Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Toronto Maple Leafs scored a lot of goals and won a hockey game.
With two goals and three points to extend his mid-season scoring binge, William Nylander led another highly productive night for the surging Leafs, who doubled up the Winnipeg Jets with a 6-3 victory on Tuesday night.
It was the ninth consecutive game where the Leafs have scored at least four goals, which is the longest streak of its kind for the franchise in 30 years. Naturally, the points have followed, with the Leafs putting 17 of the 18 points up for grabs in the bank across that stretch.
The Leafs will host the New York Islanders on Saturday night before Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers visit Monday.
Until then, three points:
One right, one not
It would be a stretch to say the Leafs stole the game, but the story in Winnipeg in many ways was that one goaltender showed up, while the other failed to hit that standard.
Whereas Connor Hellebuyck survived only two periods before being lifted for Laurent Brossoit, Frederik Andersen withstood multiple onslaughts from Winnipeg shooters, and in the process extended his league-high win total.
Registering it on a night where the opponent racked up 32 scoring chances on 72 total shot attempts, Andersen collected a season-high 45 saves. It was another instance of an increased workload brought about by an advantage on the scoreboard, but Andersen ran his record to 4-0 on the season in games that he’s faced at least 40 shots regardless.
He also improved to 9-0-1 in starts versus Winnipeg, which is both impressive and somewhat meaningless as well.
As maybe the NHL’s most unique team, the Leafs are one franchise without an obvious mirror image to call upon when considering either conference. But you could do far worse than the Jets when aiming to draw the most direct comparison.
They, too, are extremely top-heavy at the forward position, and they also (usually) can rely on one of the NHL’s best netminders to help get by with a defensive corps that, to put it as kindly as possible, wouldn’t necessarily be placed at the top of the league.
So it was, then, somewhat interesting to see how the Leafs would fare in the firefight scenario that presented itself in Winnipeg, and to see which attack could take better advantage of the matching mismatches. Or for those who crave chaos, which defense was in more trouble.
While the Maple Leafs were maybe more under siege throughout the duration, the answer revealed itself quite quickly — at least in terms of egregious errors.
Three and a half minutes in, after a miscue from Hellebuyck behind the Winnipeg net, Tucker Poolman failed to prevent Adam Brooks from landing a centering feed onto the stick of Nylander, who was left unmarked himself in front.
Adam Brooks’ assist is his first point as a Leaf and William Nylander has goals in 5 straight pic.twitter.com/dyWwuj9oHS
— juno (@junotheleafs) January 3, 2020
Then a little over five minutes later, it was an even more inexcusable error from Luca Sbisa, who turned the puck over to Kasperi Kapanen while retreating into his own zone, serving a second Leaf goal up on a platter.
Kapanen with an extremely casual takeaway goal and it’s 2-0 TOR pic.twitter.com/QJRTT9JEEQ
— juno (@junotheleafs) January 3, 2020
While it was Andersen bearing a larger workload, the help in front of him held up a little better in the more important moments of the game.
Toronto has quietly traversed over the halfway mark on the season, which in a way offered the clearest picture of the production that individual players are on pace for.
And it ain’t insignificant.
Most notable, Nylander is suddenly flirting with 40 goals after cashing in a fifth consecutive game. But it’s not just the breakout winger on pace to post impressive individual numbers this season; it’s the case for all those paid to provide those big-time numbers.
Unleashed under Sheldon Keefe, here are the projected totals for the big four with 40 games left:
Auston Matthews: 52 goals, 43 assists
William Nylander: 37 goals, 37 assists
Mitch Marner: 25 goals, 62 assists (missed 11 games)
John Tavares: 34 goals, 43 assists (missed seven games)
Both stars that have stayed healthy are on pace for career seasons, while the other two project to finish with better than a point per game.
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