The story of this game was that, similar to the Calgary Flames’ game earlier in the week, the Toronto Maple Leafs were out-goalied. First, they bumped into Jacob Markstrom, who stopped 46 of 48 shots the Maple Leafs threw at him. Second, they ran into the Vancouver Canucks Thatcher Demko, who was even better and amazingly stopped 51 of 53 shots the Maple Leafs threw at him.
In both games, the Maple Leafs’ goalies were the second-best goalie on the ice. On Thursday, Jack Campbell couldn’t keep up with the challenge and let in five goals of the 26 shots he faced. Last night, Petr Mrazek couldn’t keep up with the challenge and allowed three goals on 24 shots.
Now the Maple Leafs head south to Seattle following a 5-2 regulation loss to the Flames and a 3-2 regulation loss to the Canucks. Can they salvage a win? They’ll likely turn to Campbell to find out.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at the news from the game and what it might mean for the team going forward.
Item One: Ondrej Kase Not Only Played, But He Scored
When I heard that Ondrej Kase had not only survived his hit to the head during the Flames game but was going to play last night, I was pleased for him. It meant that his comeback this season was still active. It also meant that this season was (so far) unlike his two previous seasons where he barely played because of his concussion symptoms.
Kase not only played last night but he was his old self. He got into the dirty areas of the ice, was part of the team’s second power-play unit, and tipped in a Jason Spezza point shot for his team’s second power-play goal of the game. The goal was Kase’s second power-play goal of the season.
He now has scored 18 points in 37 games. However, his production has been slower in January and February, where he’s scored only three points in 10 games. For me, he’s fun to watch on the ice. However, he needs to keep his head up.
Item Two: Rasmus Sandin and Jason Spezza Get Power-Play Assists
Rasmus Sandin had an assist on Kase’s goal, as did Jason Spezza. I was surprised to read that, for as much as Sandin has played on the second power-play unit this was only his third power-play point of the season. In fact, looking at his statistics, I’ve been surprised he’s only scored 12 points in the 39 games he’s played this season.
On the same goal, Spezza also picked up an assist. For Spezza, it was his 16th point (nine goals and seven assists) in 41 games this season. Last season, in 54 games he had 30 points (10 goals and 20 assists). Is Spezza’s play declining, or is he being used less and in different circumstances? Perhaps it’s the higher quality of the new players this season.
Spezza does have four points in his last six games, but he hasn’t been contributing in the same ways he has during his first two seasons with the team. I’m wondering if this might be his last season with the team. I have no doubt he’ll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
Item Three: Auston Matthews Scored His 32nd Goal of the Season
Speaking of Spezza one day being in the Hockey Hall of Fame, there’s no doubt that Auston Matthews is on his way there, too. He scored a goal against the Canucks and now has 32 on the season, which is one less than the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider who share the lead with 33 goals.
Matthews scored on an amazingly beautiful passing sequence with teammates John Tavares and William Nylander about two-thirds of the way through the second period. The goal revived the team’s momentum and they tied the game shortly thereafter. However, they couldn’t hold the lead.
Matthews now has 55 points in his 42 games and has continued the seven-game point-scoring streak he began before the All-Star break. Over that streak, he’s averaging two points per game. For someone who started the season slowly, he’s come on strong. What’s the over and under that he’ll be leading the NHL in goal-scoring by next Sunday?
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Thinking about the last two Maple Leafs’ losses, where they were beaten by hot goalies, I’m trying to recall how many of the team’s 12 losses have happened in similar ways. Earlier in November, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Tristan Jarry beat them 2-0; then, in January, the Arizona Coyotes’ Karel Vejmelka beat them 2-1; then, there were the last two games. It doesn’t happen very often that this team can be shut down on the scoresheet.
The Maple Leafs have an elite offensive team who are as fast and creative with the puck as any team I’ve watched – except perhaps the Edmonton Oilers of the Wayne Gretzky era. Canucks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau admitted to the media after the game that the Maple Leafs were the fastest team he’s seen this year.
I have to think there might be a lot of goal-scoring on Monday.
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