Toronto Maple Leafs: How they have survived without Auston Matthews

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 10: Patrick Marleau
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 10: Patrick Marleau /

Even with Auston Matthews out the lineup, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been able to get by with three straight wins including a back-to-back.

The best way to measure how good a team is, take away its best player and see how the team responds. Three games without Auston Matthews and it has not been a problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It started against the Minnesota Wild where Frederik Andersen made 35 saves to help steal a win for the Leafs after the team was coming off a rough road trip and would be without Matthews. Taking Matthews place was Patrick Marleau who scored a big goal in the game and was strong at both ends beating out an icing call late in the game.

Toronto then had a tough back-to-back against the Boston Bruins before a long break in the schedule. The Leafs struggled to get things going up until James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner stepped up their game with a couple of nice plays and Marleau getting the overtime winner.

In the second half of the back-to-back, the Leafs had to grind out a tough physical battle in Boston. After a solid performance from Curtis McElhinney, Marner and van Riemsdyk, the Leafs were able to get some crucial points with a tough stretch coming up.

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So how did the Leafs overcome a tough three-game stretch without Matthews? Players who had been struggling to step up in past weeks finally asserted themselves in the game.

Van Riemsdyk was a force in front of the net that the Bruins did not have an answer for, then there is the play of Marner. If there is a player who needed to make an impact with Matthews out it was the Leafs 2015 first round pick.

Mike Babcock had been trying different to get Marner going and he was a big reason why the Leafs took both games against the Bruins.

He lit the lamp after a turnover gave him a great opportunity on net and a player who is dealing with confidence issues would have missed that opportunity. He made a strong defensive play in the defensive zone that led to the overtime winner in the first game.

If Marner is able to continue this new found confidence when Matthews gets back into the lineup, it makes the Leafs more lethal.

The Leafs will also need Andersen to keep up his strong play and he gets a chance to rest. The Leafs have a chance to get some points in the standings with Montreal, Arizona and Florida coming up on the schedule.

This four game winning streak (three without Matthews) will go a long way since the Leafs have with their Western Canada road trip coming up and long stretch of games on the road.

It is encouraging to see the Leafs get these wins with Matthews out of the lineup and it was valuable to have him get this rest with the Leafs not playing until next Thursday.

Next: Five logical trade partners to help improve the team

What did you think about the Leafs play without Matthews and what was noticeable of their play? Let us know in the comments below.