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Knee Jerk Reaction: Maple Leafs get two points the hard way

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Photo credit:Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
If this is your first day following the Leafs you are probably shocked that a lottery team like the Ducks with a flu ridden roster and a somewhat inexperienced goaltender would give the Leafs that amount of difficult. If you are a long standing Leafs fan you are probably shocked that the Leafs actually came back to win the game 2-1 in overtime. The 50+ shot shutout seemed far more likely but thankfully the Maple Leafs packed their positive attitudes for their trip to California and the two wins in two games has already made the trip a success.
There was a lot of flack assigned to Sheldon Keefe for his decision to go back to Martin Jones for tonight’s game. I’ll admit that things certainly worked out okay for him. The Leafs were able to keep the workload down for the most part and it wasn’t until the less than ideal combination of Domi and Bertuzzi were on the ice during a 4v4 in the Leafs zone resulted in the predictable chaos and confusion leading to a Bertuzzi star fish and Ducks goal. I’m not sure you can put that on Martin Jones at all and I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him it would be okay after watching that goal transpire.
Still, the biggest thing with the game was that the Leafs continue to make non-world beating goaltenders look like the second coming of Patrick Roy. It seems that so much of the Leafs offensive attack can be managed by strong puck tracking and avoiding overcommitting positionally. That’s not to take anything away from Lukas Dostal who did have his work cut out for him and that is not taking anything away from Leafs shooters who combined for 57 shots, it’s just that the shot chart does show some reluctance to go the high slot and it’s interesting that for the volume of shots, the Leafs only had 3 5v5 rebound attempts, matching the same number of rebound attempts from the Ducks. The difference of 5v5 corsi of 56-29 in favour of the Leafs being reduced to a 1.81 expected goals for to 1.4 expected goals against captures the quality of what the Leafs were putting out there. The fact that Tavares was able to tie the game on a low rebound opportunity shouldn’t be lost on anyone and Toronto needs to become okay with not scoring pretty goals.
A few stray thoughts
Matthews scoring his 30th (for his 8th consecutive season) and Nylander getting on the scoresheet are nice to have takeaways from this game as well. As much as it is a team game and not about individual success, it’s nice to have results that show there are talented individuals on the Leafs. The fact that it was Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Rielly that found the scoresheet is encouraging and eventually skill trumps being goalie’d.
The physical play continued in a strong way with Matthew Knies putting on a clinic of how to be a force on the puck, Tyler Bertuzzi showing that he truly is a sour pain in the ass, and Simon Benoit establishing himself as the physical defenceman the team has been looking for since the before the Mike Komisarek signing. Throw in a debatable hit from Bobby McMann and his willingness to answer Lyubushkin for it, the Leafs are starting to look like a team that won’t be pushed around.
The Leafs now have a couple of days of fun in the sun and a couple of days for Martin Jones to rest up for facing another one of his former teams, the San Jose Sharks. It seems like Jones is going to want these Sharks games and with the way he is playing, Keefe is going to give it to him. It seems likely that Hildeby’s debut will be slated for the Jan 13/14 split unless the Leafs want to break him in on the road, which is something we’ve seen frequently before from Keefe.
Saturday’s game in San Jose will be at a Leafs friendly 7pm ET start time.

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