Tonight the Leafs took on the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road for the second game of the 2019-20 season, and it was quite a thrilling win for them. They took this game 4-1 and mostly looked in control, other than some scrambly defensive zone shifts. But it wouldn’t be the Toronto Maple Leafs without that, right?
Here are some thoughts from the game to summarize how it went,
Frederik Andersen is back
Freddy had a bit of a rough game last night, allowing 3 goals on just 26 shots, in a game that the Leafs really controlled from a shots perspective. However, the defense was shaky in front of him, and his constant success in Toronto was bound to appear.
It’s only surprising that it has appeared so soon. We’ve gotten used to some rough October’s from Andersen, but tonight was a really impressive performance for a goalie who’s always been impressive. There were some really messy battles in front and other than one where he got caught in the middle of nowhere, he handled them expertly.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) October 5, 2019
Columbus is still pretty good
Even after the departure of Panarin, Bobrovsky, and all of the deadline-acquired assets by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team is still a threat in the NHL that deserves to be taken seriously. They deservedly are not considered for Cup contention, and may not even make the playoffs, but they’re still a credible team with good players.
The defense of Jones, Savard, Werenski, Murray, Nutivaara and Harrington combines high profile drafted talent with relatively unknown talents that have grown into major successes. The forward core containing Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, and Pierre-Luc Dubois in the forefront is also a good start, though they are certainly hurting without the dynamic playmaking ability of Artemi Panarin. In combination, they all looked really solid against this really good Toronto team.
Rotation on the Fringes
This game saw the Leafs tinker from their opening night roster, giving 4th line opportunities to Jason Spezza and Nic Petan over Nick Shore and Dmytro Timashov, and a 3rd pair opportunity to Justin Holl over Martin Marincin.
Spezza and Gauthier each got 10 minutes, with Holl getting 9 and Petan getting just 7.
Overall, the new additions looked like they came to earn their spot, and each were impressive in the short time they played in this game. Most of their time came in the first period, after that Mike Babcock seemed to really shorten his bench. Also, Toronto had a lot of powerplay time in this game, and none of those players are on that side of the special teams.
Some more rotating is left to do but it seems like Gauthier and Spezza may have done enough to earn longer-term spots in the early stages of the season.
After signing a huge contract in the offseason, Mitch Marner is back and leading the team in points again with a solid 2-goal performance in this game.
Marner was part of creating and finishing a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play on the powerplay with John Tavares that put the Leafs up 1-0 in the 1st:
— Leafs ALL Day (@LeafsAllDayy) October 4, 2019
Then, later on, Marner makes a great drive to the front of the net that gets some help from Joonas Korpisalo to trickle into the net to put the Leafs up 3-1 in the 3rd:
MITCH MARNER! His 2nd of the night with a beauty. 3-1 Leafs. pic.twitter.com/zyRso8taFs
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) October 5, 2019
Matthews has a ridiculous shot
This goal was so good, I don’t even know how to lead into it:
AUSTON MATTHEWS! That shot is just not fair. 4-1 Leafs. pic.twitter.com/tdS43ite05
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) October 5, 2019
I know we all love Matthews, and I’m sure we all appreciate how good he is at certain areas of the ice. However, the quality of this shot exceeds all of that for me. It’s insane.
It’s not really relevant here, but the fact that Matthews can put pucks in the net like this and is so good at other skills really drives home how obvious the Matthews/Laine debate has become.