The wins keep coming for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Friday’s 4-1 win at San Jose makes it eight wins in the past nine games and the Leafs are now at a stage where they can afford to be more critical about their victories.
That does not mean nitpicking every little thing. However, a coach can see a team that is winning and still find areas to improve.
“There were key moments when we were really good,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “In general, I didn’t think we were very good in that game at 5-on-5. Penalty killing was good, goaltending was good. Our game at 5-on-5 didn’t look like anything that it has looked here of late.”
“I don’t blame our approach or mindset,” Keefe continued. “The game was a lot more open, a lot quicker today than we would like it to be, than it has been in our recent games.”
“To win 4-1 in a game that I didn’t think we were very good in, is a really great sign.”
To the takeaways…
1. This was the good version of William Nylander
When Nylander was crushing it earlier in the season, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe would praise him for moving his feet, talking about how consistently dangerous he is when that is the case. Nylander then went through a recent slump that made it clear what happens when he is not as engaged in the game. Well, against the Sharks, Nylander had a season-high 11 shot attempts and eight shots on goal to go with his goal and an assist. There is probably something to be said for scoring on the first shift and how that might have motivated his performance the rest of the way.
2. Another brick in the Woll
While Nick Bonino’s goal was not great, the kind that an NHL goalie might be expected to save, there is not much reason to complain when that was the only goal that he allowed on 35 shots. Considering Woll’s relative inexperience, the fact that the Maple Leafs have won all three of his starts sure makes it easier to get by in Petr Mrazek’s absence.
3. Wayne Simmonds is starting to get rewarded
The game is different for Simmonds now, as he plays primarily in a fourth-line role. But with Ondrej Kase out, Simmonds was bumped up to play with Nick Ritchie and David Kampf. Simmonds scored a goal and after he had four points in 19 games to start the season, he has three points in the past two games. The thing is, he had created so many chances without putting the puck in the net that it felt like he was due for some better luck around the net.
4. The Leafs locked down San Jose’s top two centres
Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl drive a lot of the results for the Sharks and the Maple Leafs took them out of the game, at least in terms of shot generation. Couture had two shot attempts and one shot on goal. Hertl had one shot attempt and no shots on goal. Coming into the game, if the Leafs knew that they would limit that pair to that degree, there would be a pretty good chance to win.
Timo Meier continues to play great for the Sharks. While he did not get on the scoresheet, Meier had a game-high 13 shot attempts and led the Sharks with seven shots on goal.
5. Patience pays off
When the Maple Leafs were 2-4-1 through the first seven games there were calls for massive changes in the organization. It seriously felt like there was pressure on the GM, coach, and maybe even star players. Aside from little tweaks to the lineup, the Maple Leafs stayed the course. They have rolled to 13 wins in 15 games since. They have tied the Florida Panthers atop the Atlantic Division with 31 points. The Maple Leafs have played two more games than the Panthers. Still, it is impressive to be tied for the division lead in relatively short order after an early-season slump that was painted as the end of the world in some spots.
TOR 2.37 SJ 2.04
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