The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a couple of wins and got them. Starting on the road in Nashville and then in Dallas after the All-Star break, the team came out with victories over both teams. That moved them from outside to inside a playoff position, but the team has to keep winning to hold that position.
In this post, I want to keep fans up-to-date about news and rumors from the team.
Item One: Jason Spezza Scores His Seventh Goal of the Season
I admit that I’m a Jason Spezza fan or really any of the older veterans who come back at league minimum to have one more chance at a Stanley Cup run. So, for me, it’s good to see his improved treatment since Sheldon Keefe replaced Mike Babcock as the team’s head coach earlier in the season. Since that time, Spezza’s had more playing time and he’s done better on the score sheet. He’s a good value at just 10 minutes of ice time per game.
His goal against the Nashville Predators was his seventh of the season and came on his only shot of the game in the 5-2 victory. Spezza’s goal put the team up 4-1 in the second period and was his first goal in his last six games. In total, the 36-year-old Spezza has scored 19 points in 38 games in his first season with the Maple Leafs. I say his “first season with the Maple Leafs” because, personally, I’d like to see him return next season as well. But, it’s too early to tell.
Item Two: William Nylander Now Has a Scoring Streak of Six Games
William Nylander scored his 23rd goal and added an assist in a 5-2 win over Nashville. He then scored his 24th goal early in his next game against Dallas. That gives him a six-game point streak, in which he’s scored a goal now in five straight. I’m thinking he’s left the dust of a bad 2018-19 season in the corner. He’s already scored almost four times the goals this season than he had last and now has 46 points in 51 games.
Item Three: Frederik Andersen Wins Two Straight Games
To say it straightforwardly, Frederik Andersen played poorly against the Chicago Blackhawks in the game just prior to the All-Star break and gave up six goals in that loss. But the 30-year-old Dane bounced back to win both games since the break. Against the Predators, he stopped 34 of 36 shots; and, against the Stars, he stopped 31 of 34 shots to record his 24th win of the season. He’s played 18 games on the road this season and has won 13 of them.
Although his record is now a solid 24-9-6, his goals-against-average of 2.87 and .910 save percentage isn’t much to write home about. However, the strong Maple Leafs offense often scores more than Andersen gives up. And, simply stated, that’s the point: score more goals than your opponent.
Item Four: Rasmus Sandin Nets His First NHL Goal
Rasmus Sandin scored his first NHL goal, a game-winner, against the Predators. He also set up the recently-high-scoring Nylander loose for a goal on a beautiful breakaway pass for the game’s first goal. Sandin looks like a keeper and has scored four points in four games since his return from the World Junior Championships and the AHL Toronto Marlies.
Item Five: New Life for Tyson Barrie Under Coach Sheldon Keefe
Tyson Barrie extended his point-scoring streak to four games. He had an assist on Auston Matthews’ goal and scored a beautiful goal himself in the second. Barrie’s thriving under new coach Keefe and seems like a new player since Keefe took over from Babcock. He now has five goals and 20 assists for 25 points this season and has leapfrogged into fifth place on the team’s scoring stats.
Item Six: Will Auston Matthews Score 60 Goals and Get 100 Points?
In Nashville on Monday night, Auston Matthews scored an empty-netter for his 35th goal of the season. Then, in his next game against the Stars, he scored his 36th and added an assist. He now has 60 points in 51 games this season.
It might be a stretch, but if he continues his strong pace he might score in triple digits this season with 60 goals. There are 31 games left and he needs 24 goals. Is it possible? Yes, but he needs a scoring binge.
Item Seven: Maple Leafs Player Moves
There have been a number of recent player moves for the Maple Leafs.
First, the Maple Leafs loaned Tyler Gaudet to the team’s AHL affiliate Marlies on Thursday. Gaudet had been moved up to the Maple Leafs as an insurance policy in case Matthews’ wrist would not allow him to play. However, Matthews ultimately played so the Maple Leafs no longer need the 26-year-old forward on the big club. He’ll return to the Marlies, where he’s assumed a prominent role and has scored 13 points in 39 games this season.
Second, defenseman Kevin Gravel had been promoted to the Maple Leafs early on Friday, but then was reassigned on the same day. [It helps that the Maple Leafs and the Marlies share the same practice facilities – The Ford Performance Centre, formerly Mastercard Centre For Hockey Excellence, is a hockey facility located in the Etobicoke.] Gravel hasn’t played with the Maple Leafs since October 26, but there was some speculation that the team might be nearing a trade to move out a defenseman. Now that he’s headed back to minors, that rumor has fizzled a bit. The 27-year-old has been held scoreless during his three games with the Maple Leafs this season, averaging just over 11 minutes (11:05) of ice time.
Third, Travis Dermott is ill and missed Friday’s practice. Dermott’s currently suffering a nine-game pointless streak and is playing only 15:35 per game this season. He’ll have a hard time matching the 17 points he scored up last year. If he doesn’t play against the Senators on Saturday, Martin Marincin will probably take his place in the lineup.
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