Nothing like a 13 goal game to make you question whether you want to stay a Toronto Maple Leafs fan or preserve your heart and sanity.
On a wild night at the United Center in Chicago, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled out a 7-6 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks with Morgan Rielly’s second goal of the season less than a minute into the sudden death frame.
For those who believe that defense wins championships you did not enjoy this game for obvious reasons, it was a sloppy, turnover filled mess that you could argue the Maple Leafs should have lost. For all other hockey fans, it was a pulse pounding offensive clinic that shows just how dangerous both sides are at putting the puck in the back of the net.
Defense? What Defense?
John Tavares flexed his offensive muscles, recording his first hat trick as a Maple Leaf and ninth three goal performance of his career. Tavares put the puck past Cam Ward twice in the second period, but saved his best for the third where after falling down he batted the puck out of the air and fired it past Ward to record his third goal.
Not to be outdone by the new guy, Auston Matthews had a four point night and looked dominant on the ice, possibly due to his new linemate, Kasperi Kapanen.
Kapanen replaced Tyler Ennis on the top line with Matthews and Patrick Marleau and immediately made an impact. The 22-year old had a two point night which included a goal followed by and assist on Matthew’s first goal of the evening to tie the game at two after the Leafs fell behind in the game early. More offense came from the defense as Morgan Rielly had a three-point night, including the game winner just 19 seconds into overtime, along with a team best 23.8% relative Corsi.
In his season debut, Martin Marincin looked solid during his 14:58 minutes on the ice. He had a shot, two hits and a 4.2% relative Corsi in the place of Igor Ozhiganov, who looked shaky in his two appearances so far.
Marincin’s zone starts were almost entirely in an offensive capacity, with 80% of them coming in the offensive zone, so clearly Mike Babcock likes his to give his third pairing sheltered minutes. Hopefully he continues his play going forward and claims a permanent spot in the lineup.
The penalty kill did a fantastic job once again, going three for three including a brilliant kill of a double minor high sticking call on Andreas Johnsson. The Leafs are now eight for nine when they’re a man down.
The offense may have been flying but for the third consecutive game the defense left something to be desired. The Leafs were out shot 10-3 in the first ten minutes of the game (Otherwise known as the “Randy Carlyle Gameplan”), leaving Garret Sparks out to dry and needing him to make some solid saves to make sure the game didn’t get out of hand early.
Nikita Zaitsev had a rough night, with a -33.1% relative Corsi along with a giveaway. Zaitsev led the team in ice-time (24:22) and total shifts (30).
This game didn’t inspire confidence in the defense and it definitely wasn’t good for the heart, but the Toronto Maple Leafs escaped Chicago with two points and started their four game road trip off right. Hopefully the team will work on their structure and play before Tuesday’s road contest against the Dallas Stars, but this win was the perfect way to move on from the loss on Saturday.
Next up: As mentioned, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be on the road against Tyler Seguin and the Stars on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.