I know. It is a team game. But, there is always talk about a player putting the team on his back. William Nylander came into this game with the spotlight on him and the pressure to perform in front of his family, his friends, and his country. He could have wilted under that pressure. Instead, he solidified his position as one of Sweden’s hockey heroes. 

To the game itself.

Related: Grading the Maple Leafs Core Four After 15 Games

The Bad

In the first period, the Maple Leafs looked like a team that hadn’t played a game in almost a week. They struggled to complete passes and to create good scoring chances. To their credit, they didn’t give up too many chances. According to Naturalstattrick.com, the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 3-2 for Toronto in all situations. The two High-Danger Chances by the Red Wings included two Detroit power plays. 

The second period started a lot similar to the first. Neither team created much. The Maple Leafs did get a couple of good shifts out of the top two lines. The Maple Leafs had an excellent chance to open the scoring twelve minutes into the second. That is when the “Ugly” happened.

The Ugly

With Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Matthew Knies buzzing in the Detroit zone Matthews strips Jake Walman of the puck in the left corner, skates behind the Red Wing net, and passes the puck to a wide-open Marner. Marner one times a shot at the net. At the same time this is happening, Walman is trying to get back into the play and trips, falling into the right goalpost of the Detroit net face-first, knocking the net off its mooring. 

Walman was hurt on the play and stayed down on the ice until he was attended to by the trainer. He left the game and did not return.

Marner’s shot did not end up in the net and the referee did not signal a goal on the play. Marner and the other Maple Leafs players argued that the puck went into where the net would have been if it had not been knocked off its mooring. The referees looked at replays but ruled them inconclusive so the “no goal” decision stood.  

A Closer Look Showed the Maple Leafs Goal Should Have Counted

In between the second and third periods the broadcast team put together a more detailed replay that showed the puck did indeed cross the line inside where the right goalpost would have been had it not been knocked off. Their replay showed it should have been called a goal.

Thirty seconds after play restarted there was a scramble in the Toronto crease. After Ilya Samsonov made two great saves the puck was lying loose in the crease when Morgan Rielly put his hand over the puck. By the rules that is a penalty shot, and the Red Wings were awarded one. Daniel Sprong took the penalty shot and made the most of it drawing Samsonov out of the net before wristing the puck over him into the net to make the score 1-0 Detroit.

Instead of the Maple Leafs being up 1-0, they were down by one.

Then things got really ugly for Toronto when Samsonov lost his net and moved too far to his right while squaring up to face a shot by Lucas Raymond. That left the left side of the net open for Raymond, who didn’t miss. That put the Red Wings up 2-0.

Related: A Logical Case for Maple Leafs To Trade William Nylander

The Good

Nylander, who has been the Maple Leafs’ best player this season, came out in the third period and made a statement. He made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in the Detroit zone and skated past three Red Wings’ players before finding Bertuzzi out front of Detroit goalie Alex Lyon. Bertuzzi had a two-foot tap in to make the score 2-1 Detroit. 

With seven minutes left in the third period and Moritz Seider in the penalty box for tripping Matthew Knies, Marner makes a blind backhand pass to Nylander in the middle of the ice about ten feet out from the Red Wings net. Nylander one-timed the pass over Lyon’s right shoulder to tie the game at two. 

John Tavares Scores a Goal

One minute and 24 seconds later the Maple Leafs completed the comeback. After John Tavares was kicked out of a faceoff in the Detroit zone, Nylander came in and won the draw. He sent the puck behind the Red Wings’ net where Bertuzzi outmuscled former Maple Leaf Justin Holl for the puck. Bertuzzi came out from behind the net to the right of goaltender Lyon and found Tavares with a cross-crease pass. This time Tavares had a one-foot putt to finish the play.

John Tavares, Maple Leafs

With Nylander’s three points in this game, he moves six points up for the team lead in points with 25. Tavares also had three points in the game and is tied for second with Auston Matthews with 19 points. Nylander’s 25 points also move him into fourth in NHL scoring, two points behind a trio of Vancouver Canucks’ players all tied for first (JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes). 

Nylander Is Rising in the Points Standings

Nylander now has 11 goals on the season. That puts him only two goals shy of first in the league. Matthews, Kyle O’Connor, Brock Boeser, and Sam Reinhardt all have 13 goals.  

Nylander has now moved past Doug Gilmour into 17th place in all-time Maple Leafs scoring with 455 points. He needs three more points to catch Tim Horton for 16th place and one more than that to tie Lanny McDonald for 15th. That is some pretty big company. 

John Tavares Is Also Rising in His Career Points Total

John Tavares is climbing another ladder, this one the all-time NHL scoring list. His 19 points in 16 games give Tavares 994 points in his career and put him in 99th place, two ahead of former Maple Leaf Phil Kessel. Coincidentally, Tavares is one point behind another former Maple Leaf, Jason Spezza, who is in 98th place with 995 points. The next milestone for Tavares is the 1,000-point plateau. 

Also of note is in the six seasons that Tavares has played for Toronto he has climbed into 26th place in all-time scoring for the Maple Leafs as well. He has a ways to go to make the top 25. John Anderson presently occupies 25th with 393 points. Tavares has 373 Maple Leafs points. 

Ilya Samsonov’s Play in the Net Is Improving

Ilya Samsonov stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced to pick up his fourth win of the season in nine starts.  His overall stats are slowly climbing. His Save Percentage sits at 0.878 while his goals-against average is now 3.56. Despite those lowly numbers, Samsonov has only lost one game in regulation this season. That was 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. His record would be a lot worse than the 4-1-2 that it presently is if not for the fact that in the two games he was pulled the Maple Leafs came back to win both of them (4-3 and 6-5 over Tampa).

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs starting goalie

Note: The stats used in this post were as of the end of the Maple Leafs’ game in Stockholm and before any of the Friday night games were played in North America. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

For the first time in the history of the Maple Leafs franchise, their fans will be getting up Sunday morning and watching their team play a game. Toronto takes on the Minnesota Wild in what is an afternoon affair in Stockholm Sweden. That translates to an 8:00 am start in Ontario. 

After that game, they fly back to Toronto. They don’t play again until Friday when they travel to Chicago to take on Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks in an afternoon game that starts at 2:00 pm. They then fly to Pittsburgh and play the Penguins on Saturday night.  

It is amazing how quickly a team’s fortunes can turn around. It seems like just the other day we were talking about the Maple Leafs losing five out of six games. With the Detroit victory, they now have won four out of their last five games. They presently sit third in the close Atlantic Division, one point behind the second-place Florida Panthers and one ahead of the Red Wings.  

Related: Insider Expects William Nylander to Remain Loyal to Toronto

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