The Leafs are sitting in a good spot, but certainly could have made things easier on themselves throughout the season if they did a better job at shutting down the opposition in the dying minutes of the third period. Simply put its growing pains of having so many young guns in the lineup. With experience and elite coaching from Mike Babcock and his crew, the Buds will surely improve at this facet of the game. Some things take time and others like scoring goals certainly didn’t as the Leafs rookies have been burying on command.
Toronto has three games left in February, including the Rangers, Canadiens and Sharks. Not exactly a walk in the park any of those games, but I’m sure other teams look at the surging Maple Leafs and think the same thing. The Rangers are red hot in their last ten (7-2-1), the Canadiens just won their first game with their new coach Claude Julien and are (3-6-1) in their last ten games. Finally the Sharks who are (4-1-5) in their last ten will certainly be three tough games to end the month of February.
Thankfully only three back-to-back games are left this season (March 2-3), (March 22-23) and (April 8-9) which are the last two games of the season versus Pittsburgh and Columbus. It’s a difficult schedule ahead, but if the Leafs want to prove to not only themselves but the league that they are the real deal; they will make it rain and find a way to make the playoffs.
Who’s heating up? Uncle Leo Komarov that’s who.
In his last five games Komarov has 6 points, including two goals. He’s +4 in those games and has been all over the place creating havoc with his fore-check and desire to crash the net. As we all know by now Leo isn’t afraid to go into the dirty area’s or get dirty, it’s where he thrives.
How about Willy Nylander? He’s really picked it up a notch since the injury to Marner, which of course is great to see. Nylander has magnificent hands, vision and overall skill. He’s got the flare, and a lot of it.
Nylander has chipped in a goal and an assist in three of the last five games tallying six points in five games including an absolutely beautiful saucer pass to Komarov in last night’s game. Nylander sifted his way through the Winnipeg defensemen and found Leo bulldozing his way towards the front of the net and sauced that puck like it was nothing. Absolute high end talent William Nylander is, again; he won’t be going anywhere as he’s a key piece to the Leafs organization moving forward.
A big surprise for the Buds is the emergence of Josh Leivo. In his last five games he has a whopping eight points which is amazing considering how much he’s played with the Leafs this season and how much ice time he was getting. A big bodied forward with an NHL shot is what I’ve always known about Leivo, but it seems his skating and positioning in the offensive zone has improved.
Could it be possible that Babcock finds a home for the red hot Leivo when Mitch Marner returns?
Finally, our boy Auston Matthews…
He’s just continuing to grow into a superstar and we are lucky enough to have him in the blue and white to enjoy the show he and the Leafs have been putting on this season.
Matthews may have been outscored goal wise last night, but he racked up three assists and most importantly two big points with the Leafs victory. Matthews has also been red hot over the last five games, chipping in three goals and 5 assists. 52 points in 59 games, not too shabby!
Let’s just hope the boys can keep the ball rolling in the right direction and of course stay healthy.
There is no official status on Mitch Marner but I still feel the injury isn’t a major one and that it won’t be long before we see Marner back in the Leafs lineup. He’s certainly missed out there as he razzle dazzles his way through the opposition, making magical passes and continuing to add up assists. I call him “the Orchard”, it’s rather fitting as his assist count grows each game.
I was in attendance on Saturday night when the Leafs fell short to the Senators. It was a good game, a lot of back and forth but the Leafs came up short. One thing that I did take note of was the lack of Daniel Alfredsson jerseys, I didn’t see one! Zero! So unfortunately I wasn’t able to chime in with any witty comments.
~Mitch Marner on the ice this morning with Marchenko, Marincin, Smith and McElhinney~
Thanks for reading, have a great hump day.