The Toronto Maple Leafs engineered a big comeback victory over the Carolina Hurricanes highlighted by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner’s dominant play.
Scoring five goals in the third period including a couple of highlight-reel plays, the Leafs demonstrated their ability to flip the switch offensively after their defensive game was almost nonexistent. While it’s easy to be critical of how the Leafs made it too easy for the Carolina Hurricanes to get back in the game, the Leafs showed more resilience to not let the two points slip away.
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For years, Mike Babcock teased the idea of playing Matthews and Marner together on a consistent basis only to split them up because he preferred each player to drive his own line. Over the past couple of games, Sheldon Keefe seems more than content to give them a chance to demonstrate their dominance.
As Chris Johnston of Sportsnet wrote, the line of Matthews, Marner and Zach Hyman have scored seven goals at 5-on-5 since being put together on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. The real question is whether or not this line remains together over the long haul.
Considering how teams in the NHL are willing to stack their top line, the Leafs shouldn’t be afraid of showcasing this line but you have to wonder what the repercussions for the rest of the lineup will be.
William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen were once again paired with Alexander Kerfoot which appears to be a message from Keefe to those players considering Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev have been receiving time with John Tavares. If Marner, Matthews and Hyman are going to remain together, the Leafs will need to have a plan to ensure their depth isn’t totally compromised.
Of course, while the Leafs are probably happy about being able to come back to beat Carolina, at some point they need to find their killer instinct. Whether it’s not letting up offensively or be willing to showcase more of an effort to protect the puck and not fold up defensively, that will be Keefe’s biggest challenge.
Since Keefe took over as head coach, the Leafs are 11-4 with some positive trends especially their improved power play and penalty kill.
Of course, Kyle Dubas can try to provide his coach with the tools to be a better defensive team with a move or two ahead of the trade deadline if he is able to make the salaries work.
What did you think of the Leafs comeback win? How long can they continue to put up numbers like this and is there any concern about their defensive play or can their offence continue to bail them out? Let us know in the comments below.