This game had it all. An Auston Matthews “controller died” defensive performance on a goal. A sick faceoff play goal. A blown 3-1 lead. Timothy Liljegren’s first goal. A brutal goal allowed from Jack Campbell. Matthews reaching 10 straight road games with a goal. Ilya Mikheyev scoring from the corners. Jordan Binnington allowing six goals. Terrible officiating. Even Morgan Rielly wasn’t satisfied with the entertainment value and took a penalty with six second left to make it close. It wasn’t one of their prettier games, but the Leafs were the better team, and you can’t deny that it was a fun one. And the fact that the Leafs escaped it with with the win makes it even better, and ended the Blues 13 game home point streak as well.
TLN Three Stars
3rd Star: Timothy Liljegren
He was one of the best defenseman in the game for the Leafs possession wise, with a 68.8% CF% and 62.8% xGF%, all while playing just his second game in over a month and doing so against top competition alongside Jake Muzzin. Oh, and he finally got his first NHL goal with an absolute bullet of a one-timer for what was the go-ahead goal at the time.
2nd Star: Mitch Marner
Marner played his first game since returning from COVID protocol, and he did not look out of place. In fact, he was even more threatening than usual. On top of his 63.06% CF% and 75.69% xGF%, he also scored his first goal in almost two months (which, for him, was only seven games), and also had a primary assist on the power play for the first time since the beginning of November, which was 15 games for him. Not just that, but his shot actually seemed threatening a few times as well, something we don’t see too often from him.
1st Star: Auston Matthews
What else can we really say about Auston at this point. He had a gaff at the beginning of the game on the Ryan O’Reilly goal, and then immediately made up for it with the faceoff play to tie it, and then also had a goal of his own on the power play late in the game to tie it for the Leafs. He also had a 58.68% CF% and 64.92% xGF% despite playing about 60% of his ice time against O’Reilly, one of the best defensive centers in the league.
40th Star: Jack Campbell
Even the best goalies have their bad games, and it wasn’t a pretty one for Campbell tonight, allowing five goals on 25 shots for an .800 save percentage, including a couple goals that were tough to watch go in. It’s been a road trip to forget for Jack considering all the blown leads he’s been a part of (not that that’s all on him).
How well did I know the enemy?
I said in my matchup preview earlier today that if the Leafs kept it tight and disciplined, they’d have the advantage. The refereeing didn’t exactly allow for the latter to happen, which meant the former didn’t either, and it ended up being an all out offensive onslaught for both teams. Despite the Blues having the better offense, the Leafs came out on top, partially because of the Leafs weapons, and partially because the Leafs were still the better five on five team, which helped create the advantage it did for the Leafs despite the Blues getting a bit luckier with the shooting percentage.
Tweet of the night
The Swedish Godfather has spoken
— Patric Sandin (@psan1969) January 16, 2022
By the numbers
Somehow amidst all the chaos, the Leafs find themselves with a 2-1-1 record on this road trip, and their best game was the one regulation loss. That’s hockey I guess. They finally leave the Western conference for a couple stops in New York, first playing the Rangers on Wednesday. Or at least, that’s what is next, the Leafs still have a bunch of postponed games that need to be rescheduled at some point, and with one game until next Saturday, I wouldn’t be shocked if a game or two gets put in there. For now, it’s the Rangers game, which you can catch on Sportsnet at 7:30 p.m. EST.