Toronto Maple Leafs: Jason Spezza turns back clock against Canucks

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) congratulates forward Jason Spezza (19). (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) congratulates forward Jason Spezza (19). (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs made it a point to focus on generating more offence at 5-on-5 and Jason Spezza certainly did his best to help boost that.

In the first of three games against the Vancouver Canucks, the 37-year-old recorded his eighth career hat trick in a dominant 7-3 victory for Toronto. It was a promising game considering the Leafs’ last game was against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 30 and they had quite enough practice time.

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It wasn’t a perfect game from any stretch but the Leafs’ offensive muscle was on full display especially at even strength. On top of that, the fourth line had arguably their best game of the season.

Going into this game, Sheldon Keefe made it a point to say that there was still an opportunity for players to earn their spot in the lineup. The Leafs moved up Wayne Simmonds to the second line in hopes of getting John Tavares and William Nylander going a bit there.

Of course, Spezza’s performance should also be attributed to the players on his line in Travis Boyd and Nic Petan. There is no doubting that there are many options the Leafs can consider in the bottom six but for now, Keefe will likely go with the winning lineup.

It’s also interesting to think that not too long ago, there was the idea of Spezza potentially playing his last game with the Leafs after he was placed on waivers. He not only continues to show why he deserves to stay in the lineup but he can still be a contributor even if others don’t think he can.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Could Dermott’s injury opens up opportunity for Sandin

After the game, Keefe said the injury to Dermott wasn’t serious in what the coach described as a charley horse situation.

If Dermott does miss any time, this could be the opportunity the Leafs could use for a player like Rasmus Sandin. The top prospect has been bidding his time on the taxi squad with no clear indication of if or when he will play.

Keefe will likely turn to Mikko Lehtonen if Dermott has to miss a game but this would be the optimal time to consider playing Sandin. At this rate, every defencemen except for the sixth man has solidified his spot and it should be in the team’s best interest to see if the blue line improves with Sandin in the lineup.

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What were your thoughts on the Leafs’ performance against the Canucks? Let us know in the comments below.