By Stan Smith

The Toronto Maple Leafs scored three goals on their first ten shots in this game and never looked back. They scored four goals in the first period. Then, they added four more in the second and topped it off with one goal in the third to end the game 9-2.

Related: The Good, Bad, & Ugly in Maple Leafs 4-3 OT Win Over Flyers

The Good

Auston Matthews

Just when you think Auston Matthews couldn’t surprise you with anything he does, he surprises you. Matthews not only became the first player in Maple Leafs history to score back-to-back hat tricks twice in a season; he is only the third NHL player to do so in the last 100 years. The other two were Mike Bossy in the 1980/81 season and Wayne Gretzky in 1983/84. Matthews is the first NHL player to accomplish the feat in the last 40 years. 

The hat trick was Matthews’ sixth of the season, setting a new franchise record. Reg Noble (1917/18), Babe Dye (1924/25), and Darryl Sittler (1980/81) all had five hat tricks in one season.  

Not only did Matthews score the “Hatty,” but he also added two assists to give him his first five-point night of his career. Matthews has now scored 48 goals in 52 games this season and has raised his 2023/24 goal pace to 74.8 goals. He is also tied for first place in Maple Leafs scoring and sixth place in NHL overall scoring with William Nylander. Both players have 71 points. 

William Nylander

William Nylander scored a goal and added two assists to become the fourth Maple Leafs player to score 500 points in the history of the franchise. It’s amazing when you think three of the top four players to accomplish that feat, Matthews, Nylander, and Mitch Marner, are all playing for the Maple Leafs right now. Nylander has ten points in his last six games and is on pace to score 110 points this season.

Multi-Point Players

Bobby McMann scored twice and added an assist to give him five goals and six points in his last three games. Timothy Liljegren had three assists in the game. After struggling in his first game since being promoted to the top defensive pair in Morgan Rielly’s absence, Liljegren has scored five points in his last two games while averaging over 23 minutes a game. 

Max Domi, Mitch Marner, Matthew Knies, Nick Robertson, and Jake McCabe all had two-point nights.

Matthews (6 goals), McMann (5 goals), and Nylander (3 goals) have accounted for 14 of the 17 goals the Maple Leafs have scored in their past three games. 

Related: What Were Ridley Grieg and Morgan Rielly Thinking?

The Bad

It was a bad night for Anaheim goalies. Starter Lukas Dostal gave up three goals on the first 10 shots he faced in the game before being pulled after the first period. John Gibson came into the game after the first intermission and gave up four goals on nine shots in the second period.  

The Maple Leafs got some bad news when William Lagesson was forced to leave the game after playing just 1:31 of the first period. It was reported he suffered an upper-body injury and Sheldon Keefe stated after the game that he would miss some time. 

Then, with 6:13 remaining in the first period, it appeared that Liljegren was high-sticked. He went down on all fours and stayed down for a bit before finding his way to the bench. He sat on the bench in some pain but did not leave the game. I watched the replay. Liljegren did get a stick to the face when he was fighting along the boards in the Toronto zone with Max Jones. But it was Liljegren’s stick that was the culprit. 

The Ugly

“Tough guy” Radko Gudas had no hesitation in dropping the gloves to fight 5-foot-10, 195-pound Max Domi. But, when challenged several times by 6-foot-2, 225-pound Ryan Reaves he declined to drop the gloves.  

Ryan Reaves, now with the Maple Leafs

It was also interesting that late in the game after Simon Benoit leveled Jones with a nice open-ice hit Sam Carrick wanted to dance with Benoit, but when Reaves stepped in between Carrick and Benoit, Carrick respectfully declined. Then as they skated to the bench, Carrick crosschecked Reaves from behind earning him a ten-minute misconduct penalty. 

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs head out on the road to play four games in six days. The first is a rare 1:00 pm game on Monday in St. Louis against the Blues. The team then heads to the American Southwest. They will play back-to-back games against the Coyotes in Arizona on Wednesday night. They then move to Las Vegas against the Golden Knights on Thursday. The Maple Leafs conclude the trip with a visit to Colorado next Saturday. It would be great to see Matthews get his 50th goal of the season in his home state of Arizona. 

If the NHL season were to end right now the Maple Leafs’ competition in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs would be none other than the Boston Bruins. The Florida Panthers humiliated the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was by the same 9-2 score Toronto beat Anaheim while the Bruins lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. 

That moved the Panthers into first place in the Atlantic Division. They are one point ahead of the Bruins. At the same time, the Maple Leafs leapfrogged the Lightning into third place in the division. 

Related: Is the NHL League Office Being Unfair With the Maple Leafs?

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