A bad start, poor specialty teams, and subpar goaltending were the Toronto Maple Leafs’ undoing in a game where they carried the play for the most part.

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The Good

After going down 3-0 in the first thirteen minutes of the first period, the Maple Leafs started to find their legs in the latter part of the first. They then completely dominated the second period coming back to tie the game at three.

William Nylander scored twice with a rocket wrist shot and a deflection off of a Vancouver defenseman’s stick. Jake McCabe finished off a perfect feed from Mitch Marner to add a goal as Toronto tied the game before the ten-minute mark of the second.

William Nylander

Nylander became the first Maple Leafs player to hit the 60-point mark. His two goals give him 23 goals and 61 points on the season. Nylander sits tied for fifth in league scoring with Artemi Panarin and Elias Petterson, two points behind JT Miller with games in hand over all three players. After going scoreless in four games for the first time this season, Nylander has four points in his last two games.  

Jake McCabe

I’ve talked about this before. McCabe has never been known for his offensive prowess in a career that has spanned eight seasons. He has never scored more than four goals in a season and the best point total he has ever had was 25 points. Yet, Mccabe has scored two goals and six points in his last eight games. In 38 games played this season, he has three goals and 16 points. He’s on pace to score a career-high six goals and 32 points this season. 

Morgan Rielly

Morgan Rielly assisted on both Nylander goals giving him 21 points in his last 22 games. Rielly sits tied for seventh in scoring for defensemen in the NHL with Rasmus Dahlin at 37 points, three points behind sixth-place Roman Josi. Rielly is just nine points shy of 500 points in his career and is one point behind Doug Gilmour for 18th place on the Maple Leafs all-time points list. He’s also fourth on the all-time scoring list for Toronto defensemen and needs eight points to pass Maple Leafs’ legend Tim Horton for third.  

Mitch Marner

After blocking a shot that appeared to take a bite out of him, Marner remained on the ice. He then stole a puck off of the stick of Conor Garland, and scored a shorthanded goal on the penalty kill early in the third period. That goal tied the game at four. 

It was the eighth shorthanded goal of Marner’s career tying him for 13th place with Darryl Sittler and George Armstrong on the all-time Toronto list. Marner has a long way to go to catch Dave Keon, who had 31 shorties in his career. 

The goal was Marner’s 20th of the season. He’s on pace to score 37 goals this season which would be a career high for him.  

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The Bad

Martin Jones

While the six goals given up were not all Martin Jones’ fault, the Maple Leafs limited the Canucks to just 21 shots on net. According to Naturalstattrick.com, Vancouver’s Expected Goals in all situations was 2.14. That means Jones allowed almost four goals over Expected. His Save Percentage in the game was a paltry 0.714%.  

After playing fantastic in his first twelve games for the Maple Leafs, Jones has returned to the form he has shown for most of his career. Jones has allowed 20 goals in his last five games. His Save Percentage over those five games is 0.857%.  

Another Note About the Maple Leafs Goaltending

Jones allowed three goals on the first nine shots he faced in this game. I would have liked to have seen Sheldon Keefe pull Jones at that point and put in Ilya Samsonov. With where Samsonov’s game is right now, getting him into a game he was not expecting to play might have been a good thing for him. 

Plus, if Samsonov is going to be the backup once Joseph Woll returns, there are going to be situations where he is going to have to come in off the bench. If Samsonov had come into the game and played well, Keefe would have had the option to come back with a fairly rested Jones on Sunday. Or, he might have rewarded Samsonov by giving him that start as well. If Samsonov struggled the remainder of this game, Keefe would have had Jones come back in tonight’s game against Seattle. 

Special Teams Costly

Keefe stated the difference in the game was the 3-0 hole the Maple Leafs dug for themselves to start the game. I have to disagree. Toronto overcame the 3-0 deficit and tied the game. Then, after going down 4-3 at the end of the third period, they got a break with Marner’s shorthanded goal. The game was even with almost 17 minutes remaining.

The two penalties Toronto took right after they tied the game at four were the difference in the game. Vancouver scored on both of those power plays. To make matters worse, the Maple Leafs failed to score on the five-man advantages they had. The special teams’ play was the difference in the game. 

The Ugly

With 27 seconds left in the game, Tyler Myers gave Morgan Rielly a vicious crosscheck in the back sending Rielly face-first into the goal post of the Vancouver goal. A melee ensued resulting in Rielly getting his second roughing penalty of the game (something he has probably never done before) and Myers getting two for roughing and an interference call. 

Not only could I not believe Myers wasn’t called for crosschecking, but it looked to me like Myers’ intent was to hurt Rielly. He put everything he had into the crosscheck. It was at least a two-minute penalty and could have been viewed as a five-minute intent to injure. I would hope the NHL would at least look at the play.

Myers’ actions could have been a retaliation for an earlier incident involving Mark Giordano. After Vancouver scored on the power play following a crosschecking call on Max Domi, Giordano shoved Pius Suter down from behind in front of the Toronto net. Giordano was called for crosschecking on the play. After the referee raised his hand and before the play was blown dead, Giordano crosschecked Ilya Mikeyev. He then appeared to turn to the referee as if to say “Now that is a crosscheck.” 

When the Game Got Dicey, The Maple Leafs Had No One to Stand Up to Myers

With the Maple Leafs having their most talented players on the ice when Rielly was cross-checked, they did not have anyone on the ice to properly take care of Myers. Thus, Rielly was forced to do so himself. John Tavares tried to help but he is also not a player you want risking injury. 

On that note, I am going to wonder out loud why Keefe is using Calle Jarnkrok as the extra attacker when the Maple Leafs pull their goalie and not Tyler Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi is a potential point-a-game player and was better than a point-a-game player in last year’s playoffs. His strength is his play in front of the net.  Having him on the ice with the extra attacker would allow Tavares a little more leeway in his role instead of having him parked in front of the net. 

Having Bertuzzi out there would also allow Betuzzi to answer for any liberties being taken on other Toronto players. Bertuzzi is not afraid to drop the gloves even against a 6-foot-8 behemoth like Myers.  

What’s Next?

Toronto skips over the border to take on the Seattle Kraken tonight. It seems a given that Samsonov will get the start. We have to hope he can play as well as he did in his last start and the Maple Leafs can take it to the Kraken. The Maple Leafs are on the second of back-to-backs, and Seatlle is sitting at home rested and waiting.  

I stated going into this weekend a split in these two games would be an acceptable outcome. By losing in Vancouver, this is the game they have to win. Toronto then has a home-and-home against the Winnipeg Jets played over six days before getting the All-Star week off. I think a split in those games would also be an acceptable outcome. 

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