Toronto Maple Leafs Missed a Great Opportunity + Thornton Back

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Joe Thornton #97 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Joe Thornton #97 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Maple Leafs missed out on a great opportunity to but some serious space between themselves and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were leading 1-0 heading into to the third period, and had they been able to hand onto the lead, they would have put a seven point gap between themselves and the Canadiens heading into a three game series with the Ottawa Senators.

Instead, the Leafs have just a three point lead.  It was  a massive missed opportunity, but it’s not like they played terribly or anything.

The Leafs could have entered the third period with a huge lead if they had even just a bit of luck over the first two periods, but it was not to be.  You can’t win them all and the Leafs were certainly not going to stay perfect in one-goal games for long.

Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL Standings

Despite the loss, the Leafs remain in first place in the NHL, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins.  The Leafs are also the league leader in regulation wins, and are third in total goals.  Their plus 15 goal differential is second only to Tampa’s incredible plus 23.

In other news, the Leafs announced Sunday that Joe Thornton would return to the lineup for tonight’s game against the Senators.

The news that Thornton would play Monday was nice, but not unexpected.  Slightly more shocking was the revelation  in practice that Thornton would return to the top line.  Conventional wisdom held that Hyman had done so well with Matthews and Marner that he’d stay with them.

The Nylander and Tavares line, while posting nice numbers, isn’t exactly scoring a ton, and Hyman will be a huge upgrade over Vesey or Mikheyev.  Thornton, remember, was putting up mind-bogging numbers before he went down.

With Thornton on the ice in the five games he played, the Toronto Maple Leafs got 67% of the shot-attempts, 60% of the shots, and 61% of the expected goals.  51% is good. 55% is excellent. Anything beyond that is insane.  (naturalstattrick.com).

If Thornton can maintain anything close to those percentages, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be nearly unstoppable.  As much as Marner and Matthews are racking up the goals and assists, Hyman’s numbers were not as good with them as Thornton’s.

Next. Potential Mystery Trade Target. dark

Thornton’s return will be excellent, and it’s only too bad the Leafs missed out on such a sweet opportunity to put some space between themselves and the Canadiens.