The Toronto Maple Leafs’ last two games were vastly different. Two games ago, the team went to Phoenix to play the Arizona Coyotes and lost big by a score of 6-3. The team was flat as flat can be.
Then against a far superior team – the Colorado Avalanche – in the next game, the team jumped all over the Avalanche in mile-high air and won a 6-2 victory.
How can the team play such different games in the space of three days?
The Core Four Didn’t Contribute Against the Coyotes
To say the Core Four didn’t play well against the Coyotes is an understatement. Obviously, in that game, a number of things went wrong for the Maple Leafs. But the one thing that could have carried that game, but did not, was that the Core Four just didn’t show up.
Sure there were a number of posts hit – I believe I counted three on the night – but the Core Four was shut out completely. In fact, when they did show up, it was on the negative side of the ledger.
In the Coyotes game, not a member of the four – a group that includes Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares – registered a single point last night. Nada. Nothing. No points.
That doesn’t happen that often. Only against the New York Rangers, just over two weeks ago, had that happened this season. In that game, the Maple Leafs lost 3-1.
Worse, the Core Four was a collective minus-12 in the Coyotes game. Matthews and Nylander were each rated a minus-4. Marner and Tavares were each rated a minus-2.
The Core Four Came to Play Against the Avalanche
Against the Avalanche it was a different story. Instead of being shut out, the Core Four carried the game to the Avalanche. They made a number of contributions to that victory. In this post, I’ll look specifically at the team’s Core Four.
What did John Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner contribute to the victory? How have they been doing on the season?
Contribution One: John Tavares Added Two Assists
John Tavares registered two assists in the Maple Leafs’ 6-2 win against Colorado. Tavares first assisted on Mitch Marner’s first-period goal. His second assist came on Michael Bunting’s power-play goal early in the second period.
On the season, Tavares now has 15 goals and has added 19 assists (for 34 points) in 37 games. The 32-year-old captain started the season with a roar, but recently he had been held off the scoresheet in three straight games (from December 15-20). Now, even counting the Coyotes’ game, he’s bounced back. He’s scored a goal and added three assists (for four points) in his past four games.
Contribution Two: William Nylander Also Added Two Assists
William Nylander also registered two assists in the team’s 6-2 victory. The young Swedish winger is benefitting from playing with Auston Matthews; and, he’s been especially hot recently. In total, he’s added four goals and five assists (for nine points) in his past six games.
On the season, that’s jumped him to an equal number of 21 goals and 21 assists (for 42 points) in 37 games. His previous career highs were last season (34 goals and 46 assists for 80 points). He looks ready to (a) pass his career best in both goals and assists and (b) score at least 40 goals on the season.
He’s also likely to be a point-a-game player this season. It was something he flirted with last season but didn’t quite make it.
Contribution Three: Auston Matthews Adds a Goal and an Assist
Auston Matthews also had a multiple-point game against the Avalanche. He scored a goal and added an assist. His assist came with the man advantage. He’s been strong on the power play all season; and, of his 42 points, he’s collected 14 with the man advantage.
While he’s behind his goal-scoring pace for last season, he’s now scored 18 goals and added 24 assists (for 42 points) in 37 games. Matthews might not have been explosive, but he has been steady all season. The longest he’s gone without scoring has been the two games between November 23 and November 25.
Contribution Four: Mitch Marner Starts the Maple Leafs Scoring
Mitch Marner was the only member of the Core Four who did not have a multiple-point game. But he did score the team’s opening goal at 6:51 of the first period.
The 25-year-old Marner now has scored 14 goals and added 28 assists (for 42 points) in 37 games. He’s only missed the scoresheet once over his last five games.
Three Core Four Members Are Tied for the Team Lead in Points
By the way, if readers hadn’t noticed, three members of the team’s Core Four are tied for the team lead in points. Those three are Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. Each player has 42 points in 37 games.
As noted, the Core Four are scoring with a vengeance.