By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs extended their consecutive game streak without a regulation loss to 13 games on Thursday night by shutting out the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 in Toronto. Just as impressive is the fact that the Maple Leafs have only lost one game in regulation in their past 19 games going all the way back to October 29th.
Let’s get the Bad and the Ugly out of the way first.
This could have just as easily gone under the title “Ugly.” Nick Robertson, after playing just 1:58 in the game, was manhandled by Matt Roy. Robertson fell hard, hitting his right shoulder on the ice and the boards simultaneously. He lay on the ice in pain as play continued for a dozen seconds before it was whistled down. Robertson left the ice under his own power but with his right arm hanging limply at his side.
Sheldon Keefe stated after the game that Robertson would be out for an extended period.
Because of his injury history, up until recently, I had cringed every time Robertson suffered a hard hit. I would hold my breath until I knew whether or not he was alright. I was just starting to get over that feeling.
This has to be another devastating blow to the 21-year-old’s career and one more of a series of setbacks in Robertson’s attempt to earn a spot in the Maple Leafs’ lineup.
After playing what was looking like his best game of the season, and scoring his fourth goal, Pierre Engvall was also showing some of the feistiness Maple Leafs’ fans had been looking for in the 6-foot-5 215-pound forward. That was until, after several exchanges between him and former Maple Leafs’ prospect Sean Durzi, Engvall decided to tomahawk Durzi over the head with his stick.
I thought at first it may have been an accident or a reflex reaction by Engvall, but after watching replays of the incident it appeared to me to be deliberate. At the very least it was an extremely careless play by Engvall. He was given a five-minute major and match penalty for his actions, plus had a disciplinary hearing with the NHL on Friday.
The result of that hearing was that Engvall was suspended a game for his actions. He’s a first-time offender and that could have worked in his favour. These are the types of things the league usually comes down hard on.
Two things everyone has undoubtedly seen, read, or heard about by now are Ilya Samsonov’s shutout and Marner scoring his 11th goal to extend his franchise record consecutive game point streak to 21 games.
Samsonov’s 29-save performance, while not as spectacular as Matt Murray’s 44-saves in Dallas, was still an amazing game. It was also the seventh home victory from the start of the season for Samsonov. That is the second-best home-win streak from the beginning of a season in the franchise’s history, and two games shy of Bruce Gamble’s start to the 1967-68 season when he won his first nine home starts.
Marner’s 21-game point-scoring streak ties him for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks (1971-72), Dave Taylor of the Los Angeles Kings (1981-82), and Adam Oates of the Boston Bruins (1992-93). If Marner can extend his streak one more game, he’ll enter the top 20 all-time in the league. (Information courtesy of NHL.com.)
Eleven players scored at least a single point in the game. William Nylander, with a goal and an assist, and Michael Bunting, with two assists, led the team in points. Nylander’s goal was his team-leading 15th of the season.
Matthews scored his 14th goal of the season and extended his points streak to six games. He has also scored goals in five of those six games.
Bunting has a seven-game point streak of his own going. He’s not scored a goal during the streak but has nine assists.
The Calgary Flames come to town Saturday night. They lost on Friday and presently hold down the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with a 13-11-3 record. They were on a three-game winning streak before losing to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. The Flames’ visit to Toronto will be Calgary’s third game in four nights.
Wayne Simmonds was a full participant in Friday’s practice and is expected to replace the injured Robertson in the lineup against the Flames. Joey Anderson was called up from the Marlies. Whether he sees action on Saturday night will be determined by the outcome of Engvall’s hearing.
Denis Malgin took Robertson’s place alongside Marner and John Tavares in Friday’s practice.