By Stan Smith

I had this game pencilled in as a loss for the Toronto Maple Leafs long before it started. Back-to-back games, with travel in between, after playing a hard-fought battle versus the Boston Bruins. Then the team faces a rested, hot Hurricanes team with their third-string, winless, goalie in the net. The game had loss written all over it.  

The Bad

The game started just as I expected with Carolina owning the puck. The Shot Attempts in the first period were 20-7, the Shots 10-4, the Scoring Chances 10-3, and the High-Danger Chances 5-1, all for the Hurricanes.

But, the score after one period was just 1-0 for Carolina. The only goal came on a power play by Stefan Noesen with Justin Holl off for cross-checking. 

The Good

Coach Sheldon Keefe Mixes His Lines

Whether or not the players were inspired by the fact they were only down one after the first period is hard to say. However, the team definitely came out with some jump in the second period. Head coach Sheldon Keefe put the lines in a blender. He split up Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and it seemed to work. 

Auston Matthews RC

The makeshift line of Calle Jarnkrok, Pierre Engvall, and Michael Bunting got things going for the Maple Leafs. Justin Holl made a nice pinch and took a hard hit in the offensive zone to make a play to Engvall in the corner, who immediately passed the puck out to Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok settled the puck down a sent a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Frederik Andersen.


Erik Kallgren Was Stellar

After taking the 1-1 draw into the dressing room after two periods, the Hurricanes came out flying in the third period. The first eight minutes of the third period were played almost exclusively in the Maple Leafs’ zone. But Erik Kallgren was stellar. He stopped everything the Hurricanes threw at him. 

Kallgren stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced posting a .967 Save Percentage in the game. There is a case to be made that the goalie might have stolen this one. Who would have thought that Kallgren would be the goalie to do it? 

Once Again the Scorers Score

At 8:24 of the third period, John Tavares scored the 399th goal of his career. The play started back in the Maple Leafs’ end with a nice poke check by TJ Brodie. Tavares retrieved the puck, giving it to Nick Robertson who skated it into the offensive zone. Robertson’s attempted pass to Marner was blocked by Brady Skjei. 

However, Marner one-handedly poked the puck through Skjei’s legs, corralled it, then pulled it out of the reach of Brett Pesce before dishing it to Tavares as he streaked toward the net. Andersen did not get across the net fast enough as Tavares’ shot found the twine.

With 3:35 left in the game and the Maple Leafs holding on to the 2-1 lead, William Nylander (for the second game in a row) made the play of the game. After being on the ice for over a minute, Matthews and Alex Kerfoot combined to get the puck out of the Maple Leafs’ zone after some sustained pressure by Carolina. 

William Nylander, Maple Leafs

Rather than take the opportunity to change Nylander knocked the puck out of midair, and batted it toward the Hurricanes’ goal. As Jacob Slavin tried to corral the loose puck, Nylander bugged him enough to stop Slavin from getting control of it. Nylander lifted Slavin’s stick and managed to get his stick on the puck directing it toward Andersen.

It appeared Andersen was caught trying to decide whether to play the puck or freeze it. He did neither. The puck trickled between his legs and into the net to make the score 3-1 Maple Leafs. 

Related: Auston Matthews Smiling During Scrums: What Does It Mean?

Strong Game for Malgin

The best forward in the first two periods on the Maple Leafs was Denis Malgin. Malign had five shots on the net in the first two periods and was on the ice for four High-Danger Chances For and only one Against. 

Holl and Brodie Best Defensive Pair

Justin Holl and TJ Brodie were the Maple Leafs’ best defensive pair. They were on the ice for all three Maple Leafs’ goals and finished the game at plus-3 each. 

The Ugly

Sorry. I got nothing for the Ugly section for the first game this season. Unless you’re rooting for the Carolina Hurricanes. 

What’s Next

The Maple Leafs return home to face the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night. They then play another back-to-back next weekend Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Saturday versus the Vancouver Canucks. We might see Keith Petruzzelli get his first NHL start in one of those games.  

Meanwhile, we await word on how badly Ilya Samsonov is injured. He was placed on regular injury reserve to allow the Maple Leafs to call up Petruzzelli. That means Samsonov has to miss at least seven days which takes him to at least next Sunday. 

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

Even if he were deemed healthy enough to play, he would be unavailable for any of the next three games. Hopefully, his injury is not that serious. 

Matt Murray is reported to be ready to start practicing this week and may be available to play sometime soon. 

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 3-1 Win Over Hurricane

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