By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs battled to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars to finish up their four-game homestand with a 3-1 record, bringing their overall record to 3-2 for the season. Here is our good, bad and ugly takeaways from the game.
One of the problems with using the terms good, bad, and ugly to report on games is that sometimes using the term good just doesn’t seem a good enough term to be using. This is one of those times.
The term Great is the most appropriate term to use when describing Nick Robertson’s game. His quasi-power play goal to tie the game on a one-timer was a goalscorer’s goal. His overtime-winning goal was a thing of beauty.
First, as the last man back on a long Dallas two-on-one, Robertson makes a great defensive play with a poke check on Jamie Benn. Robertson knocked the puck directly from Benn’s stick to Morgan Rielly’s creating a three-on-one the other way with him, Rielly, and Auston Matthews. Rielly gets the puck to Robertson, who enters the zone and makes a smart play giving the puck to the trailer Matthews in the deep slot.
You can tell at that point that Dallas goaltender Scott Wedgewood is sold on the 60-goal Matthews taking the shot. Instead, Matthews saucers a pass back to Robertson. Watching the play in slow motion, Wedgewood doesn’t even begin to move toward Robertson until the puck is already on Robertson’s stick.
Also, rather than depending on Matthews to take the shot, as soon as Robertson passes the puck to Matthews, he immediately puts himself in a one-timer position. Last, he puts the puck right into the center of the net, making no mistake.
Robertson’s regular stat line in the game was two goals, four shots, three hits, and two takeaways. His analytics were even more impressive. According to Naturalstattrick.com, at five-on-five Robertson was on the ice for 76.9 percent of the Shots For (10 for, 3 against), 77.8 percent of the High Danger Scoring Chances For (7 for, 2 against), and 64.9 percent of the Expected Goals.
It is only one game, but what a game for a player who is trying to tell the team he belongs in the NHL.
Ilya Samsonov played his third solid game in a row. He was especially strong in the latter half of the first period when the Stars were all over the Maple Leafs. Samsonov has limited the opposition to two goals in each of his three games, and has all three of the Maple Leafs wins this season.
By my eyes, he has only allowed one questionable goal in his three starts. His numbers after three starts are 3-0, 1.96 Goals-Against-Average, and 9.27% Save Percentage.
Rasmus Sandin played an excellent game both with and without the puck. He got a shot through to the net on the powerplay that created the rebound that Alex Kerfoot scored on to tie the game at one. There was a shift in the midway point of the second period where Sandin prevented Jason Robertson from entering the slot, blocked a shot by Ryan Suter, and then blocked another Robertson shot.
Sandin was also very physical throughout the game and led the team in hits with seven. He also had two shots on the net. Sandin played the second-most ice time of the six Maple Leafs’ defensemen at 20:35 TOI. He got caught a couple of times being overly aggressive defensively, but it was an excellent game for Sandin.
I want to quickly mention Sheldon Keefe here for recognizing Robertson was having the game he was having and for putting him out on the ice in the three-on-three overtime. Many coaches would have gone solely with more experienced proven players. Keefe rewarded Robertson’s play throughout the game with the chance and Robertson didn’t disappoint.
After the Coyotes’ game, we mentioned that Mitch Marner played a good game and at times looked like he was on the ice all by himself and didn’t seem to get any help from his linemates. This game was the opposite. Marner struggled to make plays with the puck all night. He really seemed to be pressing in this game.
We have come to realize that Marner’s game is all about confidence. When he has it, he’s one of the best players in the game. When he doesn’t, he has games like this one. He was negative in every analytics category and led the team in giveaways with five.
Marner did make some good defensive plays without the puck; but, with the puck, this game was a nightmare for him.
Zero For Two On Video Reviews
I joked to someone the other day that I know which way video reviews are going to go. Whichever way I think they should go, they go the opposite. I was sure the Rielly-glove-pass goal was going to count in the Arizona game, and I thought the goalie interference call was going to stand in the Dallas game.
I thought the replay clearly showed that Tyler Seguin pushed Marner into Samsonov. You could see during the play how he extended his arms using his stick to shove Marner. Once again, I was wrong. I am not a conspiracy theorist that thinks the referees have it in for the Maple Leafs. I figure in one of these games these calls have to even themselves out for the Maple Leafs.
I thought the refereeing was pretty shaky the whole game and not just how it related to the Maple Leafs. There were weak calls made by the referees both ways, as well as missed calls on both teams.
The Number One Power Play Unit
Clearly, Auston Matthews and Marner have not found their games yet, and the power play shows it. The first unit went zero-for-eight in this game after failing to get a single shot on the net on their first four chances in the Arizona game. They are struggling to get into the offensive zone and to maintain zone time if they do get in. At some point in time, they will get things going. They are way too talented not to. Let’s just hope it is soon.
The ugly part of this game for me was the last eight minutes of the first period. The Maple Leafs played a solid first twelve minutes of the game and only allowed Dallas two shots on the net. At the same time, they compiled five shots of their own. However, the Maple Leafs spent the remaining eight minutes of the period either scrambling to chase the puck in their own zone. When they did get their sticks on it, they immediately gave it back to the Stars.
Dallas outshot the Maple Leafs nine to one in the last eight minutes of the first period. Thankfully Samsonov was at his best. He didn’t allow Dallas to capitalize on their chances during that stretch.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs head out on the road on a 10-day five-game stretch that takes them to Winnipeg and Las Vegas before going to the west coast for games in San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Despite winning three of their first five games, the Maple Leafs have struggled to start the season. This trip might be a good thing for them. Hopefully, they can use the trip to build some momentum.
One last note. Mark Giordano left the game after crashing into the boards heavily in the third period. Keefe stated after the game that he was fine. That’s good news as the team’s defensive depth is getting mighty thin.
Related: MAPLE LEAFS MUSINGS: LINEUP CHANGES, MUZZIN’S INJURY, KEEFE’S COMMENTS, SALARY CAP