By: Spencer Lussier
The Toronto Maple Leafs escaped with a 4-3 shootout win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Nazem Kadri got the Leafs out front early, but Vegas’ constant pressure and team effort rewarded them tying the game up going into the third. Frederik Andersen stole the show in the third, locking down the Leafs crease forcing the first shootout for both teams this year. Mitch Marner would be the lone skater to score in the skills competition, giving the Leafs what he called a “character win”.
A Character Win…. Marner was right this win was a character win for the Leafs. With the team losing five of their last six games heading into last night’s contest, and then blowing a two goal lead in that game but still finding a way to win, was good for the Leafs considering their tough stretch. Mitch Marner scored a beautiful shootout winner and found his way on the score sheet with an assist, but recorded zero shots. I get it, Marner is a distributor before a shooter, but defences are reading him easily now. To find space, Marner needs to create it by shooting, which will keep defences honest allowing passing lanes to open up once again. Marner has 28 shots in 16 games so far this season, and until he shoots more he will continue to struggle.
King Freddy reigns superior…. Frederik Andersen has been another the Leaf to struggle recently. In a prime goalie matchup against rookie Maxime Lagace, I was looking for Andersen to really shine, which turns out to be the case. Andersen was brilliant in the third period making two game changing saves to give his team a shot to win. What really stood out was his confidence in the overtime frame and shootout. Maybe he was riding high after that third period but Andersen looked confident by coming out to play the puck, even if it was scary to watch sometimes, but by playing the puck he was springing his team forward in transition to offence. In the shootout where Andersen has struggled in his career, he made three big saves to give the Leafs the win, matching last year’s total for shootout wins.
Is he healthy, will he play?... After seven minutes of ice time at the morning skate, Auston Matthews status for the game was uncertain due to general soreness. It took him three shots in warmup to figure out he was good to go. Good thing too because the Leafs needed all of Matthews 21 minutes tonight as the leader of the Leafs made a spectacular play on JVR’s goal and remained a threat every time he was on the ice. Matthews led the Leafs forwards with 21 minutes of ice, so I don’t know what to make of his injury because it didn’t impact him in the game or how Head Coach Mike Babcock was utilizing him.
Performance of the Night
If I had to give it to an individual player it would be Nazem Kadri. He scored two goals and was effective on the fore check and around the Golden Knights net all game. The true performance of the night however is the spectacular overtime period that we were treated too. The pace was fast, there were lots of odd man rushes and it was exciting hockey to watch.