The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2-1 regulation win over the New Jersey Devils last night was memorable for a number of reasons.
First, the team did it with a depleted lineup – especially a depleted defence. Second, the Blue and White beat a team that (a) was on a 13-game winning streak and (b) had beaten them in overtime back in Toronto the week before. Third, the team won even after being pelted by full cans of beer and other assorted debris.
Credit the Maple Leafs for a solid win. Matt Murray was stellar in the crease. The youngsters hung in there. Pontus Holmberg scored his first NHL goal. Young defenseman Mac Hollowell survived his NHL debut.
The defence went down a player in the third period when Jordie Benn suffered an upper-body injury and finally decided he couldn’t go after a few tries. Mitch Marner extended his 14-game, point-scoring streak when he worked his tail off behind the net to get a pass to John Tavares for a goal.
Good win for the Maple Leafs
John Tavares Who’s Rarely Vocal, Turned Angry
Speaking of John Tavares, after four seasons, I cannot recall him ever showing anger. Last night was an exception. The usually reserved captain was pretty clear about how he felt after the game.
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Even after his first visit back when he played his old New York Islanders team in late February 2019, and fans booed and threw snakes on the ice, Tavares never blinked. Last night, he not only blinked – he ducked. Usually, Tavares is a player who says little; and, when he does, he’s reserved in his comments.
About last night, not so much. Tavares said, “It’s disappointing it’s dangerous.” He added, “I think it felt better to beat the crowd than the Devils tonight.”
Mark Giordano, whose more than 1000 NHL games have shown him a thing or two, reported that he’s never been part of anything like that. After the game, he noted: “We realized pretty quick they were coming hot and heavy so we got out of the way. Got into the room and waited it out.”
Ironically, for a group of fans who were so intent on winning, the break they caused by tossing garbage at the Maple Leafs’ bench and littering the ice probably helped their opponents weather the storm.
The Devils were in the midst of an offensive, third-period siege. The fans gave the Maple Leafs a needed timeout for about ten minutes. I’m guessing the rest break helped.
Conor Timmins Might Will Get a Big Chance with His New Team
The cavalry might be on the way. Yesterday, the Maple Leafs sent the intriguing (and very tall) Curtis Douglas to the Arizona Coyotes for the much-needed Conor Timmins. Timmins is a 24-year-old, 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, and a right-shot defenseman from nearby St. Catherines. He has 41 NHL games under his belt, 31 of them with the Colorado Avalanche in 2020-21.
Although Timmins hasn’t played an NHL game since October 15 because of the injury, he is healthy. Shades of Michael Bunting, he’s been playing with the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners since November 8, on a conditioning stint.
He’ll be welcome help on a Toronto team that’s missing defensemen T.J. Brodie (with an oblique injury), Carl Dahlstrom (whose shoulder is injured), Jake Muzzin (who’s suffering a cervical spine injury), Morgan Rielly (who has a knee injury), and now Jordie Benn (who has some kind of an upper-body injury). If Timmins is ready to return, then he has an opportunity to play a big role with the Maple Leafs.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Last night was a wild game. It might have been one of the oddest wins the Maple Leafs have picked up in a while. It does show how good this team can be when it’s playing well.
Now, what for the team’s season? The Maple Leafs just keep hanging around. They are not lighting the world on fire offensively, but when they buckle down they can play solid defence.
And Matt Murray can simply be a great goalie. How long can this last?
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