Photo credit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Knee Jerk Reaction: Martin Jones strengthens his case for staying in the Maple Leafs net
By Jon Steitzer1 month ago
Toronto was in need of a statement game after struggling with a 1-4-1 record in their last six games and the demotion of Ilya Samsonov. There have been increasing doubts about Sheldon Keefe, and pressure on Brad Treliving to find a replacement in net. I’m not sure all of that goes away with shutting out the Kings 3-0 but it doesn’t hurt to feel good for a few hours, right?
Heading into the road trip most of the excitement has been around a potential start for Dennis Hildeby, possibly as soon as Wednesday night against the Ducks. The plan was going to be dependent on how Martin Jones was feeling and how Sheldon Keefe was feeling about him and now it seems safe to say that the debut of Hildeby stands a good chance of being delayed. 31 shots was a solid night of work and might warrant rest though.
The shutout is the second in the nine games played by Martin Jones this season and the 30th of his career. His save percentage this season rises to .926, a number that is unquestionably great but not one that aligns with the Jones eye test or his career numbers. Still, sometimes the best goaltender is the unsustainably good one.
The strong night wasn’t limited to Jones. Tyler Bertuzzi had one of his best nights as a Leaf. He was constantly under the skin of the Kings and set up two goals by retrieving the puck swiftly after a Leafs faceoff loss and getting it to the front of the net.
A two goal night for William Nylander is always a nice takeaway as well, empty netter be damned, Nylander is leaving Leafs fans excited for what seems like a contract extension signing coming later this week.
The physical play from Simon Benoit and Matthew Knies also particularly stood out as something that made the difference for the Leafs, especially later in the game when Toronto has typically struggled to protect the lead. Knies’ spot on the top line continues to look well earned as he adds to the two-way capabilities, and Simon Benoit is saving Brad Treliving a lot of time and energy by not forcing him to chase after a physical bottom pairing defenceman for the upcoming trade deadline.
Overall it is hard to find fault in any the performance of any Leaf and it was a good reminder of what this team can do when it is clicking. The bigger challenge might come with the next three games where Toronto has to avoid playing down to their opponents. Tomorrow night against the Ducks may or may not feature Martin Jones in net, but Jones has definitely done Sheldon Keefe a favour by making whatever decision he goes with look understandable.
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