Toronto Maple Leafs Hold Firm to Increase Division Lead.

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Jack Campbell #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 24, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Jack Campbell #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 24, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 to start off a 4 game road trip on a positive note.

With 20 games remaining, the Toronto Maple Leafs now have a slim 3 point lead on the Jets, with a game in hand, as they embark on the stretch run to close out the regular season.

They are now 3-2 vs the Jets in the 10 game set, with game 6 scheduled for Friday night in Winnipeg.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Winnipeg Jets

The Leafs came out of the gate flying in this one.  4 minutes in, Matthews scores on a rebound to open the scoring and give the Leafs that crucial first goal.  Credit Hyman here, as he took the puck hard to the net, narrowly avoided getting crushed by Dubois, and Matthews was in the right place at the right time.

#34 now has goals in three consecutive games.  I think he’s healthy again after struggling with a wrist injury for several weeks.

Hyman does it again 5 minutes later, he goes hard to the net and pots one in on a scramble to put the Leafs up 2-0.  Paul Maurice issues a challenge on the goal because he thinks it was goalie interference.  The review showed the play was a close call and could have gone either way, but they go with the call on the ice, good goal.  Although Hyman initiated his way into the crease, the puck was there, and the contact didn’t occur until Hyman touched the puck to score.

To explain a little further, Hellebuyck basically had no chance at making the save.  At the time Hyman scored, Hellebuyck was looking the other way and didn’t know where the puck was, therefor there was no way that he would have made the save even if Hyman hadn’t made any contact.  The rules are fuzzy here, but basically if the goalie doesn’t have a chance to make the save, the player in the crease is allowed incidental contact when playing the puck.  If Hellebuyck was trying to get to the puck and Hyman prevented him with the contact, then the goal would have come back.

That’s my two cents anyway.  Who really knows.  The refs are kind of inconsistent with this right now and it can get confusing.  The Leafs are up 2-0.

The Leafs go 0-3 on the PP in the period, but out-shoot the Jets 14-6, Hyman had 6 shots on goal by himself.  The Leafs top line of Hyman/Matthews/Marner had a very strong period.

The Jets took back the momentum in the 2nd.  The Leafs take a couple of “stick work” penalties that give the Jets a chance to get back in the game.  One of them was a double major for high-sticking by Brodie.  Just when things looked dire here, Kerfoot breaks in alone with speed and roofs it over Hellebuyck’s glove shoulder, beautiful finish.  Kerfoot with his first career shorty!  Only the second short handed goal the Leafs have scored this year (both against the Jets).

Morrissey does capitalize on the PP 30 seconds later to get the Jets on the board.  It was a point shot that was screened nicely by Stastny.

3-1 Leafs after 2 periods and Campbell looks very sharp.

In the 3rd period, the Jets spend a lot of time in the Leaf’s zone.  Score effects really had an impact here as the the Jets got the majority of the chances in the period.  The Leafs defended really well.  The Jets ended up on the winning side of the corsi battle, after the Leafs dominated the first period, and still lost the game.  The Leafs seemed in control the whole time.

Jack Campbell holds the fort and is now 7-0 on the season.

Interesting Notes from the game

Shot charts (all stats from hockey-reference.com).  I mentioned above that the Jets ended up on top of the chances battle, and they did with a 54.7CF% at the end of the game.  Most of that was in the second and third periods, so they came hard towards the end of the game.  It’s worth noting that of the 27 shots the Jets generated, only 4 of them were around the net in the high scoring areas.  In contrast, 13 of the Leafs 26 shots were in dangerous areas.  Again, the Toronto Maple Leafs were under some pressure in the 3rd, but they defended really well.

Ice time distribution was different.  Specifically, I’ll reference the usage of Matthews and Tavares, who dictate most of the 5v5 minutes of the top two lines.  Matthews had 19:23 in the game, down from his season average of 22:08.  Tavares had 18:09 in the game, which was only the 2nd time Keefe has gotten him to 18 minutes in the last 5 games.

This doesn’t seem like much but it’s noteworthy as Tavares/Nylander have played very well the last couple of weeks, and Keefe trusted them more tonight in terms of usage.  This is a good sign, as I just don’t think you can keep playing Matthews/Marner 24 minutes/game and then ask them to have something left for a playoff run.  I’m going to monitor this moving forward.

As a side note to that, Alex Galchenyuk keeps looking like a good hockey player.  He played over 15 minutes last night and I really liked his game.  He also got some PP time on the second unit and looked fine there.  Maybe Keefe just trusts the second line more with this combination.

Simmonds/Engvall/Mikheyev looked out of sink for most of the game.  That line needs Hyman.  The first line needs Hyman.  Every line needs Hyman.  I cringe when thinking about the contract demands of Zach Hyman this summer.  Hopefully he just decides to stay at some kind of discount.  *Fingers Crossed*.

The PP is now 0-23 in terms of consecutive opportunities.  March 9th was the last time they scored.  I think this has probably become a mental thing at this point.  When the Toronto Maple Leafs do actually pot a couple, and they will, the flood gates will open.

Four Defensemen the Leafs Could Trade For. dark. Next

It’s just become a little bit abnormal at this point.  But, somehow, the team keeps winning.  Give credit where credit is due, they are finding a way to keep getting points.

Bring on the Jets Friday.

Go Leafs!