By Stan Smith

I have watched Toronto Maple Leafs games for over 50 years and this was a first. After Even Rodrigues scored what I thought was the winning goal in the Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers game I turned off my TV and went to bed thinking Toronto had lost the game 2-1. I woke up the next morning to discover, to my surprise, the Maple Leafs won 2-1. 

Luckily I record each game. I returned to where I stopped the recording and watched how the ending unfolded. The first time I watched the play again, I still didn’t see it. It happened so fast. Once I did see it, it was obvious the puck went off Rodrigues’ stick, off Woll’s pad, and made contact with Rodrigues’ stick again before trickling under Woll’s pad into the net. I also learned a new term. The “double-tap.” 

Luck Plays a Part in Each NHL Game

The more I watch this game the more I realize how much luck plays a part. Take the last three games as an example. In Chicago, William Nylander has the goalie beat and goes post, crossbar, post. To do that the puck had to hit the inside of all three. A fraction of an inch more inside and Toronto wins the game instead of losing.   

William Nylander, Maple Leafs

In Pittsburgh, with the goalie pulled, while Nylander is getting the stick slashed out of his hands and John Tavares is getting mugged and tackled in front of the Penguins’ goal with no calls, Auston Matthews rings a shot off of the crossbar. It was the outside of the bar, so this one missed by maybe a full inch. An inch lower and the game was most likely headed for overtime. 

Earlier in the game, Nylander hit the post, not once, but twice. This game could have easily been over in regulation.  

In the shootout, Rodrigues’ goal could have counted. We would have accepted the loss and thought nothing of it. I don’t know who caught the “double-tap;” but, they did and a loss turned into a win. 

Related: Will the Maple Leafs and Devils Start a Bidding War Over Zadorov?

The Good

Joseph “The” Woll

This game could have been over in the first period if not for Joseph Woll. According to, the Panthers had eight High-Danger Scoring Chances in the period. They had 14 High-Danger Scoring Chances in the game. Florida had 3.74 Expected Goals in the game but only scored one goal.  

There is a term in analytics I have not used in these posts. It is Goals-Saved Above or Below Expected. If a goalie is in the “Above” category, he has played better than Expected. If he is “Below,” he has played worse than Expected. This category is not cut-and-dried, and it does take some judgment from the person compiling the stats. It is one more stat that can be used to rate a goalie’s performance.  

Joseph Woll, Maple Leafs goalie

With Florida having 3.74 Expected Goals, but only scoring once in regulation and overtime it means that Woll’s Goals Saved Above Expected was plus-2.74. 

I have seen it said that Woll stole the game. The stats showed the Maple Leafs played much better after the first period. In the entire game, the High-Danger Scoring Chances were 16-14 in Toronto’s favour. I would say that Woll stole the first period; and, if not for him, the Maple Leafs would have been in a bigger hole than the 1-0 one they were in.

Noah Gregor

In my eyes, Noah Gregor has been the best player on the fourth line this season. He does everything that you want a bottom-six forward to do. He is physical (35 hits in 20 games) and can handle the puck. In addition, he is fast on his skates both with and without the puck. Gregor is also defensively sound enough to kill penalties and has over a minute per game on the PK to this point of the season. 

On Tuesday night, we saw another aspect of this game, his shot. Gregor scored the tying goal of the game on an unassisted breakaway firing a wrist shot over Florida goalie Anthony Stolarz’ blocker shoulder in the second period. Then, just to show it was no fluke, Gregor fired an identical shot over the same shoulder to win the game in the shootout after the Rodrigues goal was called back.

All this from a player who came to training camp on a professional tryout without a contract and is now signed for the league minimum. 

Sheldon Keefe

I don’t know exactly what set him off; but, shortly after Gregor scored to tie the game in the second period Sheldon Keefe went on a tirade on the bench. It was reminiscent of Paul Maurice’s last March when the Panthers played a game in Toronto.

My take on that is that it was about time. I find Keefe does not show his negative emotions enough on the bench. I have no idea what he does behind closed doors; but, in public, I have never seen him lose it. While I wouldn’t want to see him doing it all the time, there are times when a good reaming-out of the players can be a motivation factor. 

Related: Why Sheldon Keefe Is Changing Up the Maple Leafs Top Six

The Bad

Reading and listening to others in the media reporting about this game the one thing they talked about was how Florida dominated the first period. I did not see the game that way. I thought the game was pretty evenly played until the 7:53 mark of the first period. At that point, the Maple Leafs had the edge in shots 7-6.  

At that point in the period, Mitch Marner took a shot off the side of his face from Matthew Tkachuk. Marner went down in a heap on the play. However, he got up under his own power, left the ice, and went to the locker room. Whether or not it was a coincidence, it affected the rest of the skaters. The rest of the period was played at the Toronto end of the ice. The shots in the remaining 7:53 were 9-0 Panthers. One of those nine shots found the back of the net giving Florida the lead 1-0. 

To make matters worse, in the action just before the goal, Mark Giordano was abandoned by his teammates on the ice and left to face a three-on-one. He took a shot off the hand. Giordano did not return. Keefe stated after the game that Giodrano could be out for a while. After practice on Wednesday, Keefe stated he was still being evaluated. However, Giordano would not play on Thursday. 

The Ugly

The Maple Leafs power play went 0-6 in the game. To make matters worse, they had a great chance to put the game away when Jonah Gadjovich took a double minor for high-sticking Gregor with 3:04 left in regulation. Not only did Toronto fail to score, they took their league-leading eighth too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with six seconds left in regulation to turn a four-minute power play into a three-on-four shorthanded situation for 56 seconds in overtime. 

What’s Next?

We will get a chance to see if the Maple Leafs can get any momentum from how the Florida game ended when they take on the visiting Seattle Kraken. Keefe did not state who the starting goalie would be against Seattle when asked about it on Wednesday. He did say that William Lagesson would replace Giordano and that the forwards as a unit would have to emphasize their defensive awareness for the Maple Leafs to be effective in the game.  

Stan’s Rant

I want to close with a little personal rant. In the media negatively sells. A lot has been made about so many of the Maple Leafs game going into overtime and the fact the Maple Leafs have only won five games in regulation. That ties Toronto for last in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks.  

What they completely ignore is the fact that Toronto has only lost six of their 20 games played in regulation. That ties them for third-best in the Eastern Conference. Only the Bruins (4 games lost in regulation) and the Rangers (4 games lost in regulation) have fewer regulation losses than the Maple Leafs. 

What is most important is points. Even with all of their struggles, inefficiencies, and warts, after 20 games the Maple Leafs have 25, or 0.625%, of the 40 points available to them. They are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of second with two games in hand over the second-place Florida Panthers.  

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