Here’s how blasé I’ve become about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ ability to come from behind. I missed the first part of the game, but when I saw that the Maple Leafs were behind by three goals I thought to myself – “It’ll be fun to watch a comeback.”
That shows how wrong I can be about this team or any NHL hockey team. There was no comeback, and the game turned into an embarrassing 8-4 swamping at the hands of the Florida Panthers.
That’s three losses in a row for the Maple Leafs, and they come home for three games this week needing to start another winning streak if they’re to secure a place in the playoffs. A week ago, I thought there wouldn’t be a chance the Maple Leafs wouldn’t make it. I still think they will, but I at least see the possibility that they might not. It isn’t a lock, that’s for certain.
In this post, as the team heads home to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday evening, I want to offer some takeaways from the game as well as keep Maple Leafs fans up-to-date on some of the news emerging from the team.
Three Takeaways from the 8-4 Loss to the Florida Panthers
Takeaway One: Zach Hyman Just Keeps Scoring
Zach Hyman had three points in the loss to the Panthers – a goal and two assists. Still, it was in a mop-up situation and the damage had been done by the time he got his offense going. The takeaway for me on Hyman is that he’s been really value-added to the line of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and makes that entire line better.
For the season, the 27-year-old Hyman now has 11 goals, eight assists, and 19 points in 27 games for the season. In an interesting statistic, Hyman was the only Maple Leafs player who was plus on the night – with a plus-two rating. Not another Maple Leaf was on the plus side: it was a total team disaster.
Takeaway Two: Mitch Marner Is on a Seven-Game Scoring Streak
Forgetting that the game was virtually over by the time Marner scored, any time a player can get two goals in an NHL game that’s good. And, Marner struck twice.
Ok, I couldn’t forget that goal #1 came after the Panthers had scored seven goals of their own. Still, the prodigious winger is on a seven-game scoring streak and has three goals and six assists during that streak. As well, he’s scoring at over a point-a-game pace (44 points in 35 games).
Remember when he was out with an injury? He’s back.
Takeaway Three: Sometimes I Feel Sorry for Michael Hutchinson
Frederik Andersen just didn’t have it in this game and played just over 20 minutes, and Michael Hutchinson came into relieve him just after the start of period two. By the numbers, Andersen played worse than Hutchinson (he gave up four goals in 12 shots in 20 minutes, and Hutchinson gave up four goals in 17 shots in 40 minutes). Still, Hutchinson was given the loss because he let in Frank Vatrano’s shorthanded goal at 2:25 of the second period, and that was the game-winner for the Panthers.
Hutchinson’s record is now a paltry 3-7-1 with a goals-against of 3.83 and an .885 save percentage in 12 games. On the other hand, Andersen got lucky because the team made up the four goals he gave up in period one by the end of the game. Andersen’s been pulled from two of his last three starts. That can’t be good.
In fact, entering this game, Andersen had a 5-0-2 record in his last eight games, but that record was deceiving because he’d given up at least three goals in seven of those games. Fortunately, the team was scoring plenty of goals and kept covering his poor goals-against average of 3.65 and a save percentage under .900 (.893 to be exact).
Andersen had benefitted from the Maple Leafs high-scoring offense, but not on this evening. It’s tough to cover eight goals.
Maple Leafs Team News
Item One: Andreas Johnsson Was Back in Action
One bit of good news for the Maple Leafs against the Panthers was that Andreas Johnsson returned to the ice. Johnsson had a leg injury that caused him to miss 15 games but he played just over 10 minutes in this contest. On the season, the 25-year-old Swede has 16 points in 30 games.
Item Two: Jake Muzzin Was Moved to the Injury Reserve
Jake Muzzin, who’s been out with a broken foot, was put on the injured reserve list so that Johnsson could be activated from the same list for Sunday’s game. Nothing has changed with Muzzin’s status, the move was simply switching one name for another. Muzzin hasn’t played since after Christmas (December 27) and he’s missed on the ice and – from what we hear from teammates – as a voice of leadership in the dressing room.