On Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs ended their current four-game road trip by beating the St. Louis Blues by a score of 6-5.
The game was one of swings. The Blues scored the first goal. Then the Maple Leafs came storming back with three to make it 3-1. The Blues tied it at 3-3. The Maple Leafs took a 4-3 lead. The Blues scored two goals to go up 5-4. Finally, the Maple Leafs scored the last two goals of the game to win 6-5. Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe had to be frustrated as a coach; but, he couldn’t have been as upset as Blues’ coach Craig Berube.
In what we hope is a continuing kind of post, after the ice chips melt and the game’s been reviewed we want to review the game to look at the good and the not-so-good aspects of each game in a post we’ll call “Maple Leafs: Love It or Leave It.”
Reviewing the Maple Leafs Win Over the Blues
We chose a great game to begin our work; but, where to start? There are games where it’s difficult to find much to write about. Then there are games like this, where we could write a novel. It might have been the most exciting game of the season to watch as a fan. But, as noted, we’re sure both coaches hated it.
Love It #1: Auston Matthews Jumping Up in the NHL Scoring Chase
You gotta love that Auston Matthews scored his 25th goal of the season. That goal moved into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for second in goals scored and he’s now only one behind Leon Draisaitl. Matthews has now scored in 10 straight road games to extend his Maple Leafs’ franchise mark and moved one game closer to the NHL’s all-time record. He also now holds the franchise record as the first Maple Leafs’ player to score 25 goals in his first six seasons.
In those 10 road games, he’s scored 12 goals in total. Matthews has 18 goals over his last 16 games and is currently on pace to score 60 this season. With his two points Saturday night, Matthews moved into a tie for 10th place in the NHL for points with Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Leave It #1: Jack Campbell Has Uncharacteristically Poor Night
Perhaps we can soon leave the thought that, although he did make a couple of key saves late in the game, Jack Campbell gave up five goals on 25 shots. In his last three starts, Campbell’s also let in 13 goals. Is he showing some tiredness?
The team has come to rely on him to be better. They bailed him out offensively; however, they need to be better defensively in front of him. Luckily, in those three games, Campbell has a 2-0-1 record.
Love It #2: Pierre Engvall and Mitch Marner Were Ample Reinforcements
Don’t you love it that Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall made their presence felt in their first game back from the NHL’s Covid-19 protocol? Each player scored two points. Marner scored a pretty snipe in the first period, then he had the primary assist on Matthews’ record-breaking goal. Engvall had the primary assist on the game-winner by Ilya Mikheyev and a secondary assist on Timothy Liljegren’s first NHL goal ever.
Leave It #2: Timothy Liljegren Scored, But He Also Flailed at Some Pucks
We’re sure Liljegren will remember this game as the game of his first NHL goal. But, he’ll also try to leave behind the memories of his defensive errors.
It was also a game where he played a big role in three of the St. Louis Blue goals. On two of those goals, he unsuccessfully tried to play the puck instead of the man in front of the net. On the third goal, he got walked by Jordan Kyrou. Sometimes that happens to a young defenseman.
Love It #3: Ilya Mikheyev Is Making People Forget His Previous Misfirings
You gotta love that Ilya Mikheyev has started strong and is staying strong. He scored the game-winning goal in this game. It was his fifth goal and sixth point in seven games.
Mikheyev also had an amazing statistical game as well. According to naturalstattrick, at five-on-five, Mikheyev was on the ice for 13 Maple Leafs’ shot attempts but only for four against. In his five-on-five shifts, his team took nine shots but only had three shots against. The Maple Leafs had six scoring chances for and only three against, and five high-danger chances for and only one high-danger chance against. In other words, he was an offensive machine
Mikheyev was rewarded for his strong play in the game. During the third period, coach Keefe moved him up to play alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. Suddenly, not only is Mikheyev scoring goals he should be scoring, but he is also getting goals from places he probably shouldn’t be.
Leave It #3: Jake Muzzin’s Errant Passes
No doubt, Maple Leafs’ defenseman Jake Muzzin would like to leave this behind quickly. Although he was only credited with one giveaway during the game, there were a number of times – we counted at least eight – where the puck left his stick and errantly found a Blues’ stick in the Maple Leafs’ zone.
Muzzin coughed the puck up twice on the Blues’ second goal, and once on their fourth goal. Also, on that fourth Blue’s goal, he had the goal scorer Robert Thomas covered well and then left him open.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It’s easy to pick at players’ mistakes. However, mistakes and recoveries are what make the game of hockey so dynamic. Overall, you gotta love it that the Maple Leafs have only failed to pick up points in five of their last 29 games.
However, because of postponed games, they now find themselves in third place in the Atlantic Division, six points behind both Florida and Tampa. The team does have four games in hand over the Lightning and two in hand over the Panthers.
With tonight’s game originally scheduled against the New Jersey Devils postponed, their next game is in New York on Wednesday, where they face the Metro Division-leading Rangers.
[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.]
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