Maple Leafs’ Dominance of Division Begs Query on How They Stack As much as Different Groups
EDMONTON — Maybe we must always have seen this coming.When information broke final fall that the Toronto Maple Leafs would play in a Canadian division that completely performed one another for 56 video games, one easy goaltending stat stood out.Frederik Andersen was 53-11-14 in his profession towards the opposite six groups.Not often does a broad stat like simplify the state of affairs, nevertheless it offered the right foreshadow to what has transpired to this point.For the second consecutive sport, the Maple Leafs pitched a shutout towards the Edmonton Oilers’ high-octane offense, the latter a 3-Zero victory at Rogers Place on Monday evening. They did it with out their finest offensive weapon, Auston Matthews, who stays day-to-day with a wrist harm. and with out Andersen, who has missed the final 4 video games with a lower-body harm.Stable goaltending performances from Jack Campbell (day-to-day with a leg harm) and the much-maligned Michael Hutchinson helped pave the best way for Toronto’s first back-to-back shutout performances towards the identical crew since Harry Lumley did it in 1954.”I believe the previous two nights they’ve been excellent and I do not assume they get sufficient credit score,” Morgan Rielly mentioned. “Soup and Hutchky have been excellent for us all yr and two video games in-a-row towards a superb crew has been an enormous increase to our crew.”Toronto’s protection additionally performed a job. Some extent of emphasis from head coach Sheldon Keefe this season, Toronto saved the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the scoresheet for 2 straight nights.The Oilers had been among the many hottest groups within the league with a 10-2-1 document of their final 13 video games, earlier than opening the three-game set that concludes on Wednesday.”We’re attending to the purpose right here now the place we’re proving that we’re a crew that may defend properly,” Keefe mentioned. “I believe that is a giant a part of out success as a crew at this level.”Hutchinson, who obtained thrust into obligation after Campbell had a flare up of his leg harm following his 30-save shutout on Saturday, was dialed in from the beginning. Very similar to his earlier begin that resulted in a win towards the Calgary Flames on Feb. 24, he made a troublesome save within the opening save when he stopped Dominik Kahun’s shot in shut from the left wing.”It is good to really feel the puck early on,” Hutchinson mentioned. He made one other save later within the interval off McDavid who got here in with full velocity.”It was a superb form of wake-up name for me simply to get to see how briskly he’s off the hop and to finest be ready for that the remainder of the sport, “Hutchinson added.”Though the Oilers got here out robust, Toronto benefited from scoring on their first two pictures on objective. Zach Hyman opened it up with s fairly feed from Rielly at 7:19 of the primary interval. William Nylander adopted that up with a backhanded shot that fooled Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen at 10:20. Rielly capped the scoring within the sport with a power-play objective that deflected off Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse and into the objective at 18:07.From there, a mixture of Hutchinson’s play in objective and a decent protection that did not hand over too many second possibilities carried the evening for Toronto. And enhancements defensively have paid off.TJ Brodie, signed to a four-year, $20 million contract in October, has slot in completely on the highest pair and has stabilized Rielly’s play after a profession spent with a mishmash of companions.Justin Holl has taken a large leap ahead on the second pair with Jake Muzzin.Expert forwards Matthews and Mitch Marner have turn into higher gamers of their finish. Since coming back from a foot harm, Hyman’s position on the third line with Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall has blossomed right into a dependable shutdown trio the crew has lacked in earlier seasons.”They have been actually enjoyable to play with,” Hyman mentioned. “We’ve the puck quite a bit as a result of we are able to all skate, we are able to transfer up and down the ice rather well and, yeah, I believe it has been actually efficient.”With a 17-4-2 document, and a league-leading 36 factors the Leafs are off to among the finest begins in franchise historical past. However how good are the Maple Leafs? It is inconceivable to know with 24 different groups enjoying in what looks like a complete different world proper now.The reality is we received’t know till the playoffs and that’s if Toronto will get into the ultimate 4.Unprecendented circumstances introduced the Maple Leafs an advantageous power of schedule they usually’ve taken full benefit of it.