The Toronto Maple Leafs seemed determined to put away their recent break and their COVID-19 experiences when they played the Ottawa Senators last night. They stomped the Senators by a score of 6-0. It was a definitive victory. To the Senators’ credit, they put up a better fight than 6-0 might sound but the Maple Leafs had more firepower.
In the win, Jack Campbell was the best version of himself. The Senators had some good chances but Soup stopped them. The beleaguered Matt Murray made some good stops, but there were just too many good chances. He couldn’t stop everything, and the Maple Leafs had a ton of breakaways it seemed.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news emanating from the team and its players.
Item One: Auston Matthews Ten-Game Point Streak Halted
Usually, when the Maple Leafs score six goals, you’d expect to see Auston Matthews on the scoresheet for at least one of them. Or, even an assist or two. But not so in last night’s game. He was held pointless in his team’s 6-0 win. That broke his personal 10-game point-scoring streak. A good streak it was. By the end, he’d scored 13 goals and added five assists (for 18 points).
It wasn’t as if Matthews didn’t have his chances. Even with the game well in hand, head coach Sheldon Keefe threw him over the boards for more than 20 minutes, including 5:21 minutes with the man advantage. By the way, Matthews was the top NHL goal scorer for the 2021 calendar year with 61 goals.
Item Two: Mitch Marner Returns After His Freak Practice Injury
Mitch Marner returned to the ice after a month; but, like Matthews, he was kept off the scoresheet. Ultimately, the team didn’t need him to chip in points because other players scored just fine. That’s probably a very good sign for this team.
Also like Matthews, Marner logged lots of time on the ice – almost 20 minutes (19:26) on the first line. It was his first game back since December 1 and his odd practice injury. He currently has six goals and 15 assists (for 21 points) in his 25 games on the season.
Item Three: Michael Bunting Now Has Gone Four Games Without a Point
Obviously, because Michael Bunting is playing on Matthews’ wing, his point totals are impacted by the scoring of his line-mates. But it’s worth noting that Bunting hasn’t had his name on the scoresheet for four games. He did have his chances last night and found himself alone to the right of Murray, but couldn’t hit an open net from a bad angle.
This is no critique of Bunting’s play or scoring. He’s added value to the first line and gives them another solid scoring option.
Item Four: A Rare Two Shorthanded Goals During One Penalty Kill
How often does it happen that a team scores twice shorthanded on the same penalty kill? Not often is the answer. However, after only one shorthanded goal all season, the Maple Leafs scored two more last night.
With defenseman Morgan Rielly in the penalty box for cross-checking, Justin Holl scored his first goal of the season on a 2-on-1 rush with David Kampf. Then 27 seconds later, Ilya Mikheyev also scored his first goal of the season on one of his patented shorthanded breakaways. T.J. Brodie assisted on both goals.
It was Holl’s first goal since he scored against these same Senators nine months ago in March 2021. Mikheyev was – or seemed like – the fastest player on either team all night. Critiqued for his bad hands, Mikheyev didn’t miss on two last night. It was just his second game back since his broken thumb. He looked on top of his game.
By the way, the last time the Maple Leafs scored two shorthanded goals in the first period of a game was on February 9, 1963, when Dave Keon and Ron Stewart scored two against the Montreal Canadiens’ great Jacques Plante in goal. Johnny Bower was the Maple Leafs’ goalie in that game. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs play again on Wednesday night when the Edmonton Oilers come to town. The Oilers are on a lengthy road trip, and it hasn’t been much fun. They’ve taken a point in each of their last two games, but have ultimately lost in overtime.
Still, any game with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Auston Matthews promises to be interesting. Again, the Maple Leafs will play in an empty arena.
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