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Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs weekly review: Turning a corner

The record:

1-0-2

Had last nights game with the Senators finished after two periods this would have been an article that I may have refused to write in annoyance. But as I watched the Leafs kill a penalty to begin the third and then score through Auston Matthews, my belief came rushing back. And sure enough, the Buds pulled through to get a crucial 4-3 victory.

But for eight periods this week, the Leafs looked like a struggling team. Yes, the Leafs did put themselves in a position to win in all of these games, and all three could have been critical wins. Top teams do not throw away leads late into the third period – the Leafs have been doing that.

On Saturday night we saw this team grit its teeth and come through with a huge win – this could be the game we look back at the end of the regular season as being our most important performance.

So all in all – no defeats in regulation and four points from a possible six. 26-17-5 on the season. Breath easy Buds fans, breath easy.

The stats

The Auston Matthews line was flying this week and can probably consider themselves unlucky to not have scored a few more points. Matthews came out with a goal and a assist against Ottawa to stop a four game points skid.

Connor Brown scored a lovely shorty against St. Louis – which was nearly enough until former Leaf Alex Steen spoiled the party.

Zach Hyman had three points this week and was tied with Jake Gardiner for the point lead this week.

Seasonal stats

RK PLAYER G A P
1 AUSTON MATTHEWS 20 15 35
2 WILLIAM NYLANDER 9 23 32
3 MITCH MARNER 6 26 32
4 MORGAN RIELLY 5 26 31
5 JVR 19 10 29
6 ZACH HYMAN 8 17 25
7 NAZEM KADRI 14 11 25
8 TYLER BOZAK 8 16 24
9 PATRICK MARLEAU 15 9 24
10 JAKE GARDINER 3 21 24

When do we begin to worry about Paddy Marleau? No points this year. Though he is still on pace for around 45-50 points which is what he has gotten during the last two seasons.

Mitch Marner has been demoted down to the fourth line at times this season, but it makes you wonder why when you see him with 30+ points this season and on pace for 55-60 for the year.

Of the players not to be in the top 10, Connor Brown has 18 points, Hainsey 17 and then Komarov has 12 – just one more than Matt Martin. From memory Komarov has a couple of empty netters as well – the Buds don’t have Komarov signed for his point getting but he needs to improve his production if he wants to stay in the top nine.

Divisional standings

ATLANTIC GP W L OTL PTS DIFF L10 STRK
Tampa Bay 46 31 12 3 65 +43 4-5-1 Lost 3
Boston 45 27 10 8 62 +38 7-0-3 Won 3
Toronto 48 26 17 5 57 +14 3-3-4 Won 1
Florida 45 19 20 6 44 -19 5-4-1 Lost 1
Montreal 47 19 22 6 44 -28 3-5-2 Lost 1
Detroit 45 18 20 7 43 -18 5-5-0 Lost 2
Ottawa 44 15 20 9 39 -36 4-5-1 Lost 2
Buffalo 46 11 26 9 31 -59 2-6-2 Lost 2

The Atlantic is such a baddddd division. Tampa, Detroit, Ottawa and Buffalo are all on losing skids of two games or more. Only Boston have won more than five games in their 10. The Playoff race looks over, with Tampa secure in first, Boston in second and the Leafs miles clear of Florida in third.

Is there a worry that Florida could catch the Buds? They need 50 points to get 94 – which means they need to win 25 of their next 39. It just isn’t likely.

Player of the week

Zach Hyman deserves some credit for the way he has been performing recently – and his three points this week show that he is getting better. Last season Hyman scored just 28 points – he already has 25 this year. If he has a big second half of the season he could be looking at 50 points. 50 points for a guy who gets no powerplay time.

Conclusion

I think the mid-season slump is now over. The big third period against Ottawa could be a huge turning point for this team.

I can imagine that the coaches and players were all angry in that dressing room after giving up a shorty and heading into the third 3-1 despite being reasonably comfortable. Coming out and battling to a 4-3 win was huge for the team.

Coming up

The resurgent Colorado Avalanche who have won nine in a row. NINE! Travel to the ACC on Monday night. We then head on the road, travelling to Chicago on Wednesday and Dallas on Thursday.

Chicago are currently bottom of the Central division while Dallas are sat in the wildcard positions in the West.