The Toronto Maple Leafs give their fans something to smile about heading into the league mandated holiday break, picking up a rare 3-2 win at MSG over the Rangers. Auston Matthews returned to the lineup after a six-game absence as he dealt with a concussion. He wasted no time in his return picking up an assist on William Nylander’s opening goal, while also getting a goal of his own in the second. His returned seemed to get the whole Leafs offence on track, as there was more consistency in the level of play for all four lines last night. Whether you were for or against playing Matthews ahead of the long holiday break, the decision was the right choice as his line was a force in the offensive end, while still being respectable in the defensive end. Ron Hainsey was the other Leafs to beat Lundqvist tonight, in the second on the powerplay.
The Leafs picked up a rare win away from the ACC, snapping their recent four game losing streak on the road. This win is also rare in the sense that the Rangers have been lights out at home this season. After the loss last night, The Rangers own a 14-6-3 record at MSG and entering last night’s game, Henrik Lundqvist was unbeaten in his last eleven home games.
Toronto just barely escaped with the win tonight. After Jimmy Vesey cut the Leafs lead to one. 44 seconds later Michael Grabner ripped a shot past Andersen. However, Mike Babcock challenged it and it was overturned as Kevin Hayes was offside. The Leafs had no sense of urgency in the third period. Holding a 3-1 lead entering the final frame, the Leafs played more conservative and defensively which backfired on them. I understand the motive of conserving the lead and focusing on the defensive end, but the Leafs are a more effective team when they play a high tempo game, and forcing the opposition to keep up with their speed and into mistakes. They had their chances in the third with all those scoring opportunities but when the Leafs focused on conserving the lead, they became lazy in their own end and on their break out which got them into more danger than it did relieve any stress about holding the lead.
Player of the game:
I think it is safe to say that Auston Matthews was the player of the game against the Rangers. Matthews returned from a six-game absence to play close to 19 minutes of the game which was third amongst Leaf forwards. Of course, his two points was a factor in this game but not only did he put points up but he stuck with his game plan which was keeping it simple in his return. The Leafs were awful in the faceoff dot but he was the one that Babcock trusted at the end of the game to hold the lead. He blocked shots and was a threat in the offensive zone.
I had high expectations for this game, but the first two periods of this game was overall really slow. This game was given chances to open up for both teams with power play chances and even four 4-on-4 chances, but still it was slow and choppy. In the third the game opened up as the Rangers were battling against the clock which made it more amusing but aside from Matthews dominance in his return this game was an OK watch. 3/5 on the scale.
Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays from everyone here at Homestand Sports