In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the action of last night’s 5-0 shutout against the Los Angels Kings. A number of players had strong games.
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Given the Maple Leafs’ first-period domination without goals to show for it, the team might have gotten discouraged and chalked it up to one of those nights. However, they didn’t and kept pushing. When it was clear the team would skate to the win, they kept up their great defense to help Ilya Samsonov get the shutout.
Item 1: Mitch Marner Scores Again to Keep Streak Alive
Mitch Marner’s scoring streak has now reached 21 games. He scored a nice goal after a Kings’ turnover when he circled back quickly to slap the puck past Jonathan Quick. On his streak, Marner has totaled 28 points (on 10 goals and 18 assists).
Marner might have scored or assisted on a number of goals during the game; and given the level of his play throughout, it was surprising he only had a single point, as he should have registered two or three more.
In addition to his extended franchise-record point-scoring streak, Marner is earning his way into the hearts of Maple Leafs’ fans. Frankly, since his difficult and prolonged salary negotiations that ended in September 2019, he’s had a hard go of it with many of the fans. But after his goal to extend his record, the fans at Scotiabank Arena exploded with cheering. (They were led by Maple Leafs’ fan and friend Justin Bieber.)
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Can Marner’s streak continue? Two active NHL players currently hold longer streaks. Nova Scotia’s Sidney Crosby holds the second-longest at 25 games (set in 2011), while nearby Buffalo, New York, native Patrick Kane is first with a 26-game streak (set in 2015).
Item 2: Samsonov Is Perfect in Shutout Win
Ilya Samsonov stopped everything that came his way during his 5-0 shutout victory over the Kings. He was as perfect in his win as Matt Murray was over the Dallas Stars in the game prior. However, it was just a bit easier for Samsonov than it was for Murray. The same results, however.
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As noted, Samsonov’s 29-save win was the Maple Leafs’ second shutout this week. Murray had stopped all 44 shots he faced on Tuesday in Texas. The win last night was Samsonov’s seventh-straight home victory.
Samsonov now has started 10 games for his new team, giving up two goals or less in eight of those games. He now sits second in the NHL in both goals-against-average at 1.88 and save percentage at .933. The Boston Bruins’ Linus Ullmark leads the NHL in both categories.
A case can be made that the current Maple Leafs’ twosome is now the best goaltending tandem in the entire league. Who would have thought that when the regular season began?
Item 3: Auston Matthews No Hat Tricks, but Goals Keep Coming
Auston Matthews hasn’t been scoring in bunches, but he’s still scoring. He’s now on a six-game streak, where he’s registered 10 points (five goals and five assists) in those games.
Matthews now has 31 points in 28 games this season. Given that he’s currently 10 goals behind the NHL leader Connor McDavid, if he is going to reclaim the Rocket Richard Trophy he’ll have to pick up his pace. That said, perhaps the team’s winning ways are more important to Matthews than personal accolades. He’s definitely matured into his role as a Maple Leafs’ team leader.
Item 4: Maple Leafs’ Goal Leader? William Nylander with 15
William Nylander, who’s Matthews’ line partner, is leading the team in goals with 15. He scored a nifty goal on a beautiful deke that he slid five-hole through Quick. He also added an assist in the win last night. After simply dominating the first period and having nothing to show for it, his goal was the third Maple Leafs’ goal in just over a minute (66 seconds).
Amazingly, two other teams have scored three goals more quickly this season. The Florida Panthers scored three against the Vancouver Canucks in 59 seconds, and the Carolina Hurricanes scored three against the St. Louis Blues in 64 seconds.
Nylander now is on a point-a-game pace with 28 points in 28 games. He is also in the NHL’s top 10 for goal-scoring this season.
Item 5: Nick Robertson Suffers Another Injury
Even if you’re not a Maple Leafs’ fan, you have to feel bad for Nick Robertson. He suffered another injury (his shoulder) last night after playing for less than two minutes. The report is that he’ll be out of commission for quite a long time.
Currently, it’s unknown how long Robertson might be out. But it sounds like weeks or even months rather than day-to-day. The 21-year-old has an extraordinary work ethic and a hunger to play.
He’s likely going to need to call on that reserve for yet another rehab. It has to be personally discouraging for the youngster – especially since he was scheduled to get a long look on the team’s productive second line with Calle Jarnkrok out with his own injury.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs’ next game is on Saturday night against the enigmatic Calgary Flames. They’ll see their former center and last season’s Stanley Cup champ Nazem Kadri who will visit his former city.
The Flames have not played as well as expected this season, in part because of the goalie woes of Jacob Markstrom. They play tonight in Columbus against the Blue Jackets where they will face off against old friend Johnny Gaudreau.
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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