Toronto Maple Leafs Play Their Best Game of the Season, So Far

John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs benched Justin Holl and went out and played their best game of the year so far.

The Toronto Maple Leafs completely dominated a lousy Detroit Red Wings team that was without it’s most selfish and ignorant player, and who used a shaky return from Petr Mrazek to make the game seem much closer than it should have been.

John Tavares had a great game, and Auston Matthews was repeatedly frustrated yet again, building pressure to the inevitable six-goal performance he’s growing increasingly due for.

All in all, a pleasant Saturday Night was had by all. (stats from

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings

The Leafs have only played three games so far where they finished with an Expected-Goals rating below 50%.  The first was against Ottawa in a game where they had 47 shots and should easily have scored their way out of trouble.  The second was against he Penguins in their worst game yet under Sheldon Keefe, and the third was a 49% effort against the Hurricanes in a pretty even game against a legit contender.

Even that Penguins game didn’t fall apart until Pittsburgh scored twice in ten seconds after the Leafs just had 12 shots in a row.  The point: in the Leafs three worst games, they could have won all of them if their starts were putting the puck in the net.  This is great news because a struggling team needs to know how they are losing if they want to know what the best way to proceed is.

For the Leafs, the answer is stick to the plan and results will come eventually.

That philosophy paid off last night in a complete beatdown of the Red Wings where the Leafs put up their first + 70% expected goals game of the season (71%).

It was a great game especially for Captain John Tavares who scored twice and added an assist. Tavares looks five years younger to start this season and has been pretty much great in every game. If not for the Toronto Maple Leafs getting such bad shooting luck he’d have something like seven goals in nine games.

Matthews “struggles” continue to amuse as he had seven individual scoring chances and five high-danger ones but still couldn’t score.

As for Liljegren, I don’t see how he can ever be healthy scratched again, though he definitely will be.  All the Leafs did was get 23 shot-attempts with him on the ice and allowed only 5, for an insane puck-possession rating of 82%.  I absolutely loved watching him and Sandin.  They outshot Detroit 12 to 3 when on the ice together.

Next. 3 Things the Leafs Can Do to Get Better. dark

The Toronto Maple Leafs moved to 4-4-1 with the victory and will take on the Golden Knights on Tuesday.