Locked on Leafs: Reset and Reload
After a poor start to the regular season in October, the Toronto Maple Leafs are now making the most of their top players.
Leading the way is Captain John Tavares, who had a statement game against the Philadelphia Flyers with his 11th career hat trick in Toronto on November 2, 2022. He helped end the night with four points, a season-altering win for the Leafs, and a potential sign of good things to come. Tavares’ second goal was one of the best of his career, as he faked out the Flyers’ defenceman Travis Sanheim, grabbed the rebound for his sixth goal of the season, and sent Leafs fans into an excited frenzy.
“Those silky mitts belong to one man, that’s a true captain right there,” says die-hard Leafs fan Daanish Alvi, a fourth-year student in the Technology, Coding and Society program.
Tavares was not the only Leaf to step up against the Flyers. Auston Matthews, who’s had a slower than usual start to his season, is finally heating up. Matthews tallied one goal, one assist, and most notably, got into an altercation with the Flyers’ Travis Konecny near the end of the third period.
Mark Giordano and Michael Bunting stepped in to defend their star teammate, only to see him skate away and laugh at the opposing players—a controversial move leading some hockey fans to believe that he purposely started the scrum and should be fighting his own battles.
Most Leafs fans disagree with that take because Matthews is a star player who should not be wasting his time fighting. Matthews hurts other teams by scoring and putting up points, not fighting.
Following that game against the Flyers, the Leafs took on their biggest rivals, the Boston Bruins. This is a rivalry that runs deep and throughout generations so every game these two teams play against each other is a must watch. This time, the Bruins are easily the best team in the league so it was a tough test for a Leaf team that has struggled at times during the beginning of this season.
Despite those struggles, the Leafs played very well and beat Boston in a close game. Young defenceman Timothy Liljegren, who suffered an injury during training camp, made his season debut that night and provided some much needed stability on the defensive end for the team. Liljegren had a strong rookie season last year. His skill set could prove to be very useful for the team considering their defensive issues so far this season—like Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin’s turnover in a losing game against the Montreal Canadiens last month.
The momentum of this win carried into the next night, where the Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes, another top five team in the league. This game was the second half of a back-to-back, where the Leafs played the Bruins one night, and the Hurricanes the next night. Typically, the second night is very difficult for teams because they are tired from the previous night; however, the Leafs persevered and won the game, even after having a slow start.
The next two games the Leafs played—against the Vegas Golden Nights and the Pittsburgh Penguins—were both disappointing loses, even with the Leafs playing well against Pittsburgh.
Most recently, the Leafs beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in an important game that began with honouring Maple Leaf legend Börje Salming. Salming, at the age of 71, was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Leafs legend was visibly emotional throughout the touching pre-game tribute. After conducting the ceremonial puck drop, the Leafs went on to beat Vancouver in a close game.
After an emotional win, the Leafs look ahead to their next test—a rematch against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs learned from their previous loss to the Penguins and how they make necessary adjustments. Hopefully, the Leafs can clean up their defensive game and come out with a strong performance against the Penguins.
Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his fourth year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.