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Knee Jerk Reaction: Leafs play their best game of the week but come up short in overtime

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
2 months ago
In a week that has seen the Leafs pick up two wins that they seemed to be doing everything in their power to lose, tonight’s 4-3 loss against the Bruins where Toronto put up a consistent effort throughout was refreshing in a way and served as a reminder that the Leafs can play as a team. Hopefully the fact that it was tough competition won’t discourage this kind of effort again.
The Maple Leafs found some truly positive moments in tonight’s game, Auston Matthews picking up his first goal after a four game drought, as his 2nd goal in the last ten games seemed to bring him a moment of euphoria. He’d later add the game tying goal in the dying seconds of the third to emphasize the point that he’s back. The effort from Matthew Knies on the first Matthews goal certainly needs to be heralded as well and once again speaks to the fact that he is part of the answer of what has been plaguing the Leafs in recent years. A maximum effort physical player in the Leafs top six is something that has been demanded for years and as Knies finds his comfort in the NHL is only going to become a greater strength for the Maple Leafs.
Max Domi also busted his slump depending on if you look at playoff games or not as part of the slump, Max Domi has either been without a goal in 28 or 30 games dating back to last season. He’s picked up his first as a Leaf and it’s something that even Sheldon Keefe took a moment to enjoy as it was no doubt a special moment in Domi’s career. Again, some of the excitement has to be connected to the Maple Leafs youth movement as Nick Robertson did a great job of sending Domi up the middle against Ullmark.
Even while it is clear that upgrades are still needed the Leafs defence, as well as the team defence needs some credit for what they did tonight against Boston. The Bruins are a tough team and Toronto was able to hold them below 30 shots in regulation and the Leafs outshot them in the game.
Woll was adequate throughout the night but had his hands full in overtime. He deserved better than being at the mercy of a Nylander blown tire creating a broken play in the final seconds before potentially going to a shootout. Even when Woll isn’t bringing his “A” game it is very comforting to see he can turn it around and come up big.
The Leafs should be past the point where we are awarding them moral victories, but this did seem like a game they should be proud of but one that also reminds them that they have a way to go to be a true contender.

Some stray thoughts

  • I’m begging Sheldon Keefe to quit it with using David Kampf to start overtime. I’d honestly be cool if he quit it with playing David Kampf all together but baby steps. Given that faceoffs are no certainty even if you put out your faceoff specialist, it seemed foolish to shutdown Matthews for the first shift in overtime in order to go with a failed strategy. The back and forth in overtime is quick and the puck would come back to Matthews soon enough. It’s also important to remember that the Leafs success lies in the skill in the roster and that is Matthews not Kampf. It’s a bad strategy.
  • The Leafs were noticeably more aggressive tonight. The Leafs weren’t waiting for the Bruins to grab the puck, they were racing for it. There were more finished hits instead of free passes and they weren’t shy about joining scrums. It was what you want to see as response to the last game against Boston.
The Leafs now have some time off and they won’t play again until Thursday night in Ottawa. It will be interesting to see if Sheldon Keefe sticks with the way things are presently configured or if he will take this time to try something new with the lineup card.

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