The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a close, tight-checking battle, 2-1 in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night in Toronto.  Surprisingly, for two teams that are known for their offence, this was a low-scoring affair. Neither team gave the other much room to maneuver with the puck. Despite the low score, the speed of both teams was evident as this was a fast-paced game. 

I think most Maple Leafs’ fans, especially the older ones who were used to seeing games end in ties, would have been completely satisfied if this game would have ended in a draw. 

The Good

Defensively the Maple Leafs played a pretty strong game. They didn’t give the Avalanche a lot in the name of grade “A”  scoring chances. 

Ilya Samsonov

When the Avalanche were able to penetrate into the high-danger areas, Ilya Samsonov shut them down. I don’t know if I would say this was Samsonov’s best game of the season. However, it was one of his better ones. I have always felt that when a goalie is at the top of his game that he looks “Big” in goal. 

Samsonov seemed to fill the net in this game. He was positionally strong and did not have to scramble around much. He read the plays well and came out to challenge shooters when he felt they had no other options. 

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

It is amazing to think that in 21 home starts this season Samsonov has lost a grand total of two of them in regulation. He’s also only lost four more in total when you count the overtime and shootout. 

Perhaps the Maple Leafs might wish to have Matt Murray and his Stanley Cup pedigree in goal for the playoffs. Still, if the first round were to start tomorrow, it would have to be Samsonov between the pipes in game one. No question, he’s the man. 

Getting back to this game, Samsonov deserved a shutout in this contest. 

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 2-1 Loss to the Avalanche

Morgan Rielly

After scoring 11 points in 13 games, Rielly had been pointless in his last three games. Recently head coach Sheldon Keefe has gone with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen in an effort to get his defence figured out for the playoffs. Rielly not only saw his time on ice drop by over three minutes per game, but his offensive production seemed to dry up as well with the loss of ice time. 

He started off this game with a bang. Rielly hit the crossbar on a great scoring chance before the broadcast had a chance to finish scrolling the lineups on the TV screen. He then made no mistake on a great no-look setup from Mitch Marner a couple of minutes later. His shot found its way under the arm of Alexandar Georgiev. That score put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 in the game. 

Morgan Rielly, Maple Leafs

Rielly had another great scoring chance in the third period on the power play when he was left alone at the side of the Avalanche net, but he was stymied by Georgiev on the play. 

This is the Morgan Rielly the Maple Leafs need if they want to have a deep playoff run this season. 

The Bad

The first “Bad” was the break Samsonov got on the tying goal by the Avalanche. 

An attempted cross-ice pass in front of him by Mikko Rantanen bounced off of the toe of Jake McCabe’s skate and right between the legs of Samsonov. By that time, Samsonov had already moved to cover any scoring chance the intended pass-receiver Valeri Nichuskin might have had. He played it correctly, but it was just bad luck that the pass was deflected by McCabe. 

The second “Bad” in this game was the lack of offensive production the Maple Leafs got from their big guns. The only point the big four forwards had in this game was the assist by Marner on the Rielly goal. They had chances to score. Auston Matthews had five shots, while William Nylander had three. 

No NHL team is going to win many games, be it in the regular season or playoffs, when they score only one goal. 

Related: Remembering Maple Leafs Tough Guy Jim Dorey

The Ugly

Of the three chances the Maple Leafs had in the shootout, two didn’t even result in a shot on goal. Matthews bobbled the puck on his attempt as it went wide left. Marner, who has scored some great goals in tight of late with his quick hands, had the hands moving on his attempt. However, he left the puck behind in the effort. 

What’s Next?

Things don’t get any easier for the Maple Leafs, They take on the second-best team in the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes, at home on Friday night. After struggling to produce offence in their last two games, the Maple Leafs will now face the team that’s regarded as the best defensive team in the league. 

This game will be the first of back-to-backs for both teams. On Saturday the Maple Leafs travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators, while the Hurricane move on to Philadelphia to play the Flyers.

I’m going to guess that, with the Leafs and Hurricanes potentially meeting at some point in the playoffs, each team is placing more importance on Friday’s game against each other.  With that in mind, I expect to see Frederik Andersen in goal for Carolina and the hotter Samsonov in net for the Maple Leafs.  

Murray would then get the start versus his old team in Ottawa. 


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