
Perhaps the Petr Mrazek experiment is working; he was certainly one of the best Maple Leafs’ players during the first two periods. However, he started the third period by allowing a soft goal.
Then the goal Carolina scored to make it 3-2 wasn’t really Mrazek’s fault; however, if he prevents the rebound there’s no goal. Then, after the Maple Leafs tied the game, Mrazek made a nice save by reading the play and getting into a good position. That save preserved the 3-3 tie.
Overall it was a good game by Mrazek, with one soft goal allowed. That said, during his last four games, Mrazek is 4-0 with a save percentage of .921 and a goals-against-average of 2.32.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
All in all, the Maple Leafs showed well in this game. On October 25, 2021, they had played this same Hurricanes team on the road and lost 4-1. But the Maple Leafs have improved as a team.
How much they’ve improved and whether that improvement can extend into the postseason remains to be seen. Still, this version of the team is better than many Maple Leafs’ fans expected in their best dreams.
There’s still half of the regular season to go, and time will tell just how improved the Maple Leafs are. Welcome to the second half of the 2021-22 regular season.
[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.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf