In a critical Atlantic Division matchup, the Toronto Maple Leafs staked a claim for first place.
15 goals in 14 games. That is what Auston Matthews ended his night with as he sniped a bar-down overtime winner with 2.7 seconds remaining in the extra frame to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
In what was essentially a home game for the Maple Leafs (The KeyBank Center was dominated by members of Leafs Nation), the boys in blue and white overcame a 41-30 shot deficit by utilizing their offence to overcome adversity late in the third period.
The win gives the Maple Leafs their fifth straight win, improving them to 20-8-0 and giving them 40 points and sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division, putting them three points behind the first place Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand. The Sabres lost their fourth straight game and are now 17-8-4, giving them 38 points and a six-point lead over the fourth-place Boston Bruins.
Auston Freaking Matthews
“It’s always fun playing in this building, lots of blue and white jerseys,” Matthews said with a laugh after shoving a dagger of an overtime winner into the hearts of Sabres fans everywhere.
Make that 23 points in 14 games and seven points in three games since returning from injury for #34. Matthews, injuries aside, is becoming one of the top goal scorers in the league this year. Whether it is the wrap-around goal he had in the second period or the snipe he had in overtime with time winding down, Matthews certainly has a flair for scoring and for the dramatic.
Maybe Luke, just maybe…
Elite Talent Carrying the Leafs
One concern I have going forward is the Leafs relying on guys like Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly and (Praise the Hockey Gods) William Nylander bailing out the team going forward. As strong as the team’s depth is, a majority of the scoring is coming from the top two lines, which while expected, could result in burnout as the season continues.
The top six players have combined for 61 goals and racked up 142 points compared to the 25 goals and 59 points generated by the rest of the forwards (Including recent departure Josh Leivo). As great as it is the franchise faces are scoring at a rapid rate, the depth forwards need to find a way to contribute in order for the Leafs to not count on their top six every single game.
That may be what they’re paid for, but in an 82 game season, that scoring may dry up in patches.
Colour me wrong if they continue to keep it up, but it’s still a concern to me.
Elsewhere in Toronto Maple Leafs Nation
Patrick Marleau scored his third goal in five games with his third-period tally to tie the game at three. That gives him seven on the season. He now has 1145 career points, tied with Sidney Crosby for 54th all time.
Frederik Andersen recorded his fourth straight win and now sits at 16-7-0 (Most wins in the NHL) with a .931 SV% (Third in the NHL) and 2.32 GAA (Seventh in the NHL). He has now also made 717 saves against 770 shots, which is second in the NHL in both categories behind Craig Anderson. This shows the Leafs are falling back into the old habit of getting outshot to oblivion and Andersen having to stand on his head. Hopefully, this will not be an issue going forward.
Matthews is now 11 goals from his 100th career goal, John Tavares is 11 shy of his 300th goal and Jake Gardiner is just six goals shy of 50 in his career.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are back at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night, along with the expected season debut of Nylander, as the Detroit Red Wings come to town for the Leafs’ second straight Atlantic Division game.