Toronto Maple Leafs Finish Season in 5th Place Overall

May 14, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Pierre Engvall (47) celebrates his first period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Pierre Engvall (47) celebrates his first period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Maple Leafs their final game of the regular season Friday night.

And just like that, the 56-game schedule has come to an end. Heading into Friday night’s game, the Toronto Maple Leafs had one more foe to conquer, the Winnipeg Jets, in their final tune-up before their battle with the Montreal Canadiens, beginning Thursday.

But as head coach Paul Maurice put it, and the way it has been for the past week or so now, the most important thing is coming out of this game with no bumps or bruises.

Mission accomplished.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Winnipeg Jets

In that similar vein, it was announced prior to puck drop, Mitch Marner – who was one of only four Leafs to play every single game thus far along with John Tavares, Alex Kerfoot, and TJ Brodie – would be getting the night off, with Winnipeg native Adam Brooks taking his spot in the lineup.

Although salary cap constraints only allowed Sheldon Keefe the one change, in-game adjustments to players’ ice time would surely be coming as well. As such, reducing Auston Matthews’ minutes as well – the Leafs superstar ranks fifth among forwards in time on ice per game heading into Friday – remains paramount as the team is going to need every ounce of that dominant goal scoring prowess as they look to go on an extended postseason run.

Matthews finished with 19:05 time on ice, so he wasn’t really rested too much.

Outside of health, building momentum should be number two priority for the Leafs in two specific areas: special teams (powerplay mainly) and in net.

Toronto’s powerplay struggles have been well documented and from a personnel standpoint, the team is better equipped than any in the league. It seems like a between-the-ears bug that is preventing this man-advantage group from exploding and a solid PP night could make a big difference come playoff time.

But alas, an 0-for-2 night five-on-four must be a little disheartening, but with reinforcements coming Thursday in Zach Hyman and Rasmus Sandin, a powerplay breakout could be in the works.

Similarly, even though the 17-3-2 record should instill confidence in Leafsnation’s starting goaltender, the fact Jack Campbell has never started an NHL playoff game has left some a little more reserved.  A confident Campbell can be a gamebreaker for the Leafs and ending the regular season on a high, with a solid performance, is all you could really ask for from the Leafs’ Bill Masterton Trophy nominee.

Opening the game with a first-period goal, Pierre Engvall now has registered four goals in his last five games and is making Keefe’s decision that much more difficult. Assuming Nick Foligno sticks on the Leafs second line with Hyman up top, it is hard to not marvel at what the Leafs shutdown line can be with Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev flanking Riley Nash.

But as Engvall continued to be the Leafs’ most noticeable player for good reasons, the exact opposite could be said of Morgan Rielly.

The Toronto Maple Leafs assistant captain was notable for all the wrong reasons Friday night as a failed zone clearing attempt glanced off Adam Lowry’s stick right to Dominic Toninato, who placed it perfectly onto Mason Appleton’s tape to tie the game at one.

A bad pinch at the Jets blueline later in the period lead to a two-on-one the other way, as TJ Brodie found himself in some familiar waters again.

I have been higher on Rielly’s season as a whole than most and believe his defensive inefficiencies are outweighed by the work he does in the offensive zone, but Friday’s game was one of the worst of his season. The Rielly-Brodie pairing was buried at five-on-five, registering only 21% of the expected goals (stats; MoneyPuck).

But overall, Keefe can look to some positives heading into the playoffs. Killing off the only penalty the team took, the head coach can now look at the league’s 13th best PK since March 20th – the day after Frederik Andersen shut it down to take care of a lower body injury – and feel confident in the team’s shorthanded personnel and system alike.

Next. The Five Best Moments of the Leafs Season. dark

Finishing off the season with a 35-14-7 record, now comes the real test for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With six days off until game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it is important for most of the roster to rest up – because hopefully, they are going to need it.