When the Toronto Maple Leafs come to your town, don’t take a penalty. It may be the last thing you ever do.
The offense continues to click, the defense had another rough night, and the special teams came up huge as the Toronto Maple Leafs took down the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 in the Motor City on Thursday night.
Eventually the Maple Leafs’ style of play is going to catch up with them, but for now they’re sitting pretty with the best offense in the NHL and a 4-1-0 record, the same five game record they had last year. They’ve won three straight, all on the road, and show no signs of slowing down.
With everything seeming to go right for the Leafs in these last few games, the major storyline continues to be the absolute domination by #34 and #44
Matthews and Rielly: Destroyers of the Universe
Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly each had two point nights, pushing them both to 12 points on the year. They are tied for the league lead in points, while Matthews leads in goals with nine and Rielly leads in assists with nine.
Rielly’s game this year has been about using his speed to keep opponents in check on defense while simultaneously setting up the Leafs in the offensive zone. His passes are quick and calculated, looking for the best possible chance for the Leafs to light the lamp. He also used his underrated slap shot last night, firing in the Leafs’ first goal of the game on the one time. His 12 points are the second most by a defenseman through five games in NHL history behind Harry Cameron and his 15 point start with the Toronto Arenas during the 1917-18 season.
Matthews’ game has been simple, but effective: Shoot the puck and watch it go in. He’s shooting at an astounding 52.9% on 17 shots, an insane number that will regress but this is the kind of start to a season that very few players can accomplish. In fact, Matthews, at 21-years old, is the youngest player ever to record multiple points in all of his team’s first five games. The previous youngest player to achieve this feat? Wayne Gretzky at age 22 during the 1983-84 season.
That Power Play is Insane!
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been solid over the last few games on the power play, but last night felt different. Whether it was John Tavares’ no-look pass to Matthews (by way of Kadri) on the second PP goal or #34’s bullet on the first PP goal, the unit of Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tavares, Mitch Marner and Rielly is the best PP unit in the NHL, hands down. They are deadly, their passing is precise and they wait for the perfect moment to strike. They went two for four last night, complimenting the penalty kill that went three for three. It also helps that John Tavares and Marner both have ten points so far, tied for third in the league behind Matthews and Rielly.
The Defense Stumbles…Again.
Even in a game where the Leafs score five goals, the defense made decisions that were almost disastrous for their lead. There were multiple mistakes, like Martin Marincin pinching way too high in the offensive zone, leading to a three-on-one and the Red Wings’ first goal. Another example is Marincin and Ron Hainsey taking penalties less than four minutes apart in the third period while the Leafs had the lead.
Mark my words this defense is going to end up costing Maple Leafs a playoff series. Even with how well this offense is performing there will come a time where they won’t score five or seven goals a game, and the Leafs will get burned on the back-end and watch their Stanley Cup hopes go up in smoke.
With the third game of a road trip, there may have been a concern that the Toronto Maple Leafs may get burned out and drop a game or two. So far, there aren’t any signs of happening. The offense and special teams carried the load with ease last night and showed no signs of slowing down. Matthews and Rielly are leading this team into opposing cities and leaving nothing in their path, and it is only going to get better from here on out.
The four game road trip comes to an end as the Toronto Maple Leafs head to Washington D.C. to face Alex Ovechkin and the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Saturday night.