Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a promising game. Key to the win was the strong performance of young goalie Joseph Woll. The team’s choice to rest key players was a strategic move and it allowed players to either nurse their injuries or simply get in some load management. Youngster Matthews Knies also got a chance to step up and gain experience.
A number of star players are fresher now for the upcoming playoffs.
On a personal level, the game had to be satisfying for the Maple Leafs. They get a win against a rival that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. Perhaps they also gain a measure of confidence heading into their first-round playoff series against this same Lightning team.
That said, who knows whether a game like this necessarily predicts playoff outcomes. Certainly, Tampa Bay will try to flip a switch headed into its upcoming playoff series.
In this edition of Maple Leafs Quick Hits, I’ll look at three Maple Leafs’ players from the game that personally made me a closer look at their play.
Related: What Have the Maple Leafs Found in Joseph Woll?
Quick Hit One: William Nylander Collects Three Points
According to Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, William Nylander played exceptionally well against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Nylander scored a goal and contributed two assists to help his team skate to a 4-3 victory. Despite being in a bit of a slump over his last 14 games, Nylander’s had a strong overall season, with 39 goals and 86 points in 81 games.
One thing about Nylander is that he always seems to show up in the playoffs. The strong showing in this game could set a tone for him going into the first-round series against the Lightning. I thought it was a smart move by the coaching staff to take out Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and ask Nylander to drive the offence. He stepped up.
During the game, Nylander generated scoring opportunities, both on the power play and at even strength. He also created a turnover that led to the game-winning goal. Overall, coach Keefe was impressed with Nylander’s offensive performance in the game. Me too.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Tavares & Who’s in Goal?
Quick Hit Two: Calle Jarnkrok Plays More than 20 Minutes
Calle Jarnkrok who had been out nursing an injury also had a strong return against the Lightning. After missing two games with another “undisclosed injury,” he scored a goal and added an assist in the 4-3 victory. In fact, Jarnkrok scored the Maple Leafs’ second power-play goal of the game late in the second period. That put Toronto up 3-2.
Toronto’s power play went two for six n the game and now is the second-best power play in the NHL. Similar to Nylander’s experience, with several star players resting and only 10 forwards dressing for the game, Jarnkrok was asked to carry a heavier load. He did.
On the night, Jarnkrok skated for 20:39 of ice time. That includes 4:10 seconds on the power play. Usually, Jarnkrok averages 14:19 per game. On the season, he has now scored 20 goals and added 19 assists (for 39 points) in 72 games. Last night’s goal made it the first time in his career that he’s reached the 20-goal mark.
Quick Hit Three: Conor Timmins as a Forward?
Conor Timmins is a defenseman. However, last night when called upon, he played 9:12 as a forward. It was a bit uneventful, except that he had one hit and one shot on the net. It was only Timmins’ second game this month and since February.
Given the Maple Leafs’ strong defensive depth heading into the playoffs, Timmins is unlikely to play during the postseason. He’ll remain on the team as a “black ace.” However, he’s signed through 2024-25 at a nice salary of $1.1 million. I like his game and think he could potentially become at least a depth defenseman role on the team next season.
Related: THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY IN MAPLE LEAFS’ 2-1 WIN VS PANTHERS