In Saturday’s 7-4 win by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Edmonton Oilers, it was the 16th matchup between Austin Matthews and Connor McDavid. During those games, McDavid accumulated 25 points. However, Matthews’ Maple Leafs have won 11 of the 16 games. It was an interesting game, and the stars came out.
After watching that game, I had several random thoughts. In this post, I’ll share them.
Quick Hit One: The Continuing Dominance of Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner had an outstanding game on Saturday against the Oilers. The Maple Leafs were trailing the Oilers by a score of 3-1 and the Oilers; and, Connor McDavid seemed to be dominant. However, starting with Marner’s steal of an errant pass from Ryan McLeod and his subsequent great goal, the Maple Leafs went on to score five unanswered goals starting in the second period.
Marner’s contributions included a goal and three primary assists. But, perhaps even more important to the team’s win might be his on-ice hockey IQ. It’s simply off the charts. During the game, he had four steals. Two of these steals led directly to goals.
While most fans entered the game excited to see Matthews go head-to-head with McDavid, Marner’s performance overshadowed both their performances. His performance in the game was truly phenomenal. I was slow to warm up to Marner after his salary negotiations, but I admit he’s a great player.
Quick Hit Two: Noel Acciari Has Been Amazing for the Maple Leafs
It’s also hard not to appreciate Noel Acciari. He’s been one of the key Maple Leafs’ success stories over the games he has played with the team. Acciari has shown that he’s a fourth-liner who can make an impact on the game.
Acciari scored the first goal of the game’s first period which was dominated by the Oilers. He then scored the last goal of the game for the Maple Leafs. He also drew a penalty simply because he drove hard to the net. He’s an in-your-face player.
Obviously, Ryan O’Reilly was the headliner in the trade with the St. Louis Blues. However, Acciari’s play has been a huge surprise. He’s made a big impact in his own right. I have to admit, I didn’t know his play at all. I’ve been plenty pleased with him as an addition to the team.
Quick Hit Three: It’s Hard for Me to Give Up on Matt Murray
I acknowledge that Matt Murray’s performance as the starting goaltender for the Maple Leafs has not been lights out. However, I simply can’t give up on Murray as a goalie who could help the team this postseason.
I also admit that it’s been frustrating to see Murray’s injuries put him in and out of the lineup this season. Perhaps that should have been more of a consideration when general manager Kyle Dubas traded for him this past offseason. However, he’s here. In addition, on the season his statistics are not horrible with a 2.86 goals-against-average and a .905 save percentage.
Still, since he returned from an injury, his record has been 1-1 and he’s given up eight goals in 50 shots on the net. That’s not that great. There were shots he should have stopped against the Oilers.
I might be alone in supporting Murray – or, perhaps better said, not giving up on him just yet. At best, some readers of my posts have praised Murray’s resilience and effort. But most believe he’s lost both his form and his game. At best, they suggest, he’s a backup goalie.
However, I believe goalies can regain their form after dealing with injuries and other issues. And, if he can, having two goalies who can win games would be a huge advantage for the Maple Leafs heading into the postseason.
Even in the regular season, having a strong Murray would allow more flexibility and better workload management. Call me silly, but I remain hopeful that he can regain his form and contribute to the team’s success.