Yesterday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3. It was a bit of a snoozer until the Flyers mounted a comeback in the middle of the third period and made it exciting.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the player news that emerged from yesterday’s action. I’ll also look at some of the team’s injuries and will take a quick look at Denis Malgin’s first game with his new team.
Item One: Home Is Good for Goalie Ilya Samsonov
Ilya Samsonov started yesterday’s home game against the Flyers looking to bounce back after his poorest showing of the season against his former team, the Washington Capitals. Just five days ago, he gave up five goals on 28 shots when his team lost 5-2 on the road.
Still, heading into yesterday’s game, he had some of the best goalie statistics in the NHL, with a 9-3-0 record, a goals-against-average of 1.98, and a save percentage of .929. He now carries a goals-against-average of 2.07 and a save percentage of .924. Still good, but sliding a bit.
Oddly, he was both lucky and unlucky in his 13th game. First, he won the game. In doing so, he tied a franchise record for most wins at home to start any season with nine. He hasn’t lost at home this season, but he also hasn’t won on the road yet.
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Samsonov’s game was probably mediated by the play of his teammates in front of him. He only faced seven shots during the first two periods. However, when the Flyers mounted a third-period pushback, he let a couple of pucks slide through the five-hole that he should have stopped.
It made the third period exciting. Toronto was ahead 4-1 at the 11:39 mark, but the Flyers scored two goals within 83 seconds (at 12:01 and 13:24). Despite the win, the game was a bit shakier game than we’re used to from Samsonov.
Item Two: Mitch Marner Is also Doing Well on Home Ice
You might say that Mitch Marner is doing well at home and on the road, but, like Samsonov, he’s playing well at home. In yesterday’s game, he hit 14 straight games with a point, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
Marner’s goal came on a nice power-play helper from captain John Tavares, and during his streak, he has five goals and 16 assists. Added to his 19 points on the road, Marner leads the team with 40 points.
Item Three: A Surprising Second in Team Point Scoring? William Nylander
William Nylander has been hot all season. He’s on a three-game goal-scoring streak. In yesterday’s game, he scored one goal and added two assists in the team’s 4-3 win.
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Nylander’s goal was a pretty one. He was held up against the boards, fought to free himself, skated toward the goal, took a pass on the goalie’s left side, skated through the top of the goal area through traffic, and tossed a great backhander past Carter Hart’s blocker. It really was a hard-working goal that only a confident and highly-skilled player could have scored.
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Nylander has scored a goal and an assist in each of his last three games, and his 39 points (20 goals and 19 assists) are tied for second place with Auston Matthews in team scoring. Both are a single point behind Marner.
Item Four: Mark Giordano Continues to Skate Heavy Minutes
Quietly, Mark Giordano has been one of the Maple Leafs’ most valuable players this season. He’s only put up 10 points in 34 games, but he’s a calming influence on a constantly-changing blue line and continues to log heavy minutes.
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For someone who was supposed to play fewer minutes as a third-pairing defenseman, Giordano is nearing 20 minutes (19:43) each game. He’s also producing quality time as one of the team leaders with a plus-13 rating.
Against the Flyers, Giordano collected an assist in his second straight game, giving him three assists in his last five games. Until Morgan Rielly returns from his knee injury, look for Giordano to continue to be called upon to lead this team’s defensive corps.
Item Five: Rasmus Sandin Placed on Injured Reserve
No surprise. The team’s defensive unit has a new injury. Rasmus Sandin was placed on injured reserve and missed the team’s final game before the Christmas break with a neck injury. We don’t know yet when he might return.
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Against the Flyers, Sandin was replaced by veteran Jordie Benn, who had not played since Nov. 23. Benn played 15:18 yesterday, and, in truth, I didn’t notice him much at all. That’s a good sign for a depth defenseman.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs are now on their Christmas break. Their next game is on Dec. 27 on the road against the St. Louis Blues. They then head to Arizona two days later to play the Coyotes and are in Colorado against Denis Malgin and the Avalanche on New Year’s Eve.
It didn’t take Malgin long to land in Denver. The Avalanche are desperate for forwards after a spate of injuries. In his first game – a 2-1 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens – he saw 16:21 of ice time. He didn’t score, but he had three hits and three shots on the net.
His Avalanche debut probably was a taste of how he’ll be used. With the Maple Leafs, he averaged 11:37 TOI in 23 games. But it looks like, at least for now, the 25-year-old Swiss forward will have a chance to play a bigger offensive role with the Avalanche.