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Knee Jerk Reaction: Sick, tired Maple Leafs pump seven goals on Metro-leading Rangers

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Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
2 months ago
Less than 24 hours after falling to the far inferior New York Islanders to spoil John Tavares’ 1000-point celebration, the Toronto Maple Leafs left the state with three of four points thanks to a 7-3 rout of the now 19-7-1 New York Rangers. After the bi-annual war with Islanders fans and Paul Marner’s strange no-reaction to the milestone dominated chatter amongst fans all day, the Leafs ensured the rest of the Dads, and hopefully Paul, too, went home happy. 
The Leafs had a flurry of lineup decisions to make in the hours before the game after it was announced that Matthew Knies was the latest victim of the flu bug that had previously kept Ilya Samsonov and William Lagesson out of the lineup. Though it was originally reported that the Leafs would go 12-6 with Bobby McMann taking Knies’ spot in the lineup, they ended up going 11/7 with Max Lajoie taking Ryan Reaves’ place. 
With the Leafs clearly not at 100% and veteran Martin Jones making his first start of the season, my expectations were pretty low for this game. But, led by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the Leafs turned on the jets offensively. They each scored two goals with the former tallying two assists of his own as well, and they got contributions from their bottom six and their back end as well. 
Matthews has been on a tear of late, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He’s got six goals in his past five games, and he also seems to be coming to the realization that he dominates more when he uses his body. We saw it in spurts last season, namely early on in the year, but it seems to be a more consistent part of his game this season. Not that his physicality was the reason he performed so well tonight, but it’s worth mentioning considering how it impacts the already strong parts of his game. 
If you feel like the team has been far more frustrating to watch than their record indicates, you’re not alone. But, they’re 9-1-3 in their last 13 games with their starting goaltender and half of their defensive corps out. It might be time to start giving these guys some credit. 
Not a bad way to wrap up the Dads trip. 

Other thoughts: 

  • Conor Timmins made an impact offensively for the second game in a row, scoring his first of the season to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead early. What’s significant about this is that it marked the first time this season that the Leafs got a goal from somebody not named Morgan Rielly. The Leafs tried to address this in the offseason with John Klingberg, but it didn’t work out. If Timmins can start contributing offensively on a consistent basis, the Leafs might be smart to stomach his occasional defensive blunders and slide him into what would have been Klingberg’s role.
  • Martin Jones deserves a lot of credit for stepping into tonight’s game and giving the Leafs a chance to win. You could argue that he should have had the second goal, but the first one was pretty much entirely on T.J. Brodie, and the third one was about as accurate a shot as you can get. His .903 sv% isn’t shiny by any means, but oftentimes the Leafs don’t need shiny – they just need a shot to win the game. And, that’s what Jones gave them tonight.
  • It seems as though Jake McCabe isn’t allowed to throw a clean hit without having to answer the bell for it. To be fair, that is something that Leafs fans would be calling for had the roles been reversed. But either way, McCabe is providing a physical presence on the back end that hasn’t been seen since Jake Muzzin’s injuries got the best of him, and it was reminiscent of a familiar Dion Phaneuf hit in that same building 12 years ago.

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  • One key area that contributed to the Leafs’ win tonight was their work in the faceoff dot. The Rangers have won more faceoffs than any other team in the league, working at a 55.3% clip heading into tonight’s game, but the Leafs won 29 of 55 draws for 53%. You can thank David Kampf for a good chunk of that, with seven of nine draws won.
What’s your knee jerk reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know below.

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