Leafs Postgame: Capped The Curse

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

The absolute craziest narrative of the season, outside of William Nylander not trying hard enough because he makes things look easy, was the idea that the Leafs were doomed to lose the second Auston Matthews put a puck in the net. Sure enough, though, it had been the case this year, even in his 4-goal debut. But not tonight; he notched a goal and the Leafs came out on top. Nice things for everyone!

The Rundown

The first goal of this game was a beautiful breakaway effort by… MATT MARTIN?! Yep, you’re reading this right; the fourth line forechecker took in a great quarterback pass from Mitch Marner, who was on his way to changing lines, and made no mistake in converting it for his second goal of both the season and his last two games. Toronto held onto the lead for the remainder of the period before striking early in the second as well; James Van Riemsdyk grabbed his ninth of the season from his usual spot in front of the net.

This pattern repeated itself yet again in the third, as Matthews waited just 22 seconds to bury his 9th of the season. There was some concern from some that “the curse” could come to fruition when Nicklas Backstrom scored a knuckle-puck effort to put the Caps back in the game, but it was quickly responded to by a drive to the net by Nazem Kadri who, as we’ve seen in the past, put the Leafs up 4-1.

Marcus Johansson again struck the nerves of the populace by giving Washington a second goal with a little over three minutes remaining, but Frederik Andersen held the fort from there and the Leafs kept the puck mostly away from him to get the final score that everyone wanted.

Why The Leafs Won

Firstly, the Leafs kept the puck in close. Like, extremely close; scoring chances at even strength in this game were an obscene 26-9 in Toronto’s favour. Andersen never really had to deal with close-range traffic and the Leafs made tonight a disaster for Braden Holtby, who usually has an easy time playing this hockey thing.

As well, the first pairing had a stellar night. Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev were 70% Corsi players, and they looked it too. The best little things play of the game was Rielly stripping Alex Ovechkin of the puck and sending it over to Nazem Kadri. It’s nice to see your first pair dominate when you need them to, and with a team that has the offensive versatility of Washington in the building, they need it.

Blue Warrior

Yep, we’re doing it. Matt Martin didn’t play much, but when he did, he made a difference, grabbing the opening goal while playing some possession-neutral hockey. Not just that, he finally got into a “protective” fight, coming to the aid of Matt Hunwick (just run with it) to take on Tom Wilson in a rather fun bout.

See You Next Time

From here, the Leafs get a couple of days off before heading west. Connor McDavid will get to feel a little taste of home on Tuesday night, when the Leafs play their first game ever at Rogers Place while taking on the Oilers. Puck drop is at 9:00 PM.