The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Dallas Stars last night 4-3 in overtime last night. What a road trip for the Maple Leafs. Had the team not blown a 5-1 lead against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, it would have been perfect. As it was, it was only really good.
Before the road trip began, what Maple Leafs’ fan would have considered pulling out seven of a possible eight points on this trip anything but amazing? That’s rhetorical: the answer is not a one!
In the end, the Maple Leafs had to go to overtime to pull out the win, but that even increased the drama and the success of it all. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look specifically at Matthews’ big night. I’ll also share news and insights about some of the other key events and players of the game and note what these might mean moving forward.
Item One: What More Is Left for Auston Matthews?
Last night, Matthews shattered the franchise record for goals scored in a season by adding two more to the 54 goals that had tied him with the record Maple Leafs’ great Rick Vaive set during the 1981-82 season. Matthews’ 56th goal was the overtime winner, and it gave Maple Leafs’ faithful two reasons to celebrate.
First, Matthews had broken a record that had stood for so long and had seen so many great players go after it, only to fail. Matthews is only 24 years old. What’s left for him to accomplish, even this season? Second, the second goal delivered the team’s win. That’s important because if moved the Maple Leafs five points up on both the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Atlantic Division playoff race.
Matthews absolutely dominated the game. Both goals were things of beauty for two different reasons. His first goal came as the result of an intelligent and beautiful play from newcomer defenseman Mark Giordano, who simply laid a pass right into Matthews’ “wheelhouse.” Matthews wasted not a second before he blasted it past goalie Scott Wedgewood (who played a really strong game for the Stars).
The second goal won the game in overtime. On this goal, Matthews wound up, broke down the right side into the Stars’ zone alone, went around every Stars’ player on the ice, faked out Wedgewood, and tucked the game-winner into the far side of the net. It was a dramatic conclusion to an amazing game from the Arizona native.
Item Two: Jack Campbell Won His 27th Game of the Season
It was not a busy game for Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell. On the negative side, he gave up three goals on 18 shots in last night’s overtime win over Dallas. He also let the Stars back into the game three times as they came back from three different one-goal deficits.
However, although his save percentage suffered because of the game, he didn’t let in a stinker. The Stars loaded up the front of the net and made it tough for Campbell to see. One goal was a great tip of an errant shot, another came on a great pass. There were always tons of bodies in front of the net.
However, on the positive side, Campbell stopped enough pucks to allow his team to emerge with the win. Campbell now has put up a record of 27-9-5, a goals-against-average of 2.72, and a save percentage of .912.
It won’t be chalked up as one of Campbell’s best performances this season, but he stopped the shots he needed to. He also allowed the drama of the night to unfold. In the end, the Maple Leafs took two important points and kept themselves in the thick of the Atlantic Division race.
Item Three: William Nylander Adds to His Career Season
William Nylander’s previous best seasons had been two 61-point efforts in 2016-17 and 2017-18. His two points last night jumped him to 68 points for this season and almost make him a point-a-game player. Those points have come in 70 games. He’s also standing on the cusp of a 30-goal season.
Nylander opened the game’s scoring with a goal and then helped end the game with his assist on Matthews’ game-winner. Nylander now owns a point-scoring streak of five games with three multiple-point games during that streak. On the season, he’s scored 28 goals and added 40 assists.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It was a tough, but successful 3-0-1 road trip for the team. Now the Maple Leafs head home to Toronto and will play the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. It will be the first of three straight home games.
Is there any chance that (a) Matthews will hit the 60-goal mark and the 100-point mark on this home stand? and (b) the Maple Leafs can catch the Florida Panthers?
Matthews seems to be seriously engaging in all those tasks. I just have a feeling that he won’t be stopped – at least on the 60 goals and 100 points.
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