3 Keys to a Rangers’ Win Over the Maple Leafs

The New York Rangers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden (MSG) Thursday, Dec. 15. The Rangers are unbeaten in four straight, coming off of an overtime win on Dec. 12 over a surprising New Jersey Devils team and a shootout win over defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 9.

The Maple Leafs are on a hot streak of their own, earning at least a point in their last 15 games. Since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime on Dec. 3, they’re 4-0, including three shutout wins. Here’s a look at the keys for the 15-10-5 Rangers to beat the 19-5-6 Maple Leafs Thursday night.

Stop Marner

Mitch Marner is on a hot streak of his own, and it’s one for the ages. He’s on a 23-game point streak heading into MSG and recently broke the previous Maple Leafs’ record of 18 straight games held by Darryl Sittler and Eddie Olczyk. Marner is also on pace to pass former Maple Leafs’ star Doug Gilmour for most points in a calendar year.

Marner has 11 goals and 20 assists during this streak and showing no signs of slowing down. If they can put an end to Marner’s streak, the Blueshirts should have a good chance for a big win here. However, he isn’t the only one they have to worry about.

Shesterkin vs. Murray or Samsonov

Igor Shesterkin will likely start in net for the Rangers. As for the Maple Leafs, it could be either of their goalies, Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov. They’ve pretty much-split games this season. Murray has won four of his last five starts with one shutout. Samsonov has won five of his last five, with shutouts in the past two. Toronto is hot, and their goaltending is playing up to the level the organization hoped for when they brought these two goaltenders into the fold.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Shesterkin plays, he will need to have a better game than his counterpart. Sure, that’s what every coach wants from their goalie, but in this case, it carries added weight. Shesterkin has a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA) this season, which is average or below and certainly below expectations for the former 2021-22 Hart Trophy (MVP) nominee and Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) winner. He has only one shutout so far this season, and we all know his passion and competitiveness, which needs to show tonight to help propel the Rangers to a fifth straight win.

Shut Down Matthews, Nylander & Tavares

As always against the Maple Leafs, the Rangers will have to stop Auston Matthews. Matthews, last year’s Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player (MVP) and two-time reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner for most goals in a season, isn’t off to a great start, with 15 goals in 30 games, which is below average for him. However, he can spring for four or five goals at any time.

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William Nylander leads the Maple Leafs with 17 goals, and captain John Tavares is playing well, averaging a point per game. Marner, Matthews, Nylander, and Tavares work well on the power play together, so the Rangers need to stay out of the penalty box tonight. Tavares leads the way with 15 power-play points, Marner and Nylander have 13, and Matthews has 12, and the team is ranked ninth in the league with the man advantage; the Maple Leafs have a 24.49 percent success rate (PP%), while the Rangers are ranked 16th with a 22.68 PP%.

Marner, Goaltending & Supporting Cast

The Rangers and Shesterkin must work together to shut down Marner, Matthews, Nylander, and Tavares while finding a way to break through the Maple Leafs’ goaltender. Both teams are running hot, but the Blueshirts can use this game to get themselves back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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