By Stan Smith
I want to start with a “Bad” and it is on me. When the Maple Leafs lost 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last Thursday I wrote that Mitch Marner’s failure to gain a point in that game ended his consecutive home-scoring streak at 18 games. And, it would have, had the game been played in Toronto. But it wasn’t. It was played in Detroit. That is my bad, and for that, I apologize.
Despite getting subpar goaltending, refereeing that got both coaches’ blood boiling, and being down two goals, the Maple Leafs were able to pull off a much-needed victory.
For a good portion of this season, William Nylander has been the Maple Leafs’ best player. He has been in a bit of a slump lately going pointless in five of his last six games. He broke out of that slump in style on Tuesday night.
First Nylander had the primary assist on the Auston Matthews goal with one second left in the second period to pull the Maple Leafs to within one. Then he head-butted the tying goal into the net 5:59 into the third period. Nylander capped it off with a great individual effort in overtime. On his rush, he picked up a drop pass from Conor Timmins at his blueline, skated into the Panther’s zone along the left sideboards, breaking hard to the net around Carter Verhaeghe, and waiting out Sergei Bobrovsky before tucking the puck in behind the sprawling Bobrovsky to win the game.
After leading the Maple Leafs in goals for most of this season Nylander had, for six minutes and two seconds surrendered that lead to Matthews. His first goal put him back into a tie. His game-winning, 24th goal of the season helped him regain the lead.
Mitch Marner (part 1)
Mitch Marner had a few hiccups early in this game (more on them later). He assisted on the Matthews goal and the Nylander game-tying goal to give him two points in this game. I double-checked and this was a home game.
Marner extended his home scoring streak to a new record 19 games. He now has 52 points on the season, which ties him for 13th overall in NHL scoring with Alex Ovechkin, Sydney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and two others.
Marner is presently on pace to tie his 97 points from last season.
We have all that bad day at work. One of those days where we wish he would have stayed in bed and called in sick. This was one of those days for Matt Murray. From the first goal on the first shot he faced in the game, to the last goal he was on the ice for, which was the first shot of the second period, Murray just didn’t have it in this game.
Murray gave up four goals on eight shots before being pulled by head coach Sheldon Keefe 1:41 into the second period. Three of those goals were on shots that we have been accustomed to seeing Murray stop.
On the one hand, it could have been just one of those games for Murray. It was pointed out by the broadcast crew before and during the game, as well as by other analysts following the game, that the glove hand is a perceived weakness of Murray.
Murray is a 28-year-old veteran goalie who has had his share of ups and downs. Still, he has a 600% winning percentage in 265 career regular season games and has two Stanley Cup rings. That shows that he is should be able to overcome whatever deficiencies he has in his game.
Mitch Marner (part 2)
Marner had a rough start to the game. On the Panther’s first goal, he got “picked” by the referee when he attempted to receive a pass from Jordie Benn behind the net. That allowed Verhaeghe to walk out from the corner and fire a shot past Murray.
Then, on a Maple Leafs’ power play, twelve minutes into the first period, Marner had the puck bounce over his stick at the point. He realized that Aleksander Barkov had the jump on him and was going to get to the puck first, so he dove and attempted to bat the puck over to Nylander. He failed to get all of it and the puck ended up on Anton Lundell’s stick giving him and Barkov a two-man breakaway. Murray stopped the first shot by Lundell but the rebound went right to Barkov, who deposited the puck into the wide-open net.
Then, to add insult to injury, 13 seconds after giving up the shorthanded goal, Marner gets called for interference on a play that put himself offside.
That leads us to……………
I have played in Peewee and Bantam hockey with kids refereeing and never saw refereeing as bad as what I saw in this game. I played in gentlemen’s and senior hockey leagues with more competent refereeing than what I saw in this game.
Radko Gudas vs Pierre Engvall and Zach Aston-Reese
There were three plays involving Radko Gudas that are examples of how bad the refereeing was in this game.
Gudas interferes with Pierre Engvall breaking for the Panthers net, knocking Engvall into Bobrovsky. There is no call. But wait, Gudas takes a temper tantrum because Engvall can’t control where he slides on his butt. Gudas gets an unsportsmanlike penalty for his tantrum.
Gudas low-bridges Engvall as he’s entering the Panther’s zone with the puck. Hits like this, if deemed to be targeting the knees of a player, are illegal. In this case, there is no call. Zach Aston-Reese engages Gudas. Gudas, who, according to the website hockeyfights.com, has over 75 fights in his professional career plays the victim and lets Aston-Reese ragdoll him. End result, Aston-Reese gets called for roughing. (Note: Aston-Reese, who is not shy about dropping the gloves himself, is probably lucky Gudas chose not to fight as he is not in the same class as Gudas.)
After not being called for penalties on the two previous plays, Gudas takes out Aston-Reese with a good solid hit as Aston-Reese is breaking for the net. Gudas gets called for charging. Panther’s coach, Paul Maurice loses it on the Florida bench.
The above calls were just questionable calls or non-calls made on Gudas.
The worst call in the game might have been the interference call on Timothy Liljegren. I have rewatched Liljegren’s whole shift in real-time and slow motion. I saw a slew foot, four cross-checks, and a hold by other players that weren’t called. However, I did not see Liljegren come close to interfering with anyone.
You have to know that the refereeing has reached a new level of incompetence when both coaches are livid on their benches.
Luckily, after calling a penalty shot when Gustav Forsling tripped Nylander on a breakaway 34 seconds into the third period someone must have confiscated the referee’s whistles. The teams got to settle things on their own for the rest of the game.
The Maple Leafs take on the surprising Winnipeg Jets Thursday night in Toronto. With all of the noise, dealings, and signings, the other Western Canadian teams have made this season, the Jets have quietly put together the best record of any of them. They lead the Western Conference with 59 points, which coincidentally, is the same number of points the Maple Leafs have.
As of the writing of this post, the Maple Leafs have yet to announce which goalie is starting the game, as well as what skaters are in and out, due to illness, injuries, etc.