The Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday night and came away with an exciting 6-3 victory. What were the good, bad, and ugly aspects of the game?

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The Good

In case anyone was unaware, the best news came after the game when Head Coach Sheldon Keefe stated that Ilya Samsonov was not injured. 

As for the game itself, the Maple Leafs were able to exploit the Oilers’ biggest weakness, their goaltending. They scored five goals on 23 shots to take a 5-0 lead into the locker room at the end of the second period.

Bobby McMann

Bobby McMann opened the scoring for the Maple Leafs, had the primary assist on the Pontus Holmberg goal that put the Maple Leafs up 4-0, and scored the 5-0 goal.

Coaches and General Managers always talk about players seizing the opportunity when they get their chances in the NHL. McMann would be a poster boy for how that is done. The 27-year-old from Wainright, Alberta, had a total of ten games of experience going into this season. In February, McMann came to the rink thinking he was a healthy scratch. After finding out he was going to play because John Tavares was out with the flu, McMann went out and scored a hat trick in Toronto’s 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Now, five weeks later, McMann has scored 11 goals in 19 games and is $2.7 million richer thanks to his recently signed two-year, $1.35 million per season contract. 

McMann was named the first star in this game. 

Bobby McMann, Maple Leafs

Pontus Holmberg

Holmberg might be working his way to a contract similar to the one McMann just signed. After starting this game centring a makeshift fourth line with Nick Robertson and Ryan Reaves, Holmberg found his way into the top six midway through the game. He made the most of it with the first two-goal game of his brief NHL career. He was named the game’s second star. Holmberg ended up playing 15:39 in the game including 2:43 on the penalty kill.

John Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews

John Tavares assisted on both of McMann’s goals and is on a four-game multiple-point streak. In those four games, Tavares has ten points (three goals, and seven assists).

In a season that has been all about streaks for William Nylander, his newest streak is goals in five consecutive games. His latest goal was his 39th. One more and he ties his career high of 40. Each point he gets sets a new career best. He presently sits at 93 points. 

Auston Matthews waited until the dying seconds of the game to notch his 58th goal. It came on a 150-foot shot into the empty Oilers’ net. The question remains as to when, not if, Matthews will become the first Maple Leafs player and the eighth NHL player to have multiple 60-goal seasons. 

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Different Defense

Thank You Brad Treliving. He made it clear that he likes his defence to be big and physical. Former GM Kyle Dubas, while recognizing a need for some size and some physicality, never prioritized it. I have never been a fan of the puck-focused style of defence the Maple Leafs have played for most of the Matthews/Marner/Nylander era where the emphasis was to block shots, get sticks in the shooting lanes, and not play the body. The idea was to prevent the puck from getting to the opposing players in front of the goal.  

It was very noticeable through two periods that the Maple Leafs were playing a different style of defense. The defensemen were using their size to box out opposing forwards in front of Samsonov and making life miserable for the Oilers in front of the net. They were also looking for opportunities to lay the body any chances they had. The Maple Leafs outhit the Oilers 34-31 with 19 of those hits coming from the defense. Jake McCabe led the way with eight hits. He was followed by Joel Edmundson with six and Simon Benoit with four. Morgan Rielly and Timothy Liljegren each had two hits and Conor Timmins had one.

Just the thought of replacing Timmins with a healthy Ilya Lyubushkin makes me tingle inside. 

The Bad

You knew the Oilers were going to come out flying in the third period and they did. They outshot the Maple Leafs 18-6 in the final frame. According to, the High-Danger Chances in all situations in the third period were 10-3 for Edmonton. Just as it was noticeable the different way the defence was playing in the first two periods, it was just as noticeable that they stopped doing that in the third period. They reverted to focusing more on the puck and they paid for it. 

One point that I have to bring up in their defense was a lot of the period was played with the Oilers having an extra skater on the ice either on the power play or with their goalie pulled. Just to add a good point amongst the bad, the Maple Leafs did not give up a single five-on-five goal in the game. Two of Edmonton’s goals were on the power play and one was with the goalie pulled. 

The Ugly

It seemed like the referees were trying to do everything they could to help the Oilers make a game of it in the third period. The first call of the period was a delay of game penalty when Timmins accidentally flipped the puck out of the rink, which was not debatable. But, two minutes after that, with the score 4-1 Toronto, Mattias Ekholm laid a solid shoulder check on Holmberg at the Edmonton blue line. It would have been a legal hit but for the fact the puck was nowhere near either player. No call. Then, 40 seconds later Connor Dewar gets called for tripping. I agree that Dewar was guilty on the call. However, Ekholm was just as guilty of interference just before that. The Oilers would score on that PP to make the score 5-2.

No other penalties were called on the Maple Leafs in the period, but the referees missed a Mattias Janmark slash on the hands of Max Domi. That was the reason Domi went after Janmark. Luckily Janmark obliged Domi by dropping his gloves or the Maple Leafs would have been down a player once again.  

Before the Oilers scored their third goal of the game, Corey Perry grabbed Holmberg by the shoulder as Holmberg was attempting to clear the puck out of the Toronto zone. No call. That caused Holmberg to lose control of the puck and resulted in Edmonton retaining possession in the Maple Leafs zone. 

Samsonov appeared to pull a groin and Martin Jones had to come into the game with 3:39 left in the third. That was scary ugly.  But, Jones was up to the task, the Oilers ran out of time, Matthews hit the empty net, and Samsonov was fine.  

What’s Next?

After passing one big test this weekend there is no rest. The Maple Leafs hopped on a plane and flew to Raleigh, North Carolina, for a 6:00 pm rematch on Sunday with the Hurricanes. If Toronto can pull off a win it would go a long way to giving the Maple Leafs confidence down the stretch. 

Plus, both Boston and Florida lost Saturday night. Toronto is now six points back of Florida with a game in hand and two more games against them. The Maple Leafs are eight points back of Boston with three games in hand. They do not play the Bruins again in the regular season. There is still an outside chance Toronto could catch one or both of them.  

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