The Leafs pulled out a four to three win in last night’s thrilling overtime game against Frederik Andersen and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Leafs weren’t particularly great in front of Petr Mrazek who had a solid night saving 28 of 31 shots. Despite the final score and another three points added to the Leafs total on the season they must change the way, they play defensively, if they want any sort of playoff success. They conceded way too many high danger scoring opportunities and were lucky that Mrazek was on his game. Wins are nice and that’s what you’re always aiming for, of course, however, now that we’re past the halfway mark of the season we must look at how clean was the win. The Leafs have been a high event team ever since this core was the centrepiece of the team, we need to start to see progression in their defensive game or there’s no reason to believe they will be successful come playoff time.
A positive in this game was the stars came to play again which is a huge positive. Matthews got his 30th and 31st goal of the season before leaving the game after taking a knee to the back of the head; there has been no update on Matthews as I’m writing this. Marner extended his goal streak to eight games, scoring to tie the game at three and the overtime winner. The biggest issue for the Leafs in last year’s playoff series was Matthews and Marner were quiet. If the stars show up in the playoffs and they tighten up in their zone, the Leafs aren’t a team you want to play against.
Another positive for the Leafs in this game was Wayne Simmonds. Ondrej Kase got kneed by Brendan Smith and Wayne got on the ice and went straight at Smith. Wayne pretty clearly won the fight and had a good game, he created opportunities and got in front of the net. Simmonds is a player that feels like is doing all the right things as of late but the puck just won’t go in for him. The bottom six needs to provide something for this team and it has been great this year. Simmonds is a huge energy guy that every winning team has, hopefully, he’s able to keep up this play throughout the year and into the playoffs.
On the goaltending side of things, Mrazek looked locked in which was great to see considering his limited starts this year due to injuries. Mrazek is going to be a key piece to this team because he can provide rest to Campbell and also to have multiple options in the playoffs if needed. Mrazek made big stops in crucial parts of the game and I can only pin the second goal on him. It wasn’t a high danger opportunity and the shot just snuck under his blocker and in. Overall, it was a pretty clean game for a guy that needed one. If Mrazek can stay healthy, as well as put in performances like this one, this could be the best tandem the Leafs have had in a while.
Next up for the Leafs, they travel to Calgary to start a three-game west coast road trip.