Maple Leafs Commentary: Simmonds, Marner, Liljegren, Bunts & Matthews

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Commentary, we’ll look back at the team’s recent play to comment on some of the events of that game and how these events might impact the remainder of the season. We’ll also outline some of the achievements that Maple Leafs’ players have garnered.

Comment One: Is it Time Wayne Simmonds Hung Up His Skates?

During the Philadelphia Flyers’ game, Wayne Simmonds scored. It was his first goal in 33 games. The past two games Simmonds has played might have been his best two games in what’s been a very quiet season for the 34-year-old. Because of his lack of impact, Simmonds has found himself a healthy scratch in four of the Maple Leafs’ last nine games.  

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although he leads the team in hits this season with 117 hits in 62 games, by the eye test Simmonds has not seemed to have been the physical force he has been in the past. His play has led many to believe it might be time for Simmonds to hang up the skates. Some have speculated that the acquisition of Colin Blackwell at the trade deadline by Kyle Dubas was done with the idea of pushing Simmonds out of the lineup.

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It’s possible that the rumor of Simmonds’ demise might have been premature if his performance in the last two games is any indication. The goal aside, the first statistic that jumps off the page is the ten hits that Simmonds delivered in those two games. Digging a bit deeper into his statistics, with Simmonds on the ice at five-on-five in the two games, the Maple Leafs have had 62.5 percent of the expected goals. 

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Specifically, Simmonds has been on ice for two high-danger chances for and zero chances against in those games. Mind you, his ice time has been limited. He only played 7:13 against the Winnipeg Jets and 7:09 against the Flyers, but he’s seemed more like his old self in those games. 

Whether it is due to the rest or the motivation of not playing as much lately matters not. It appears the Wayne Train might be back just on time for the playoffs.

Comment Two: Mitch Marner Set a Maple Leafs’ Franchise Record

Mitch Marner is having a phenomenal season. His two assists on Saturday’s game against the Flyers extended his present point streak to nine games, his longest streak of the season. He had two eight-game streaks earlier. 

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During his past nine games, Marner has scored five goals and added 14 assists for a total of 19 points. Since January 15th of this season, Marner has registered 60 points in 33 games. The television broadcast of the game Saturday night showed a graphic that stated it was the most points that any Maple Leafs’ player has ever scored in a 33 game span. 

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That record made us think two things. First, it is pretty amazing that he has done that. Second, it made us wonder where do they come up with some of these stats?  

Comment Three: Timothy Liljegren Is Team’s Second Highest-Scoring Defenseman in 2022

Timothy Liljegren continued his solid play alongside Mark Giordano. He scored his second goal in two nights. This goal was a lucky carom off the backboards that bounced off of goaltender Carter Hart into the net. Still, a goal is a goal. A lot of credit goes to Michael Bunting who was on Hart’s doorstep and helped to distract and bother the goaltender.

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Liljegren has been on fire offensively of late. He has nine points in his last 13 games and 20 points in 50 games for the Maple Leafs on the season. In 2022, Liljegren has been the Maple Leafs’ second-highest scoring defenseman with sixteen points. That’s one more than T.J. Brodie and Justin Holl.  

Comment Four: Michael Bunting Takes Over the NHL Rookie Scoring Lead

Michael Bunting, whose nickname is “Bunts,” picked up two assists in the Flyers’ game, one on the Liljegren goal and another on Morgan Rielly’s goal. That gives him 53 points in 68 games played on the season. It also moved him back into first place in the rookie scoring race, one point up on Lucas Raymond of the Detroit Red Wings.  

Michael Bunting Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bunting has 11 assists in his last 14 games, but he’s goalless in his last twelve games. He’s now fallen to third in goals for a rookie, three behind leader Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators, who has 23 goals on the season.

Comment Five: Auston Matthews 7th Fastest Player in NHL History to 250 Goals

We would feel amiss if we didn’t mention that Auston Matthews scored his 51st goal of the season in the Flyers’ game with a snipe off of a beautiful feed from Mitch Marner. The goal puts Matthews two up on Leon Draisaitl and five goals up on third-place Chris Kreider. 

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It appears the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy is becoming a two-horse race between Matthews and Driasaitl. Not only does Matthews now have a two-goal lead he also has one extra game left to play than Draisaitl.

Matthews also inches closer to Rick Vaive’s single-season goal-scoring record of 54 goals. He has fourteen games left in which to score four goals to claim the record.     

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The goal was Matthews’ 250th career goal (done in 397 games played). Only seven players in NHL history have reached the milestone in fewer games. These players include Wayne Gretzky (302 games), Mike Bossy (315 games), Mario Lemieux (324 games), Brett Hull (328 games), Alex Ovechkin (366 games), Teemu Selanne (388 games), and Jari Kurri (389 games).

What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?

There’s good news that Jake Muzzin is traveling and practicing with the team on this trip. To us, that means he might dress in one of the next three games. 

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Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers game will be the Maple Leafs’ seventh game in eleven nights. It might be the perfect game to give one of the other defensemen a rest and insert Muzzin into the lineup. It will be good to see him back.

[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.]