The Toronto Maple Leafs started the season scoring tons of points, but still finding it hard to close out games as their defense and their goaltending was under constant scrutiny. Things looked even worse last week when they team wrapped up its road trip and allowed 11 goals in two games against the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings combined. However, the tide seems to be turning and suddenly the goaltending seems to have shaken their rust off, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic (subscription required).
The scribe points out that starting goaltender Frederik Andersen has steadied the ship on their recent three-game homestand in which Andersen has allowed just seven goals in three games, a much stronger percentage that previously. With a save percentage hovering well under .900, Andersen seems to have settled down in net this week with a .930 save percentage. Even backup Curtis McElhinney got into the act, putting up a strong performance Saturday against the Boston Bruins, stopping 38 of 39 shots for the win.
Koreen admits that Toronto’s defense has improved, but the goaltenders have had to make quite a few big saves during the games, suggesting that if the goaltenders can keep it up, the team should find itself continually atop of the Eastern Conference standings.
- Howard Berger of Between the Posts praises the offensive play of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly. He notes that Rielly is the unsung hero of the team as he has quietly put up 16 points in 19 games so far this year. Only John Klingberg, Kevin Shattenkirk and Erik Karlsson have more points for a defenseman that Rielly, who is on pace to amass 74 points on the year, which would be the fourth-highest number for a Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner. Rielly’s highest points total in his career is 36 points, which he attained in the 2015-16 season.
- James Mirtle of The Athletic writes that the Maple Leafs have high hopes that Mitch Marner can get back on track after a quality performance against the Boston Bruins on Friday night. He points out that after 55 games last year, Marner was 22nd in scoring, but then got injured and has never really seemed the same since then. In fact, he’s had just five goals in his last 39 games from that point on. He finished the season with 19 goals and 61 points, but has struggled this season. However, with Auston Matthews down, Marner stepped up and has started to show his skills on the ice. He added his second goal of the season last night, suggesting he might be ready to be a key contributor to the team going forward.
- Lance Hornby of The Toronto Sun writes that the Maple Leafs are beginning to find some success against goaltender Tuukka Rask, best known to be one of the worst trades the team has made in a long time. Rask’s rights (he was a first-round pick in 2005) were traded back in 2006 in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who started one year for Toronto and put up a 2.99 GAA that year before taking a backup role the next year. The team, however, has had some success against the now-veteran, 10 years later, as they have bested him in their last four meetings, dating back to last year.