Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished a perfect four-game road trip with a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings were coming into the game on a five-game winning streak, while the Maple Leafs had not lost a game in regulation in their last eight games.
Toronto extended that streak to nine games, while the Red Wings’ streak was stopped in its tracks. The Maple Leafs will seek some revenge on the San Jose Sharks, who come into town tomorrow night. The Maple Leafs lost 4-3 to the Sharks in overtime on October 27.
Item One: The Game Came Down to Goalie Play
The funny thing about the game last night was that I couldn’t figure out which team played better. The Red Wings had tons of shots; and, according to the advanced analytics had the most high-danger chances.
However, what I saw was that the Red Wings had lots of shots on the net but the shots didn’t seem threatening. Goalie Matt Murray tracked the puck well all night long. He stopped everything except a scrambly goal and a change of direction goal that was tipped past him. He had no chance on either of those goals.
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During the game, the Maple Leafs knocked out Detroit goalie Ville Husso for the first time this season by scoring four times in 13 shots on the net. Husso had been great in the net for the Red Wings and had entered the game with a 9-2-3 record. He was less than great last night.
The key to the win was the Maple Leafs’ goalie and the Maple Leafs’ team defence. Although the Red Wings shot lots at Murray, the team defence allowed Murray to see the puck all night and he responded by stopping shot after shot.
Item Two: Matt Murray Undefeated in Four Straight
Matt Murray just keeps winning. His streak is now four-straight wins. On the night, he made 42 saves. Better yet, although the Red Wings threw tons of shots on the net during the game, after the Red Wings’ first score, for almost 45 minutes of game action Murray stopped everything. As noted, the final goal was a change-of-direction shot.
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The 28-year-old Murray has now won four straight games and remains unbeaten since October 12. His season’s record is now 5-1-1 and he hasn’t given up more than three goals in six of the seven games he’s played this season.
Item Three: Marner Now Is Only One Game from Franchise Record
Mitch Marner’s game-winning goal now puts him within one game of the Toronto franchise record of 18-straight games registering a point. Marner simply seems so in control of his game that he appears to be playing at a different speed than those around him. He scored a goal and also blocked three shots during the 4-2 win.
How good has Marner been this season? He’s only missed hitting the scoresheet twice all season long. During the game, there were times when he looked to be in complete control of the play. It was interesting to watch how patient he was with the puck, waiting for something to develop. If it didn’t, he then went to plan b.
The 25-year-old right Marner is now up to 17 straight games with at least a point. That’s a single game shy of matching Darryl Sittler (1977-78) and Ed Olczyk (1989-90). Marner has scored six goals and added 17 assists (for 23 points) in his almost record-setting streak.
Item Four: Auston Matthews Blocks Five Shots in All-Round Game
Auston Matthews scored a goal and registered an assist during last night’s win. In his last two games, Matthews has now collected five points. However, he’s especially effective against the Red Wings. In 18 career games, Matthews now has scored 16 goals and added 13 assists (for 29 points).
His game is also getting stronger defensively as well. Both he and Marner put themselves in front of the Red Wings shooters. As noted, Marner was credited with three blocked shots during the game (I thought I saw more); and, Matthews was credited with five blocked shots. Both have been playing well.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Sooner or later, one of the injured defensemen will return to the lineup. That will move young Mac Hollowell back to the Toronto Marlies. However, it’s had to have been a solid experience for Hollowell with the big club.
Last night, Hollowell got his first NHL point with a nice breakout pass up the wall that became the secondary assist on Matthews’ goal. It was good to see Matthews present the puck to the young defenseman.
And, as Matthews teased him after the game, Hollowell is unbeaten in NHL play. Since he’s played, the Maple Leafs haven’t lost.
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