In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ commentary, we’ll look back at the Winnipeg Jets’ game to comment on who played well. We’ll also look forward to what’s coming for the team. Finally, we’ll look at an odd refereeing call made during the game that struck us as problematic.
Comment One: Mark Giordano Got His First Two Points as a Maple Leafs’ Player
Mark Giordano scored his first two points as a Maple Leafs’ player. He scored the Maple Leafs’ first goal when his wrist shot from the face-off circle pin-balled off of a Jets defender’s leg into the net. He also added an assist on Timothy Liljegren’s goal.
Giordano played over twenty minutes for the second game in a row for the Maple Leafs finishing the night with two points, two hits, two blocked shots, and three takeaways. He also made his first glaring gaffe with the Maple Leafs when he got turned around by Blake Wheeler on the Jets’ opening goal of the game.
Comment Two: Mitch Marner Just Keeps Rolling Along
Mitch Marner keeps rolling along and added three more to his team-leading assists total, giving him 51 assists on the season. Marner is the league’s top point-getter for 2022. Since the first of the calendar year, he’s scored 22 goals and added 38 assists (for a total of 58 points). He’s tied with the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau at 58 points since the calendar turned, but he’s played four fewer games.
Despite missing nine games this season, Marner finds himself only two points out of the top ten in scoring with 79 points. Given his current pace, he’s liable to crack the top-five soon.
Comment Three: Carl Dahlstrom Played a Solid Game Against His Old Team
Because of injuries on the backend, Carl Dahlstrom got into his second regular-season game as a Maple Leafs’ player. It was against his old Jets’ team. During the 2019-20 season, he played 15 games with Winnipeg. In Thursday’s game, he played 12:32 in the game and recorded his first point for the Maple Leafs when he assisted on John Tavares’ second-period goal that knotted the game at three.
Related: Maple Leafs Have Questions to Answer With Justin Holl
Dahlstrom played a solid game alongside Liljegren and finished the night with the point, three shots on the net, one hit, one blocked shot, and a takeaway. He was on the ice for five high-danger chances and only one against at five-on-five. The Maple Leafs had 70 percent of the expected goals when he was on the ice. With the injury situation, Dahlstrom put in exactly the type of performance the Maple Leafs needed.
Comment Four: The Game Had an Odd Refereeing Call
The game, as expected, was a physical one. It was the first time these two teams met since the December 5, 2021, match that saw both Jason Spezza of the Maple Leafs and Neal Pionk of the Jets receive suspensions for separate kneeing incidents. Pionk’s knee-to-knee hit on Rasmus Sandin led to him receiving a two-game penalty, while Spezza’s knee to the head of a falling Pionk netted him a six-game suspension that was later reduced to four games.
There was a total of 76 hits in the game, 42 by the Jets and 34 by the Maple Leafs. Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, who had been inserted into the lineup because Sheldon Keefe expected a chippy affair, led the team in hits. Clifford had six hits in the game, while Simmonds had five. Three Jets players recorded five hits each: Brenden Dillon, Zach Sanford, and Josh Morrisey. Clifford and Dillon also had a spirited fight late in the third period.
Related: Pavel Bure – A Tribute to the Russian Rocket
On the ensuing faceoff following the Clifford/Dillon fisticuffs, something happened that we’ve never seen before. Referee Dan O’Rourke assessed both Maple Leafs’ forward Wayne Simmonds and Jets’ forward Adam Lowry two-minute misconduct penalties because they were yapping at each other and he suspected they might get into a fight.
At first, we thought it was an interesting way to avoid further mayhem from happening and a good way to prevent the game from getting out of hand. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized it could start a disturbing precedent. Should a referee remove players from a game because he “thinks” they may commit an infraction?
Although the incident in itself might seem insignificant, we feel it’s something the NHL should address. If referees are acting according to NHL dictates, it would be good for fans to know. In short, we thought it odd.
What’s Ahead for the Maple Leafs?
While we don’t like to see injuries happen, the Maple Leafs with their salary-cap situation would have had a tough decision to make regarding Jake Muzzin. By our calculations, if the team were 100 percent healthy, the Maple Leafs would have had to place someone on waivers to activate Muzzin off of LTIR.
Now, because the Maple Leafs placed Ondrej Kase and Rasmus Sandin on LTIR, they not only have room to activate Muzzin, but they also have room to give some Toronto Marlies’ players and prospects like Nick Abruzzese and Matthew Knies a game or two if the situation allows for it. It also allows them to sit players with minor issues if the need arises.
Related: Maple Leafs Have Tough Lineup Choices Ahead
With Petr Mrazek out for a predicted six weeks, the team could also add him to the LTIR if they felt it necessary. The key to all of this is to try and have as many bodies healthy for the postseason. The Maple Leafs seem to be working toward that end.
[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.]