Locked on Leafs: All smiles for the all-stars

While consistency is an ongoing issue, the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs look to rest and recuperate during the all-star break and continue their winning ways in their busiest month of the season. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently on a five-game winning streak, following a rough few games where opponents were able to take advantage of the team’s defensive woes.  Starting goalie Jack Campbell seemed to be out of gas after he started the season so well. The truth is, a goalie can only be as good as their team is defensively, and for the Toronto Maple Leafs, their defensive stats, relative to the rest of the league, are surprisingly good.

Some will point out that the Leafs are in the middle of the pack defensively, having a 2.48 goals against per game, good enough for 18 in the league. While this may not seem good enough for a contender, the team is also seventh in shots against, with a 52.26 shots against per game. Offensively, the team constantly outscores and outshoots their opponent 3.04 goals for and 58.59 shots for. These numbers where the driving force behind the Leafs five-game winning streak, along with key performances from the team’s top line, consisting of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Michael Bunting.

Auston Matthews, perhaps the best goal scorer in the world, tallied his eight career hat-trick (three goal game) giving him ten points in his last four games. The franchise centre is now set to participate in his fourth All Star Weekend and challenge for the Rocket Richard trophy, awarded to the player who finishes the season with the most goals.

Mitch Marner, the Robin to Matthews’ Batman, has reached a whole new level. The biggest question with Mitch Marner is his ability to score. The past two years in the playoffs, he failed to score at all, causing some fans to want him gone. Now, Mitch has broken his personal record for consecutive games with a goal, having eight goals in his last seven games

Another issue Marner faced was scoring on the power play. Marner went more than 100 games without a power play goal, and now, has three power play goals since returning from injury. It is safe to say that Marner has earned his back spot in the good graces of Leaf fans, even though that is never a permanent position.

Speaking of good graces in Leafs Nation, Michael Bunting, a player that is becoming a fan favorite in Toronto, also notched a hat-trick, his first with the Leafs and the second of his career. Bunting was signed by the Leafs this past offseason to replace another former fan favorite Zach Hyman. Burdened with the task of filling the role of a player some thought was unreplaceable, Michael Bunting has exceeded expectations and helped lead his team on this winning streak. He is also tied for the most penalties drawn, with the best player on the planet, Connor McDavid

Looking forward, the Leafs have two players representing them at the All-Star weekend, Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell. Matthews, who is only 24 years old, has already been an All-Star three times in his young career and Jack Campbell, who is 30 years old, will be going for the first time. Campbell has certainly earned his place as an All-Star, being among the league leaders in all the major goalie statistics. He will also most likely finish the season in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the goalie who is voted as the best in the league. 

For the rest of the team, it is important that they use this break to the fullest because once they get back, they have a difficult schedule of 11 games in 20 days. This will be one of the tightest schedules ever seen in the National Hockey League and a true test for this team.

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