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Knee Jerk Reaction: Maple Leafs 4th line miraculously has their best night of the season

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
3 months ago
The Leafs are going streaking. After hanging on to get the win against the Flames in a shootout last night in a game where Toronto generally looked strong, the Leafs put on a good performance again on Saturday night with a 5-2 win against the overachieving Vancouver Canucks.
The game was made notable as it marked the first healthy scratching of Ryan Reaves of his three year contract with the Maple Leafs. If you didn’t watch the game, you might be wondering how things went without him. I guess you could say that the Leafs got by just fine.
For starters, after questionable hits on David Kampf and Nick Robertson, the Leafs had both Mark Giordano and Max Domi step in to fight for their teammates. They both took instigators in the process and both of those resulted in the two Canucks goals, but the Leafs are taking baby steps on the way to being a proper team and you can certainly say the Leafs got by just fine despite the two goals. The next step is to start playing physical before the opposition runs your players.
As for on the score sheet, the fourth line seemed to do just fine without Reaves as well. I think a two goal night with Gregor and Kampf picking up goals and both Gregor and McMann having two point nights probably speaks to this being a unit to keep together for a while. This also frees up Ryan Reaves to focus on planning some really cool nights out for the boys during their Swedish road trip.
It’s fun to beat the dead horse that is “Ryan Reaves isn’t good enough for an NHL lineup” it is more about what the Leafs did and when you factor in that Nick Robertson also had a goal, the Leafs bottom six forwards outscored the top six tonight and it’s more about praising their effort than mocking Reaves. As P.K. Subban recently pointed out much to the chagrin of Leafs fans, deep teams win championships and against the Canucks the Leafs looked like a deep team.

Some other thoughts:

  • Samsonov’s confidence: hard to criticize him for the goals in the first period and the Leafs were short handed the entire time. He looks like he’s tracking pucks a lot better and seems far less erratic in net. The performance only got stronger as the game went on and there is promise he’ll work through his issues in the next few starts.
  • Importance that downtime over the next two weeks being used for good. The Leafs have five days off now until their games in Sweden. They’ll have five more days off after. The fact that the Leafs are going into this slow down and potentially team building trip feeling better about the team is the best case scenario, as long as it doesn’t equate to taking the foot off the gas or ignoring that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
  • Klingberg played over 18 minutes in a third pairing role and nothing bad happened. If this is Sheldon Keefe’s protection of Klingberg, it looks like it could work.
And finally, it seems like celebrating Nylander’s 15 game point streak is warranted. The streak is less about the record and more about his consistency to start the year, but what a way to get to 15 games:

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