For fans that relish overtime excitement, last week was great. After losing 4-3 to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday in overtime, the Toronto Maple Leafs came out and beat the Philadelphia Flyers by the same 4-3 score in their second overtime game in a row.
Now, as the team readies for a three-game homestand, some team news is emerging. In this post, I’ll try to keep Maple Leafs fans up-to-date about some of it.
Item One: 11-Year-Old Maple Leafs Fan Gets Great Gift
On Nov. 3, Yahoo Sports Canada Editor Vanessa Kezwer reported that what started out as a sad story turned much happier thanks to the Maple Leafs players, fans, and other twitter followers who showed they cared. The gist of the story is that 11-year-old Kade Foster was having his eleventh birthday, sporting an obvious Maple Leafs theme with a special cake to match. However, none of his invited friends showed up.
In distress, his father Jason tweeted a message to the Twitterverse noting how sad his son was and asking anyone who cared to respond. As you can see if you read and follow the tweet below, the response was overwhelming.
Hundreds of people responded, including some new friends on the Maple Leafs – Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Hayley Wickenheiser, the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, the Carolina Hurricanes organization (Jake Gardiner perhaps?), and a host of others.
To make a long story short, the Foster family was overwhelmed by the generosity of time and caring people shared by actually sending a tweet to Kade.
Because I didn’t want it to get lost in the long list of tweets found in the tweet above, I have separated Kade’s dad’s reply below.
As Jason Foster said in a later tweet: “We can’t comprehend what has happened today. Kade and the rest of us are just amazed. To EVERYONE who sent Kade a message – thank you from the bottom of our hearts. He is an amazing son and he will never forget this day.”
From my perspective, there are at least two positives in this story. First, how great about the response of so many Maple Leafs players and others who cared. Second, what a great dad to not just feel bad with his son but to proactively do something about it.
Can you even imagine Kade’s feeling when the tweets started rolling in? Nicely done, Maple Leafs’ nation.
Item Two: Andersen On Top of His Game When It Counts
Frederik Andersen might just be rounding into form, and it couldn’t come at a better time. During the 4-3 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, Andersen stood tall when the Flyers began to carry the game during the second period.
In total, Andersen stopped 15 of 16 shots in period two and 10 of 11 shots in period three. In overtime, it looked as if the Maple Leafs wanted to give another game away (the team took two overtime penalties against the Washington Capitals just a game earlier) when Kasperi Kapanen took a tripping penalty within the first minute. But again Andersen was up to the challenge, making eight saves as the team killed the 4-on-3 penalty. In total, Andersen made 37 of 40 shots in regulation and overtime.
Then the fun started. Both goalies made shootout save after save, until round eight. First, Travis Konecny scored for the Flyers, then the aged-veteran Jason Spezza answered with his own goal against Brian Elliott. Finally, in round 11, Andreas Johnsson scored the game-winner.
Andersen currently has a 7-2-2 record on the year, but he simply isn’t as sharp this season as last season. It’s really tough to say if his 3.00 goals against average and .904 save percentage are representative of his own play or representative of a team who’s struggling in front of him. It’s likely both the goalie and the team will improve together. At least, that’s my take after watching them play this season.
Item Three: Kapanen Is Benefiting from a Change in Linemates
Kapanen’s ice-time is down, but his play has notched up. During the Flyers game, he scored a goal and an assist and skated with speed and confidence. Forgetting his penalty in overtime that almost cost the team the game, he has looked stronger with linemates who depend less on him to forecheck than to fly down the wings and shoot as often as he can on goal.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. Kapanen flew down the left wing past a defender and fired the puck past Elliott at full speed. Although he had a slow start to the season, Kapanen now has eight points (four goals and four assists) in his last eight games. In total, he has 10 points in 15 games.
What’s more impressive is that he’s starting to look like the Kapanen who last season stirred the imaginations of Maple Leafs fans. He also had an assist on Jason Spezza’s first goal as a Maple Leafs player.
Item Four: Marner Ends Goalless Drought
Mitch Marner scored a neat wraparound goal in Saturday’s win over Philadelphia. It was his fourth goal of the season and tied the game at 3-3 in the third period. The goal ended Marner’s seven-game drought without a goal and stretched his point streak to four straight games. Marner has been on a point-a-game pace, with 17 points in his 15 games this season.
Item Five: Spezza Finally Gets First Maple Leafs Goal
Finally, it happened. Jason Spezza scored his first goal as a Maple Leafs player. He also added an assist and, perhaps as important, scored the shootout-tying goal that kept his team in the game. It was nice to see Spezza score and play well. I’m hoping that means more ice time. As noted above, I think Spezza has been a better linemate to Kapanen than others Kapanen has played with.
What’s Next With the Maple Leafs?
In his post-game interview, after talking about how the coaches scrambled to figure out who would shoot during the 11 rounds of the shootout, head coach Mike Babcock noted: ”We got ourselves a win and we’ve set ourselves up for a good week.”
What does that good week look like? The Los Angeles Kings come to town on Tuesday evening; the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday evening; and, the Flyers come back to play again in a Hockey Night in Canada repeat of this past weekend. A nice four-game winning streak would serve the team well.
John Tavares was thought to be ready to play this past Saturday but didn’t. He should be ready on Tuesday. There’s no word on Jake Muzzin.