By Stan Smith

If you were expecting, with two of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL playing this game, that it would be a high-flying affair you would not have come away disappointed. This was one of the fastest-paced games I have watched this season. It had a playoff feel to it. 

Related: Auston Matthews: Making NHL History in His Hometown

The Good

The Maple Leafs Win Streak

The 5-4 win in Colorado is the Maple Leafs’ seventh win in a row, their longest winning streak this season. They have won 11 of their last 13 games. While Boston and Florida are both playing well and winning the majority of their games ahead of them in the standings, if Toronto were to win the games in hand they have over each team they could potentially close to within three points of the Bruins and four points of the Panthers.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Everyone expected Tyler Bertuzzi to break out of his scoring slump sooner or later. He did score his first goal in 20 games a week ago against Anaheim, but then went scoreless in four games afterward. He found the twine three times in this game. They were the types of goals the Maple Leafs were expecting Bertuzzi to score when they signed him. 

If you add up the total distance all three shots travelled to cross the goal line it might have totalled about five feet. The first was on a back-door cross-ice pass from Mitch Marner, the second was a rebound of a William Nylander backhander, and the third goal was an in-tight pass from behind the net from Nylander.

Bertuzzi had other noticeable contributions in the game. He helped “sell” the interference penalty on Ross Colton that led to the power play on which Bertuzzi scored his first goal of the game. I was surprised Bertuzzi was not called for embellishment on the play. 

Bertuzzi also sacrificed himself to make a nice block later in the game after he broke his stick and was forced to defend without one.  

When Bertuzzi scored 30 goals with the Detroit Red Wings in 2021-22, he was a mainstay on the Red Wings’ top power-play unit. Two of Bertuzzi’s three goals came on the power play after Head Coach Sheldon Keefe swapped him for Tavares on the Maple Leafs’ top power play. The hat trick gives Bertuzzi ten goals on the season. With 25 games remaining, if Bertuzzi keeps getting reps on the number one power play, he could still challenge the 20-goal number. If he can continue that into the playoffs………….!

Related: Great News for Maple Leafs: Joseph Woll Will Soon Be Playing

William Nylander

William Nylander assisted on all three of Bertuzzi’s goals. That gives him 47 assists on the season and ties his best career season for assists. Nylander is on pace to score 112 points this season. That would be a whopping 25-point improvement over his best season so far, which was last season. Nylander is on a seven-game point streak. He has six goals, seven assists, and 13 points in those seven games.  

Mitch Marner

Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist in the game. He is on a seven-game multipoint streak and has 17 points in those seven games. He is also on a ten-game points streak and has failed to register a point in just one of his last 16 games. 

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov’s base numbers don’t do him justice in this game. He stopped 26 of 29 shots for a 0.897 Save Percentage. Many of those shots were prime, grade “A” scoring chances. Despite giving up three goals, this might have been Samsonov’s best game of the season. It feels like the Avalanche could have easily had three or four more goals. 

Clearly, the Avalanche were the better team in this game, but Samsonov was by far the better goalie.  The game also showed that the better team doesn’t always win. 

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs starting goalie

Since Samsonov returned from his hiatus in the AHL on January 14th, he has a 9-2 record with a Goals-Against-Average of 2.27 and a Save Percentage of 0.911. I was wondering how many teams might be kicking themselves over the fact they could have had Samsonov for nothing if they had claimed him off of waivers on December 31st.  

The Bad

Things did not look good early as the Avalanche scored twice in the first eleven minutes and change in the game. Goal number one was on a questionable delay of game call on Simon Benoit. The officials had a long huddle before deciding whether or not the puck was shot directly out. Replays showed nothing. I thought I heard a “double hit” that might have indicated the puck went off the Avalanche player’s stick who was pressuring Benoit behind the Toronto net.

With the length of the huddle by the officials, I was surprised they were able to determine without question that the puck did not hit anything else before exiting the ice. Don’t get me started on whether or not I think this should be a penalty at all. 

Just before the Avs scored the opening goal on that power play, TJ Brodie had a chance to clear the puck out of the zone but failed. On the second Colorado goal, Nathan MacKinnon tied Morgan Rielly in knots before finding Andrew Cogliano alone in front of Samsonov. 

The Avalanche tied the game at three in the third period when Mikko Rantanen fired a point shot through three bodies and past Samsonov. Samsonov never saw the puck on the play. 

The Ugly

There really was nothing I would consider ugly in this game. It was one of the most exciting games I have watched this season. I guess I could use the term “ugly” to describe how the Maple Leafs’ players were willing to sacrifice their bodies when blocking shots. There were at least four times in the game the puck took a bite out of Toronto players. Maple Leaf players had a total of 24 blocked shots in the game. 

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs play their next five games at home. They have rematches with both the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday and the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. 

Related: Admit It: Maple Leafs Keefe Deserves Credit For His Recent Moves

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *