By Stan Smith
On Tuesday night the Toronto Maple Leafs did what they should do. They dominated a team they should dominate, something they have struggled to do in the past. Their 7-0 win over the last-place Anaheim Ducks gives Maple Leafs’ fans hope that this season’s team is indeed different from past versions.
The first “Good” is the fact that, as I noted in the opening, the Maple Leafs soundly defeated a team they should beat.
Five of the six goals scored came from outside of the top six forwards. Ten of the fourteen assists awarded in the game also came from outside of the top six forwards.
The Three Point Club
Two of the newest additions to the Maple Leafs’ lineup assisted on three goals. Righthanded defenseman Conor Timmins recently acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes, assisted on the first three goals the Maple Leafs scored in the game. With all of the records the team has set recently, it makes me wonder if that may be a record of some kind. Timmins was also plus two in the game and had two takeaways. He now has four assists in his first six games with the Maple Leafs.
I realize it is a really small sample size but if Timmins can remain healthy, something he has had trouble doing in the past, it appears that the 6-foot-2 24-year-old St. Catharines native might be a good pickup for Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. At the very least, having a new player get the start Timmins has had is a lot better than having him struggle out of the gate.
Pontus Holmberg, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick by Kyle Dubas, also assisted on three goals in this game. Whereas Timmins was in on the Maple Leafs’ first three goals, all three of Holmberg’s assists came on the team’s last three goals.
The Two Point Club
Alex Kerfoot doubled his goal production for the season, from two to four, with a pair of almost identical snipes in the game. While Kerfoot has been his usual sound player defensively, he has struggled to put the puck in the net this season. With a $3.5M cap hit, the Maple Leafs need some offensive production to go along with Kerfoot’s defensive game. Hopefully, this is just what he needs to get his offence headed in the right direction.
Pierre Engvall is another bottom-six forward for the Maple Leafs that has been playing solidly without the puck but has struggled with the puck this season. After scoring 15 goals and finishing the season with 35 points in 2021-22, it was hoped Engvall could take the next step and fill the void left by the departed Ilya Mikheyev. Until now, that hasn’t happened.
Engvall’s nice cross-ice setup of Kerfoot’s first goal that opened the scoring in the game, and his nice shot that beat Duck’s goalie Lukas Dostal in the third period to put the Maple Leafs up 6-0 is more of what the team expected of Engvall this season. Engvall needs to build off of that.
Rasmus Sandin had two assists in the game. That gives him five points in his last four games. The confidence that Sandin is presently playing with is obvious. He’s making things happen with the puck while still playing a strong defensive game. Sandin has played over twenty minutes a game in six games straight and in nine of his last ten games. He is an amazing plus-twelve in those ten games.
Mitch Marner stretched his consecutive points streak to 23 games with two assists in the game. Marner has 31 points in those 23 games and has scored eight goals in his last nine games.
John Tavares scored a goal and added an assist in the game to get him back to exactly a point-a-game pace for the season. Tavares now has 14 goals, 16 assists, and 30 points in 30 games.
The Zero Goals Against Club
This is a one-man club and Ilya Samsonov is the only member. He stopped all 25 shots he faced to post his second shutout in as many games. Samsonov has not allowed a goal in December. The last goal he gave up was at 7:26 of the second period on November 30th against the San Jose Sharks. Samsonov has now gone just shy of 153 minutes without allowing a goal.
In December, he faced 71 shots and stopped them all. Samsonov remains undefeated at home this season with an 8-0 record He’s one shy of the record for games played from the beginning of the season without a defeat set by Bruce Gamble way back in 1968. According to Quanthockey.com Samsonov leads the league in save percentage (.939) and goals against average (1.70) for goalies that have played ten or more games this season.
I struggled to find anything bad in this game. I hate to harp on something, and I realize the referees have a difficult and thankless job, but once again I found there were a lot of obvious calls missed in this game on both sides, and some cheesy calls that were made. An obvious accidental bump that was called interference and a player getting called for tripping because a player stepped on his stick were two of the penalties that were called. I saw three obvious trips and two high sticks that were not called.
How can the Anaheim Ducks be this bad? In 30 games they have only ONE regulation win. Looking over their roster, they don’t have a lot of talent up front. Calder trophy finalist Trevor Zegras and Canada Junior standout Mason McTavish appear to be their most talented forwards. After that, they have several middling players like Troy Terry, Adam Henrique, Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and Jakob Silfverberg.
Their defence on paper doesn’t look bad with John Klingberg, Kevin Shattenberg, Cam Fowler, and Dimitry Kulikov as their top four. John Gibson, who was once considered elite, should not be this bad at only 29 years of age.
I did notice that the Ducks have over $20 million in current cap space accordion to Capfriendly.com. In a league where 50% of the teams are spending right to the cap, or above it once you figure in LTIR contracts, and 26 of the 32 teams are within $3 million of the league’s salary cap, maybe the Ducks are an example of “You get what you pay for.”
But, one regulation win? It doesn’t get any uglier than that.