It was a much needed win for the Toronto Maple Leafs who’ve had some iffy games out of the gate to start the 2019-20 season, but they got it done on Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. It was on the back of a four-goal second period that the Maple Leafs were able to come out on the winning side, with a strong performance from their top-six forwards.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the takeaways from a Maple Leafs squad that now sits at 4-2-1 on the season.
Giving Up the First Goal
It’s not all good news for the Maple Leafs who gave up the first goal of the game for the sixth time in seven games to start the year. Yet another defensive breakdown, no player saw Luke Kunin coming off the bench and he was left with ample space to fire home second goal of the season.
Whatever it is for the Maple Leafs, they have to find a way to limit teams from opening the scoring. While it might not be the biggest issue for the team just yet – who have four wins in their first seven games – it could be a problem that comes back to bite them later in the season.
Andersen on His Game
After a few questionable outings to start the year, Frederik Andersen seemed to be on his game for the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. The goaltender stopped 27 of 29 shots for a .931 save percentage in the game and came up big on a number of high-quality scoring chances for the Wild.
While he would’ve surely liked to have not given up two goals, the first was a bullet through a screen in front which he had next to no chance at saving with the Wild’s second goal coming on a rebound that squirted out in front of the Maple Leafs netminder.
Either way, Andersen needs to build off of this outing as he will be a vital part of the Maple Leafs success once again this season.
In the second period, the Maple Leafs scored four goals – all that they needed to walk away with the win on Tuesday. What’s better is that defenceman Morgan Rielly – who has faced a hint of criticism so far this season – had a hand in all four of the team’s tallies.
Wait, there’s more. With the four assists in one period, Rielly tied a franchise record for most assists in one period of a regular season game – a record that had previously been set by Rick Vaive in 1984.
The four helpers also gave the 25-year-old nine assists in seven games to start the season.
Penalty Kill on Point
It’s something we’ve been talking about all season so far, but the Maple Leafs penalty kill came up big on Tuesday against the Wild. While they still gave their opponents three opportunities on the power play, the Maple Leafs penalty kill was able to avoid any goals in killing off all three chances.
It’s not something the Maple Leafs have dominated in so far this season. Through seven games, the team has killed of 81 percent of their penalties – good enough for 17th in the league in that category and something they will have to work on if they want to continue their success.
Finally, Some Home Cooking
If nothing else, the sweetest feeling was getting the win on home ice for the Maple Leafs who have struggled at Scotiabank Arena so far this season. In five games this season, the Maple Leafs have just two wins at home with the victory against the Wild being their first home win in four tries.
Their last home win came against the Ottawa Senators on opening night when they defeated their rivals with a 5-3 score.
The win also gives the Maple Leafs a small two-game win streak as they look ahead to Wednesday night when they will take on the Washington Capitals in the second half of a back-to-back in Washington.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.