5 Thoughts from the Leafs shutout win vs. a bad hockey team

There was a lot of intrigue going into this game, as not only was this a game against the Islanders, who have become a rival of sorts since they replaced their ice rink with all the salt that the fans have been crying since Tavares left, but also, Sheldon Keefe had done the unthinkable: start Michael Hutchinson in a non-back to back situation.

Of course, any momentum for this game was killed by the Islanders and their refusal to actually play the game of hockey, and instead try to do nothing (a Mike Babcock classic).

Anyways, let’s break down the game and it’s most interesting points.

1. The Leafs can be whatever you want them to be

It’s hard to believe it, but the same team that won a game 8-6 a week ago, followed by back to back 5-4 games, and a 6-3 win just two days ago just played one of the stingiest games of hockey we’ve seen in the Matthews era, something Mike Babcock could never do apparently, despite trying to die on that hill.

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Whether it’s shutdown hockey, a barn burner, relying on the stars, relying on the depth, or relying on the goalie, the Leafs have been winning in many different ways during this point streak (that has now hit the 10 game mark).

Not that we should be surprised that this team can play shut down hockey. Since Keefe took over, the Leafs have allowed 2.69 goals against per 60, ranked seventh in the league, and have an xGA/60 of 2.5, good for seventh best as well. This team has really turned a leaf since Keefe took over, no pun intended.

2. Hutchinson’s confidence continues to grow

While part of the reason Hutch got the nod tonight was to give Andersen some much needed rest, and the Islanders having the worst offense among playoff teams, another reason was probably to help his confidence. The Leafs only have four back-to-backs left, so Hutch is going to have to get in some games elsewhere if they don’t want to overwork Freddie.

Building off his first two wins of the season against Detroit and New Jersey, playing tonight against the Islanders showcased that the Hutchinson we saw for the first couple months probably isn’t going to be the same one for the rest of the season. I’m not talking Vezina quality numbers, but he’ll at least stop putting the Leafs out of games.

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3. ThE gRiT aNd TrUcUlEnCe ThIs TeAm NeEdS

Tonight we also got to see former Leafs Leo Komarov and Matt Martin, which was somewhat significant for a couple reasons. Firstly, former Leafs always like to score against the Leafs, and with Komarov being goalless this season (and almost a calendar year), and Martin only having three on the year.

Secondly, these are two players are always talked about that we should’ve kept when the conversation of this team needing more grit comes up, so either of them being impactful would’ve made for an easy narrative for the boomers to eat up.

And what did they have to show for it? Well, Komarov had a 38.89 5v5 CF% and a 30.34% 5v5 xGF%, while Martin had a 46.15% 5v5 CF% and a 60.42% xGF% (not bad, but I should probably mention that it was 0.27-0.17).

But hey, at least they were physical and totally shouldn’t have gotten any penalties.

4. Matthews continues to dominate

The Leafs are currently on a 11-1-1 stretch, and Matthews has probably been the Leafs best player during this stretch. In these 13 games, he’s only been held off the scoresheet for 3 games, and has 12 goals and 20 points during the stretch.

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Not only that, but tonight’s goal put him at 28, which is second in the NHL behind David Pastrnak’s 31, and his 21 even strength goals are first in the NHL, two ahead of Jack Eichel. Matthews has been showing a whole new level to his game under Sheldon Keefe, and being the Leafs highest paid player and face of the franchise, it’s something we shouldn’t be surprised by.

5. Point streaks come to an end

Unfortunately, not everything survived in tonight’s strong defensive performance. Tonight saw the end of John Tavares’ six game point streak, Tyson Barrie’s five game point streak, and William Nylander’s five game goal streak. Of course the Tavares line had to be shut down against the Islanders.

But, the team’s point streak lives on, as we now hit 10 games, going 9-0-1 during that span. That’ll get you back into a comfy playoff spot.