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Knee Jerk Reaction: A Knies night of hockey for the Leafs

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Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Maybe what was holding the Leafs back earlier in the series was that William Nylander’s injury wasn’t enough adversity for them. They needed something bigger. They needed Auston Matthews to step out of the lineup. With the Leafs superstar away, the Leafs rallied in overtime and after Joseph Woll pulling the Leafs butts out of the fire after some earlier opportunities, the combination of some clutch greasy hockey in front the Bruins net from John Tavares and Matthew Knies resulted in the Leafs rookie scoring what is unquestionably the biggest goal of his NHL career.
The kids are alright.
Pontus Holmberg and Matthew Knies both did excellent jobs of foreshadowing who they can truly be for the Leafs in the future. Knies not backing down and getting in the face of David Pastrnak is a sign of good things to come and Pontus Holmberg gaining the experience he has in the first round against the Bruins is going to shape him into a strong bottom-six forward for years to come.
While heaping praise on the Leafs it seems that Joseph Woll needs to be acknowledged. The big saves the Leafs were looking for in earlier games in the series showed up alongside Woll. The Leafs did a great job of limiting opportunities early in the game but as more opportunities crossed into the Leafs’ end, Woll answered them all.
The Leafs’ Game 5 effort was a cut above what we’ve seen from them in this series. There is something to be said for having your back against the wall and there is something to be said for wanting to prove that the team is more than just Auston Matthews. The collection of Auston Matthews’ linemates showcased why they normally play with one of the league’s best centres, but the absence of a pure shooter on the line seemed to leave Marner frustrated and shooting more. Domi was desperately passing despite having some of the best opportunities. Bertuzzi reminded us that his range mirrors Zach Hyman’s and if he’s not touching the goaltender at the time of the shot, he’s probably too far out to make a difference. The effort was there, and the effort seemed to be there throughout the Leafs’ top nine forward group tonight.
The Leafs’ defence was largely centred around big nights from Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe. Work needs to be done across the board, but once Timothy Liljegren began to calm down, he joined the Leafs’ top two defencemen as an effective puck-mover who helped create opportunities for the Leafs.
Things don’t get any easier for the Leafs, and considering their struggles at home, things might actually be tougher. They are still in it though and Thursday night the Leafs have an opportunity to push the series to seven games.

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