The Toronto Maple Leafs turned it around on the San Jose Sharks by a score of 3-1 last night. The last time these two teams met was on October 27, when the Maple Leafs lost in overtime by a score of 4-3. They went on to lose two more times on that ill-fated trip before they returned home.
Then November came. And what a November it was. After the game last night was in the books, the team had gone 11-1-3 on the month. Things had changed. In this edition of Maple Leafs Takeaways, I’ll look at a number of key points in the game and share Mitch Marner’s record-tying moment.
Takeaway One: Borje Salming Tribute Raises Funds for ALS
The one thing that I hope never gets said about the Maple Leafs is that they lack class as an organization. Last night was an example of just that class. After a great tribute to Borje Salming on November 11, just a week before his death, the team became really practical in its continuing tribute.
Last night a ceremony with 21 seconds of silence was held before the game. Maple Leafs’ players wore their Reverse Retro jerseys during the game; and, all these jerseys will be auctioned off. All proceeds from the public auction will go to ALS Action Canada.
As well, the commemorative blue and gold jersey patch (seen above) that the team has been wearing to honour Salming will also be made available for purchase. Again, all net proceeds for the remainder of the season will go to ALS Action Canada. (from “ Tribute to Borje Salming, ALS fundraiser Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 29/11/2022).
Takeaway Two: Big Mac Attack Continues
Auston Matthews is enjoying his friend Mac Hollowell’s success almost as much as Hollowell is. Last night, Hollowell made a great shot/pass feed to Matthews for the game’s first goal. Again, the big smile from Matthews said it all.
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That Hollowell played was a surprise. Prior to the game, the line combinations for last night’s game suggested that newcomer Conor Timmins would get his first start in the Blue and White. Maple Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe had a hunch (or didn’t to tempt success), it seems. The result was another Big Mac point for the young defenseman.
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Hollowell has been moved up and down between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Maple Leafs’ roster, but he’s surviving. Notwithstanding a rookie mistake or two (or call them lessons from the masters, Evgeni Malkin for example, in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game), he’s becoming more confident. He seems to be making his mark.
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Last night was Hollowell’s fifth straight NHL game; and, as Matthews has teased, he’s unbeaten thus far. He’s also had assists in two straight games.
Takeaway Three: Mitch Marner (Finally) Ties Maple Leafs Record
It was a bit of a crazy sequence to end the game, but Mitch Marner finally scored. That goal extended his point-scoring streak and tied the Maple Leafs’ franchise record at 18 games. In that sequence, he passed up an empty net shot by trying to feed Michael Bunting, hit an empty-net post; and, finally scored on a nice feed from Alex Kerfoot to extend the point streak.
Marner is one away from holding that Maple Leafs’ all-time club record by himself. He’ll get that chance in Tampa Bay on Saturday. As fans have probably heard redundantly, the current streak is shared by Darryl Sittler (who set it first in 1977-78) and Ed Olczyk (who tied that record in 1989-90).
During that streak, the 25-year-old Marner has scored seven goals and added 17 assists (for 24 points). Marner’s reaction was, at least to me, the most memorable thing about watching him tie the streak. Marner was emotional on the bench as buddy Matthews led the cheering. The record obviously matters to Marner, and the crowd’s salute and Marner’s response were genuine and human.
Takeaway Four: Nick Robertson Is Working Hard to Stay in the Lineup
With Calle Jarnkrok suffering a groin injury during the game and the word out that he might not be back for a while, it looks as if Nick Robertson might get an extended time with the team. Robertson still might make a mistake or two (or even three), but no one can ever fault his work ethic.
Typically, the narrative goes that Robertson needs to play in the team’s top six to be effective. Last night, he got physical with the fourth line of Zach Aston-Reese and David Kampf. In Robertson’s return to game action after being a healthy scratch for three games, he registered a team-high four hits during the win over the Sharks.
The fourth line is edgy, and Robertson channelled that edge. Interestingly, in Robertson’s other six games of the season, he only had four hits combined. He doubled that total last night. At the same time, the fourth line also generated some offence.
Takeaway Five: The Maple Leafs Bottom Six Delivers the Game
Hats off to David Kampf for his play during the game that led to Pierre Engvall’s game-winning goal. Kampf has played solid defence since he’s come to the team last season, and last night was no different.
Had Kampf not intercepted the pass that led to Engvall’s goal, the Maple Leafs might not have won the game. As well, there’s also a good chance that Marner would not have been able to tie the record.
The perfect storm that led to Marner’s 3-1 goal began with Kampf’s exceptional play stealing that pass with just a few minutes left in the game. The team’s bottom six contributed big time to the win.
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