The Leafs definitely like making things interesting with little time left eh?
Building on the momentum gained from their win in Chicago on Wednesday and the good news of Rielly’s extension yesterday, the Leafs came out at the start of this game like they were shot out of a cannon. With a new-look defence that was pretty good (Justin Holl may never play again), a Bertuzzi-less Red Wings on the second half of a back-to-back, and an energized John Tavares line, the Leafs scored more than three goals in a game for the first time this season. For their credit, the Red Wings battled back and nearly tied it with mere seconds remaining, but the Leafs held on and won 5-4, picking up a victory in consecutive games for the first time this year.
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Before we get to the three stars of the night, I wanna give some stick taps to a couple of players who are not getting stars, but still played great tonight. First of all: Bunting and Spezza for that excellent connection on the power play goal. Sandin and Liljegren showed the makings of an excellent pairing for the team going forward, Sandin in particular was on fire tonight, no doubt energized by the fact that his family was in the building. Alex Kerfoot picked up a couple of points (including his second goal of the season) and looked great in his role. Lastly, Jake Muzzin, he’s been really rough to start the year, but in his first night playing with Brodie, he had a great bounce-back game and even picked up the first goal of the year by a Leafs defenceman. Now, without further ado, let’s get to it.
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Three Stars

3rd Star: Morgan Rielly

What a great first game for Rielly after signing the extension that will see him as a staple on the Leafs’ blue line until 2030. Partnered up with Travis Dermott (who looked good and comfortable in the role for most of the game until a couple of bad plays that got him benched by Sheldon Keefe), Rielly made some great plays at both ends of the ice and was rewarded for his efforts with an assist on Tavares’ goal (more on that in a bit).

2nd Star: Mitch Marner

I think it’s safe to say that Mich Marner is back, or at least, he’s getting closer to being back to the Mitch of old. Right off the opening faceoff, Marner had an energy and a lightness to his game that we haven’t seen from him in a very long time. He was point-less for most of the game despite his linemates flourishing, but the dam finally broke and Marner picked up an easy goal that he really needed. I mean, look at him, all smiles.
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A happy Marner is a productive Marner, so let’s hope he keeps it up.

1st Star: John Tavares

The captain was a man possessed in this game. After taking a late hit from Rasmussen early in the game (uncalled by the ref because of course it wasn’t), it seemed to unlock something in Tavares, and from that point on, the man was the living incarnate of the Tasmanian Devil. He was all over the ice causing havoc for the Red Wings and picking up points. This was JT’s first three-point night since the 2021 season opener in January and it was definitely his best game of the season so far. More of this Johnny, please and thank you.
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40th Star: Pierre Engvall

I seriously don’t know why he’s still in the NHL. Engvall doesn’t do anything particularly well, and he’s quite bad at a lot of things, especially decision-making. Yeah sure, he got a breakaway on the penalty kill, but he couldn’t score and the puck came back the other way and went into the net. He’s a defensive liability with how many giveaways he seems to achieve on a nightly basis, despite playing on the defence-minded 3rd line. Once Mikheyev is fully recovered, Engvall is an easy pick for the odd-man out and a likely trade candidate.

Tweet of the Night

I don’t mean to be picking on the guy so much, but Justin Holl has been horrendous to start the season. I get that there may be some extenuating factors, but with the emergence of Liljegren, I just don’t see this ending well for the guy who’s best games are a result of being propped up by Jake Muzzin.
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What’s next?

On Tuesday, the Leafs will play host to the Vegas Golden Knights for the Michael Amadio Revenge Game. If he’s in the lineup, you can bet on him scoring a goal, because it’s practically a guarantee. That game is at 7PM on Tuesday and will air on TSN4. Goodnight everybody and remember, John Tavares is a Leaf.