The Toronto Maple Leafs evened their home record at 4-4 and their record on this five-game homestand at 2-2 with a 5-4 Shootout win against the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
This was a game the Maple Leafs should have won, and a game they deserved to win. The game should have never been this close. It was one of their best-played games this season.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Maple Leafs had 64% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances and 62% of the Expected Goals at five-on-five. They also had 63% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances and 64% of the Expected Goals in all situations.
After the Flames tied the game 4-4 at 3:22 of the third period, the remainder of the period was spent in the Calgary zone with the Maple Leafs buzzing the Flames net in an attempt to score the go-ahead goal. After the score was tied the Maple Leafs outshot the Flames 12 to 2 in the remaining 16:38 of the period.
There are two statements I never thought I would say about William Nylander. Number one is that he scored a shorthanded goal. Number two is that he took a hit to make a play. With Jake McCabe sent off for roughing at the end of the first period, Nylander’s first shift in the second was on the penalty kill for that infraction. He stepped on the ice and immediately stripped the puck from Noah Hanagin at center ice and walked in on a two-on-one with TJ Brodie. Using Brodie as a decoy and fired a shot past the blocker of Flames goalie Dan Vladar. That made the score 3-1 Toronto at the time.
Three and a half minutes later, Nylander took a solid hit from Nazem Kadri behind the Calgary net while at the same time putting a backhand pass on the tape of John Tavares’ stick as he was left wide open in front of Vladar. Tavares made no mistake beating Vladar again on the blocker side.
Nylander Opened the Scoring
Nylander also opened the scoring in the game on a bit of a broken play. Yegor Sharangovich attempted to knock the puck back to Rasmus Andersson on an attempted pass from Auston Matthews to Nylander in the Calgary zone. Sharangovish didn’t get enough on the puck. Nylander picked it up, stepped around Andersson then went backhand, forehand to beat Vladar.
Both Nylander’s goals were highlight-reel goals and his play to set up Tavares was great. It seems every time Nylander touches the puck of late he makes something happen.
Not only did the three points that Nylander scored in this game put him back on top of team scoring with 21 points, but it also moved Nylander into a tie for fourth place in NHL scoring with Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks.
Nylander is now on pace to score 52 goals and 123 points this season.
Max Domi, Nick Robertson, and Calle Jarnkrok
Regardless of how the last three games have played out, we can see the Maple Leafs have taken a positive step in their forward lines. The third line of Max Domi, Nick Robertson, and Calle Jarnkrok is a big part of that. For the third game in a row, those three players connected on a goal.
This time it was Jarnkrok starting and finishing off the play. He broke up a Flames’ attempt at a zone entry and knocked the puck up to Robertson. Robertson entered the Calgary zone and dropped the puck to Domi. Domi feathered a nice pass back to Jarnkrok who split the defence and backhanded the puck over Vladar’s glove hand.
Jarnkrok has a five-game point streak going. He has three goals and three assists in those five games. Jarnkrok’s four goals and nine points in 14 games put him on pace to score 23 goals and 52 points this season.
Robertson has points in all three games since he was called up. While Domi is still looking for a goal that counts on his stats, he has three assists in his last three games. He also scored the winning goal in the shootout.
With as much as the Maple Leafs have struggled, a quick look at the standings shows they are one point out of second in the Atlantic Division. The Boston Bruins are running away and hiding with 23 points atop the division. The Ottawa Senators are last with 10 points. The other six teams are three points apart with the Florida Panthers at 17 and the Montreal Canadiens at 14.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have now given up four or more goals in eight straight games at home. They are 32nd, and last, in the league for goals against at home this season averaging 4.86 GAA. The amazing thing is that they have managed to win half of those games.
One other thing I noticed when looking over their won/loss record is they have only won one game in regulation at home. That was the 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild in the second game of the season.
Ryan Reaves and the Fourth Line
The fourth line continues to struggle badly. They gave up two more goals in this game. I feel like I am beating a dead horse here by once again bringing up Ryan Reaves and his effect on the line. He has now been on the ice for zero goals-for and 11 goals-against. They talked about this in between periods, and I agree this is not all on Reaves. But, and this is a big but, if you compare Reaves’ stats with those of David Kampf and Noah Gregor, they are so much worse.
Just looking at plus/minus alone, Reaves is minus-11. Gregor is minus-5. Kampf is minus-3. In this game and the recent Tampa game head coach Sheldon Keefe benched Reaves. Once he did that the fourth line, with whomever Keefe substituted for Reaves, has looked like a different line.
None of the four goals that Calgary scored were highlight-reel goals. On the first goal, Noah Gregor got his stick on a cross-ice pass from Nazem Kadri to Connor Zary. That caused the puck to careen off Zary’s stick and change direction on Joseph Woll. Woll managed to kick his right pad out and stop the puck, but it came right back to Zary on the rebound and he roofed it over Woll’s left shoulder.
On the second goal, a shot by Nick Zadorov bounced off Andrew Mangiapane’s leg back to Zadorov along the boards. He then slapped the puck toward the net. Morgan Rielly attempted to block it but failed. Instead, Rielly screens Woll and the puck goes over his left shoulder into the net. A shot from that angle and location is not even considered a High-Danger Scoring Chance.
The third goal was off a wrist shot from the point by Mackenzie Weegar. The shot was deflected past Woll by A.J. Greer.
The fourth goal was “follow the bouncing puck.” A shot by Blake Coleman bounced off of Auston Matthews’ stick, TJ Brodie’s knee, and Mark Giordano’s skate right to Martin Pospisil, who shovelled it under Woll into the net.
All of Calgary’s goals were of the Ugly variety.
The Maple Leafs are right back at it tonight as they face the hot Vancouver Canucks in the second game of back-to-backs. Vancouver is second in the Western Conference with a record of 10-2-1. Samsonov gets the start for the Maple Leafs. This would be the perfect time to give the 36-year-old Reaves the night off.