In what was supposed to be a clash of young superstars, the Toronto Maple Leafs defensive core played a major factor in a Leafs 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames. The task was tough, as the Leafs were asked to shut down one of the league’s hottest lines of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland. The line combined for a minus five and only three shots on goal, so you can say the Leafs defence did a pretty good job. Not only did they shut the Flames offence down but the defence led the charge on offence as Roman Polak and Nikita Zaitsev scored to lift the Leafs past the Flames. Frederik Andersen wasn’t tested much last night, making 19 saves but a win is a win and it pushes his record to 7-1-1 in his last 9 games. The Flames defence did a pretty good job containing the Maple Leafs offensive stars as well. For the first time in his young career Auston Matthews was held without a shot, although he did manage to pick up an assist. The Flames played with some truculence as former Leafs GM and now Flames President Brian Burke would say, bringing a certain element of size and speed that is very rare to find in the NHL nowadays, which made this team really fun to watch. The Leafs turned out to be the better team last night, but watching the Flames and how competitive this game was still a treat to watch. If you ended up missing last night game, I highly suggest you don’t make plans to watch the rematch on December 6th .
Performance of the Night:
The performance of the night goes to the Toronto defence, but in specific Nikita Zaitsev. Not only did Zaitsev score the game winner but he logged the most minutes on the Leafs with close to 24 minutes. Zaitsev and his partner Jake Gardiner were the pair Head Coach Mike Babcock looked at to shutdown Calgary’s top line. Obviously, the pairing did a good job, limiting Gaudreau, Monahan and Ferland to just one shot each. The difference between why I gave Zaitsev some love and not Gardiner in this game is because Zaitsev logged nearly four minutes of penalty killing time and was a big reason for shutting down the Flames top 10th power play.
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