The Toronto Maple Leafs have had quite the evolution through 30 games this season. Early in the season, when they were grasping at straws for a win, they would take them any which way. Now, this Maple Leafs squad wins consistently and can afford to pick at the flaws that are exhibited in many of those wins.
Case in point, the Maple Leafs beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 Tuesday night and while the team can feel good about a comfortable road win, they can acknowledge that there were some parts of the game that need to be cleaned up.
“If you look at the game as a whole, I think we’d like the puck more than we had it tonight,” said Morgan Rielly. “They definitely had periods of time where they controlled the play.”
“That being said,” Rielly continued. “I thought we defended pretty well. We didn’t give up too many odd-man rushes against a team that likes to play with lots of speed.”
“I thought our guys did a really good job of capitalizing on our chances,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “I thought we played a disciplined game, defensively. At times we defended more than we would like, but I thought we did a good job at doing the things that we were looking to do before the game, which was to limit the space and the speed of their best people.”
“It’s a good win for our guys,” Keefe continued. “I loved our response in the third period after giving up that goal.”
The Maple Leafs have moved into first place in the NHL with the win, though they have also played more games than the teams in pursuit.
To the takeaways…
1. Jack Campbell, Baby
The end result looked like an easy win for the Maple Leafs but the story could have been different if not for Campbell rising to meet the challenge. Early in the second period, the Oilers were controlling play and getting a lot of chances but with Campbell holding strong, it was easy to see frustration building for Edmonton.
Campbell has now started 22 games this season – his career high is 26 starts – and is rocking a .937 save percentage. He has had a huge role in Toronto’s success this season.
2. Who shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?
While there is some temptation to look at who limited the league’s top scorers, holding them to zero points and a combined five shots on goal, it should not be ignored entirely that when McDavid was on the ice during 5-on-5 play, the Oilers controlled 67.7% of shot attempts and 64.8% of expected goals. Score effects play a part in those numbers and McDavid was not only on the ice for two goals against but was directly responsible on those two goals.
The Oilers had their stars split up for most of the night. Draisaitl skated with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto. When that line was on the ice against Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie, the Maple Leafs had eight shot attempts compared to the Oilers’ one.
3. Auston Matthews is going to run away with the Rocket
With 13 goals in his past 10 games, Matthews has quickly closed the gap on the league’s leading goal-scorer, Leon Draisaitl, who has 23 goals in 27 games. Matthews now has 20 goals in 30 games and averaging just under 4.5 shots on goal per game as one of the most dangerous shooters in the league, he is in the best position to win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer.
“I’ve never played on a team with a guy who can score goals like this,” said Wayne Simmonds. “It’s unbelievable to watch. I think the best part about it is that he does it in so many different ways.”
4. Welcome back, Ilya Mikheyev
The industrious winger had yet to play this season after breaking his thumb in the final preseason game. His possession numbers were nothing special (36.8 CF%, 47.5 xGF%) but he played more than 15 minutes against the Oilers. That’s a good start for a player who gives the Maple Leafs more options in their middle six.
5. Morgan Rielly is making a strong case for Team Canada
Who knows whether or not the NHL will ultimately send its players to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics but the Maple Leafs defenseman is making a strong case to be included on the roster for Team Canada. With a goal and an assist against the Oilers, Rielly has 18 points (4 G, 14 A) in his past 15 games.
EDM 3.17 TOR 2.91
Advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick
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