Well, that wasn’t a fun one. But it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Leafs came into tonight’s game without Mitch Marner, one of their best players, and Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase, two key cogs to their shutdown line, so with some obvious holes up front tonight, the fact that they were in the game as much as they were says a lot about how long Jack Campbell kept them in the game, and the dominant play of Auston Matthews tonight. They made a statement in the first half by taking a 4-1 lead in spite of that, and the Avalanche made a statement by coming back.
Third Star: William Nylander
Nylander didn’t end up with a single point tonight, but he was flying out there tonight, creating chance after chance, and honestly probably could have ended up with five or six if anyone could have buried them.
Second Star: Alexander Kerfoot
Kerfoot scored a key goal in the first, changing the momentum of the game early on by getting the first goal after the Leafs were getting hemmed in their own zone for the first eight minutes of the game. He was up against his former team, and got a bigger role playing on the Matthews line without Marner, and he showed up to play with a goal and two assists.
First Star: Auston Matthews
It was Matthews vs. MacKinnon, and while the result wasn’t what they wanted, Matthews definitely did his part, including two goals on the same shift. A 62.05% CF% and 74.86% xGF% is also pretty impressive considering that he spent a lot of time against the Avs top line as well.
40th Star: The Refs
I know the Leafs didn’t exactly do themselves any favours with some of the penalties they took, but there was quite a few missed calls for the Leafs, not to mention that absolutely atrocious embellishment call on T.J. Brodie. I’m glad they aren’t trying to do even up calls, but those missed Leafs calls could have slowed down the momentum the Avs got over the course of the third period in the comeback.
How well did I know the enemy?
Well, I guess I did call this, just maybe not in the way it happened. I talked about how the Avs were one of the few teams better than the Leafs at controlling play, and the Leafs would probably struggle in that regard at 5v5 with the players they’re missing, and the Avs had a 63.71% CF% and a 61.17% xGF%. I mentioned that Campbell and their special teams would play an impact, and it did, as Campbell kept them in the game for a long time, and the Leafs went 1/1 on the power play and 4/4 on the penalty kill.
Hey, score effects are one hell of a drug, and the Avs aren’t the kind of team you want to be taking them with.
Tweet of the night
Regardless of tonight’s results, this will always remain true
Anyone who doesn't put Auston Matthews in the conversation for league's best player either doesn't watch hockey or is blinded by their hatred for Toronto (see: from Western Canada).
— Filipe Dimas (@FilipeDimas) January 9, 2022
While this loss ends the win streak, the Leafs do maintain a 5 game game point streak as they continue their five game road trip. It doesn’t get any easier though, as they face off against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night. You can catch the game at 10 p.m. EST on TSN4.