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3 positives to grab from the latest soul crushing loss for the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
20 days ago
Plain and simple: Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders was another prime example of the 2023-24 Maple Leafs shooting themselves in the foot.
To this point of the season, Sheldon Keefe’s squad has been incapable of staying out of their own way. Seriously, when Pierre Engvall – out of all former players – is torching you, you know it’s worthy of a Ben Affleck smoking a cigarette in a Leafs jersey meme on social media.
That said, believe it or not, there certainly were a few positive notes to grab from an otherwise dismantling defeat.

THE CAPTAIN IS BACK

Far and away, John Tavares played his best game in weeks. Following the eight-day break, the 33-year-old, who tallied a goal and an assist in the loss to his former team, looked refreshed, re-focused, and ready to start doing his thing consistently again. Since the day he signed on to join his hometown team, Tavares has been the model of consistency. This guy’s a consummate professional. Furthermore, considering his longstanding body of work, it shouldn’t come as much of surprise to see him rounding into form again —even if it’s coming in the wake of the longest slump of his NHL career. Tavares always figures it out.

KNIES HAD SUBSTANTIAL JUMP

Similar to his former roommate (Tavares), the 21-year-old Knies looked rejuvenated on Monday night. Prior to the time off, the winger looked like he had hit a bit of a rookie wall to start off 2024. In general, despite not being able to hit the scoresheet at even strength, the Knies-Matthews-Marner trio had a very strong outing. They had several chances —highlighted by a nifty Knies pass to Auston Matthews early in the third period, one that resulted in a very rare triple post. Yeah, it was that kind of night for them.

ANOTHER SOLID OUTING FOR SAMSONOV

If you’re keeping score at home, the much-maligned Russian netminder has now turned in five consecutive quality starts since returning from his AHL sabbatical. On paper, suffice it is to say, Samsonov’s stats against the Islanders (3 goals on 29 shots) don’t necessarily look like anything to write home about. Having said that, anyone who knows how the Leafs operate defensively can sympathize with the man. Honestly, how did no one locate Kyle MacLean coming out of the penalty box?

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