Toronto Maple Leafs get much needed bounce back win over Red Wings

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 01: Mitchell Marner
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 01: Mitchell Marner /

The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a much better performance against the Detroit Red Wings after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins and that’s exactly what they got.

There is no better way for a team to get over a tough loss than a rebound performance on the second half of a back-to-back. Granted the Detroit Red Wings are not the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they always present a tough test for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Luckily for the Leafs, they used the tough loss against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions as a learning moment rather than dwell on it winning 3-2. Mike Babcock decided to implement the rotation on defence as Connor Carrick drew in for Roman Polak and the results were encouraging.

In two of the last three games, the third pairing was getting hammered in shot attempts against. Against the Red Wings, they were much improved in that department in part thanks to Carrick’s strength of making clean breakout passes.

The only mistake came on the second goal of the game where Henrik Zetterberg was left alone for a tap in goal, but for the most part that pairing was much improved.

What was the difference in this game was the play of the top two lines, especially the top line in the final minute. They were winning the puck battles and did not spend as much time in their own end.

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Zach Hyman seemed to have no ill-effect after taking a hard hit into the boards from Olli Maatta, especially on the game-winning goal.

Hyman retrieved the puck, got it to William Nylander who found Auston Matthews at the side of the net. Matthews somehow managed to get the perfect shot past Petr Mrazek.

As Jonas Siegel from The Athletic points out, Matthews’ 25 goals at even strength are only one back of Nikita Kucherov for first in the NHL. In case you forgot, Matthews has missed 10 games with injuries!

After James van Riemsdyk scored his 24th of the season, Mitch Marner was the beneficiary of a strong play by Nazem Kadri in the corner and had all night to shoot the puck past Mrazek.

One play that should not be forgotten is the whiff by Leo Komarov on a two-on-one. After Kasperi Kapanen broke out of the zone with the puck, he tried to set up Komarov and the result wasn’t pretty.

There are a couple of frustrating parts to this play. One is that Kapanen has been playing so well lately but it has not shown up on his offensive totals and plays like this are part of the reason why.

Another issue is that this is the second night in a row where Komarov has a prime scoring chance and does nothing with it.

This is why Komarov is off of Kadri’s line and it shows with the production Marner is having. At this point, Komarov is not making a good case for his status next season.

At this point, Kapanen is going to have to be more selfish on these plays if Komarov continues to drop the ball like that. Also give credit to Dominic Moore, who has taken a lot of criticism lately but continues to generate chances in a limited role.

The Leafs will host the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders at home, before a critical game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

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What did you think about the Leafs’ performance? Who stood out for you? Let us know in the comments below.