It was point night in Toronto on Saturday night as the Maple Leafs completely dominated the Montreal Canadiens to the tune of 7-1 in their final home game of the 2022-23 regular season.
This game was as dominant a game as the Maple Leafs had played all season. According to Naturalstattrick.com, at five-on-five, the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 16 to 2 for Toronto. In all situations, including the power play and penalty kill, the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 23-3 for the Maple Leafs. The 7-1 score actually flattered the Canadiens and could have been a lot worse if not for Montreal goaltender Sam Montembeault.
The game was also a complete reversal of the recent games where the core four had struggled to score and the bulk of the production came from the bottom six. All the scoring in this game was done by the top six forwards plus one defenseman.
Four Points from Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews led the way with four points in the game. He scored one goal, to give him 39 on the season. He also added three assists, to give him a total of four points for the night. While it is not news that Matthews is down on goals and points this season, he’s just one assist shy of a personal best single-season high of 46. Matthews also has the best plus/minus of his career going at plus-30.
Matthews moved ahead of Rick Vaive and now has sole possession of 11th place in all-time scoring for the Maple Leafs with 541 points. He also moved past William Nylander into second place in points this season for the Maple Leafs with 84 points in 72 games played.
Three Points from Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner scored two goals and added an assist to give him three points in the game. He could have had a fourth point on Matthews’ goal. He was the last Maple Leafs’ player to touch the puck before Matthews sniped it by Montembeault, but it was ruled that Canadiens’ forward Jake Evans had control of the puck when he attempted to kick it past Matthews out of the Montreal zone. I would have loved to see Marner get that fourth point. However, I have to agree with the official scorer on his decision to rule the goal as unassisted.
Marner’s two goals brought his total for the season to 30. After being criticized for his lack of goal-scoring earlier in his career, this is the second consecutive season Marner had reached the 30-goal plateau. He has scored 65 goals in the past two seasons. More importantly, Marner’s 98 points surpassed his personal best of 97 points set last season. He’s now edging closer to the 100-point plateau.
Another interesting tidbit. Marner opened the scoring in this game with a goal at 9:08 of the first period. That is the 23rd time this season that Marner has either scored or assisted on the opening goal of a game. It’s one shy of Doug Gilmour’s single-season record of being in on the first goal of a game 24 times in the 1992-93 season.
Along with Marner’s impressive offensive numbers, he now has 102 takeaways this season. That leads the NHL by a wide margin. Marner has 14 more takeaways than second-place Brandon Hagel of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ryan O’Reilly & Erik Gustafsson Each Total Three Assists
Ryan O’Reilly had three assists in the game to give him eight points in ten games played for Toronto. Ironically, seven of his eight points have come in just two of his eight games. O’Reilly had a hattrick and a four-point night in Buffalo back on February 21.
Erik Gustafsson had an auspicious return to the lineup after missing two weeks for personal reasons. He tallied three assists in the game, all on the power play. The 31-year-old is having an impressive season. He has 42 points in 70 games, two more than Morgan Rielly’s 40 points in 62 games played.
Two Points by John Tavares
John Tavares had two goals in the game bringing his season’s total to 35 goals. His two goals moved him into a tie for 30th place in all-time Maple Leafs’ goals with James Van Riemsdyk at 154.
Both Tavares’ goals came on the power play. They were his 17th and 18th power-play goals of the season. Only two players in Maple Leafs’ history have scored more power-play goals in a single season. Wendel Clark and Dave Andreychuk each scored 21 power-play goals in the 1993-94 season.
Michael Bunting equalled his 23-goal output from last season with a goal in this game. He also added an assist, putting him one point shy of 50 points for the season.
One Point by William Nylander
William Nylander scored his 38th goal of the season. He deserved more. He led all players in this game with ten shots on the net.
I feel the need to mention Wayne Simmonds in this report. Simmonds played in what is most likely his last game as a Maple Leaf and possibly the last game of his career.
It was fitting that Montreal forward Michael Pezzetta obliged Simmonds by dropping the gloves in the second period and engaging Simmonds in a fight that seemed like a “last hurrah” for Simmonds. Not to be satisfied there, Simmonds also managed to earn a double minor later in the game in a skirmish with Joel Edmundson in defence of Michael Bunting.
I do wonder if things get out of hand in the Lightning series if we might see Simmonds dress for a playoff game.
University of Toronto goalie Jett Alexander had his hockey dream come true as he got to play in the NHL, even if it was for just over a minute of action.
He went in with 1:10 left in the game. Alexander got the call earlier in the day to be ready to dress in case Matt Murray was not healthy enough to back Samsonov up. He probably never thought he would see any action.
Alexander got a standing ovation as he skated onto the ice. It would have been great to see what the crowd’s reaction would have been if he would have had to make a save. That failed to happen though.
Ilya Samsonov played solidly for the Maple Leafs and would have had the shutout if not for some bad luck early in the second period.
A wrist shot from the point by Johnathon Kovacevic found its way through five players in front of Samsonov and into the goal. Samsonov never did see the puck on the play.
The other “Bad” was news off the ice. Sheldon Keefe announced before the game that Calle Jarnkrok was day to day with an undisclosed injury and would not play.
Maple Leafs’ fans were subject to a scary moment in this game.
Early in the second period, Samsonov appeared to jam his left leg against the post of his net. He was extremely slow to get up and seemed in some discomfort. With Matt Murray being day-to-day with a head injury and “Ebug” goalie Alexander sitting on the bench, it looked a bit like Samsonov might have injured himself on the play.
The thought of the Maple Leafs losing both Murray and Samsonov with just three games left in the regular season was scary indeed.
After consultation with the referee and the Maple Leafs’ trainer on the bench, Samsonov was deemed healthy enough to continue. Thankfully, he looked unaffected by whatever happened as the game progressed. His movement was crisp and he didn’t appear to be favouring anything. He also seemed fine during the postgame press conference.
The only worry is that something might crop up overnight or upon deeper examination. Hopefully, we will see that there are no aftereffects from whatever it was that happened.
The Maple Leafs get no rest. They head out on the road for games in Florida on Monday and Tuesday nights.
On Monday night they take on the Panthers, who are in the midst of a fight for a wildcard spot in the postseason. The Panthers are hitting their stride at the right time and have won their last six games. That streak began with a 3-2 overtime win in Toronto on March 29.
The Maple Leafs then take on the Lightning on Tuesday night. It’s a meaningless game for both teams. Both teams are entrenched in their spot in the standings and know they will meet in Toronto next week to begin their rematch from the first round of the playoffs last season.
Following those two games, the Maple Leafs’ head on into New York to take on the Rangers in a game that could potentially decide home-ice advantage if the two teams were to meet in the Eastern Conference final of the playoffs. Toronto trails New York by one point in the standings but has one more game to play in the regular season.
The main goal of the Maple Leafs will be to get through these three games without suffering any injuries.
Who’s in Goal?
The biggest question is who will be in goal? Keefe stated before the Montreal game that there was a chance Murray would be capable of backing Samsonov up in the game, which didn’t happen. It appears that Joseph Woll was sent to the AHL (on paper at least) to allow for space to insert Simmonds in the lineup. I’m sure Woll will accompany the team on the trip.
If there are any questions about Murray’s and Samsonov’s health it is possible, we could see Woll play in all three remaining games. I’m not saying that will happen, just that it could.
With Janrkrok being day-to-day, we could also see Keefe revert to the 11/7 deployment of players.
While the results of the upcoming games might be meaningless, what happens in the games could be very important. The games could determine what this lineup looks like come day one of the postseason.