Maple Leafs Commentary: Marner, Matthews & Stanley Cup Runs

If you are a fan of high-octane, high-scoring offensive hockey with referees calling tons of penalties, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers game on Tuesday night was for you. A total of thirteen goals were scored, and an amazing 42 high-danger scoring chances were generated during the game.

Ten players, five on each team, had multiple-point games. Close to twenty minutes, or one full period of this game, was played by special teams. What an exciting game.

Comment One: A Tale of Four Games in One

We wanted to say it was a tale of two games, but it might have been a tale of four games. The tales could be broken down into the Maple Leafs’ dominance in the first half of the game in building a 5-1 lead, and then the Panthers’ dominance in outscoring the Maple Leafs 6-1 in the last half of the game. In addition, the game could also be broken into five-on-five play and then special-teams play. 

Related: Is it Time for Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza to Hang Up His Skates?

Of the thirteen goals scored, only four of them were scored at five-on-five. Nine were scored on the power play, the penalty kill, and three on three.

Any way you look at it, the game was close in the end. At five-on- five, each team scored two goals. On the power play, each team scored three goals. While killing penalties, each team scored one goal. 

Even the high-danger scoring chances were pretty even with the Panthers having 22 of them to the Maple Leafs 20. The difference in the game ultimately came down to the three-on-three overtime, when it appeared the Maple Leafs were the more tired team.

Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau had an amazing night against the Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Before we get to an analysis of Maple Leafs’ players, we have to mention that Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals and added three assists in the game. With those points, he became the first Florida Panthers’ player to score 100 points (102 exactly) in a season. He’s also scored 600 points in his career. Kudos to Huberdeau for that accomplishment.

Comment Two: Marner on the Move

Mitch Marner led the Maple Leafs with four points in the game, including a highlight-reel, one-man effort on the penalty kill. He stripped a Panthers’ player of the puck in the Maple Leafs ’end and fought off two others before getting Sergei Brobovsky to bite on a deke and depositing the puck into the open cage. He scored another goal 37 seconds later on the power play. Those two goals gave him 31 goals on the season, which is a career-high.

(Usually, we don’t mention our internal links, like the one you see below. However, this one was written in early January when Marner was having a slow start to the season. What a difference a few months make.)

Related: Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner Can Still Have a Career Year

Marner’s unique feat also set a new NHL record for the shortest time between scoring a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal. The previous record was held by Mario Lemieux at 47 seconds. Lemieux accomplished that on March 12, 1989.

Marner’s four points moved him into sole possession of sixth place in NHL scoring, with 88 points. It also puts him on pace to score 105 points this season. He’s now riding an eleven-game streak in which he’s scored eight goals and added eighteen assists (for 26 points). Marner is also on a seven-game, multipoint streak where he’s scored four goals and added fifteen assists for a total of nineteen points. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Derik Hamilton)

Those statistics tie Marner for the longest multipoint streak in Maple Leafs’ history with Auston Mathews (2018-19), Doug Gilmour (1992-93), Vincent Damphousse (1990-91), Rick Vaive (1983-84), and Corb Denneny (1919-20).

Comment Three: Auston Matthews Is Streaking

Auston Matthews failed to score a goal, ending his goal-scoring streak at six games. However he had three assists to extend his point-scoring streak to fourteen games. In the games between March 5 and April 5, Matthews has scored 17 goals and added 10 assists for a total of 27 points. With his three points last night, Matthews moves into a tie for fourth place in NHL scoring with Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames at 95 points. Matthews is now on pace to score 64 goals and 112 points this season.  

Related: Revisiting the Capitals’ Disastrous Jagr Trade

One interesting note is that Matthews and Marner are now dead even in points for their careers at 446. Both sit tied for 16th place in all-time Maple Leafs’ scoring six points behind Doug Gilmour and 15th place.

What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs head into Dallas to play the Stars on Thursday night. Despite losing to the Panthers, the team seems to have matured and has found the ability to take over the game to win. That is unless they are playing against a non-playoff team. The team is much more physical than during previous seasons, and even Marner has amped up his physical game. 

It’s great to see Matthews scoring in so many different ways. It’s no longer just one-timers from distance. When the Maple Leafs play well defensively, their goalies play more confidently. Until last night, Jack Campbell’s played well since his return from his rib injury.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Although this is a couple of seasons away, one has to wonder if the chemistry Matthews and Marner have share will continue and will encourage both to extend their contracts with the Maple Leafs. As one of our loyal readers – Marsonice – reminds us, should the twosome remain together, there might be a number of Stanley
Cup runs in the future.

Related: Today in Hockey History: April 6

We know that readers will say the team has to go on one extended run first; and, there’s no argument with that logic. However, unless things fall apart drastically, this is one of the strongest and deepest teams the Maple Leafs have had in many seasons.

[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.]

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