Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

No matter how it happened, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the New York Rangers 5-2 on Tuesday (Dec. 19). Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin played well. For the Maple Leafs, the hockey gods seemed to be dead-set against them winning. Specifically, goalie Martin Jones deserved better than the result.

Hockey is an odd game that way. The puck bounces in all sorts of strange ways, and even on the best nights, something strange can happen. For the Maple Leafs, it wasn’t their best night by far. That said, it won’t make the team return to the drawing board. They played well enough to win. Yet, things just didn’t go their way.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 5-2 Loss to Rangers

It was just one of those games. In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the Maple Leafs’ stories from the game. For readers who would like to read a takeaways post, please link to my THW colleague Michael DeRosa’s post above.

​​​​Item One: Three Unfortunate Bounces & One Bad Guess on Rangers Goals

Talk about a night when luck was completely on the other team’s side. In the second period, the Maple Leafs experienced a series of unfortunate bounces leading to three Rangers goals – all resulted from bad bounces or deflections that left Jones unable to make a save.

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After a scoreless first period, the first Rangers goal saw Blake Wheeler’s shot bounce off Mika Zibanejad and then a Toronto player before sliding over the goal line. That goal ended Jones’ shutout run. It was also the kind of odd goal that set the tone for the remainder of the period.

The second Rangers goal came during a power play while William Lagesson was in the box. Alexis Lafreniere’s shot deflected off Morgan Rielly and also found its way past Jones, adding a second odd goal to what was to become an unlucky sequence for the Maple Leafs.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The third goal was not an unlucky bounce, but a bad guess and misread by Jones. After the team had come back to tie the game on two Auston Matthews goals, Jones made his only bad read of the game when Braden Schneider fooled him. Jones read the play well enough; he just made the wrong choice. He thought the Schneider would go around him, so he got ready for a poke check. He was completely fooled by Schneider’s unexpected move to slide the puck through his five-hole. That goal was the eventual game-winner. 

The fourth Rangers goal was also goofy. While the Rangers were on a power play, Artemi Panarin’s shot deflected off Timothy Liljegren and then off Lagesson before it decided to land in the back of the net. The fifth Rangers goal came when Toronto pulled Jones late in the game. With the net empty, Zibanejad scored his second, pushing the Rangers to their final 5-2 win. 

Related: Maple Leafs Domi’s Inspiring Unity & Physical Resilience

While Jones gave up four goals, only one could be blamed on him. It was simply one of those nights that make you feel as if the hockey gods simply didn’t want your team to win.

After the game, Jones noted that it was “a couple of tough bounces. But for me, the (Schneider) goal is the disappointing one. I’d like to play that a little differently at that time in the game. Who knows what could have happened after that?”

Three unfortunate bounces contributed to three fluky goals and one Maple Leafs defeat. As Wolfgang (Arte Johnson) used to say on the late 1960s television show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, “Very interesting.”

Item Two: Auston Matthews Continues His Scoring Streak

Amid the Rangers’ pin-balling scoring spree, Matthews scored a couple of goals. During the second period, Matthews capitalized on a fantastic play by Rielly, who drew two Rangers players to him before he found Matthews alone in the slot. Matthews buried the puck, ending the Maple Leafs’ shutout run.

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Matthews added to his solid performance, scoring his second goal of the game to even the score at 2-2 in the third. Jake McCabe sent a great pass Matthews’ way that allowed him to beat Shesterkin with a well-aimed shot over the goalie’s shoulder.

Related: Ex-Maple Leafs’ Defenseman Jake Gardiner: Where Is He Now?

With these two goals, Matthews again regained his spot as the NHL’s top goal-scorer, reaching an impressive 25 goals in 28 games. All that despite having missed Saturday’s 7-0 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins with the flu. After the game Matthews talked about the strange goals, describing them as “three fluky bounces.” Despite their unconventional nature, they counted as scores and even Matthews’ outstanding performance ultimately fell short.

Item Three: Martin Jones Deserved Better 

What an interesting game for Jones. The Maple Leafs goalie faced a ton of shots, stopping 31 of 35. He held the Rangers scoreless during the first period, then gave up two goals in both the second and third periods. It was his first loss and dropped his record to 3-1-0 since being recalled from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies early in December.

Martin Jones, when he was with the Seattle Kraken last season. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

If you can count this as a “solid” game for Jones, that means he’s been solid in three games in a row. His numbers remain good on the season, with a goals-against average of 2.55 and a save percentage of .930. I’m guessing that, right now, the Maple Leafs coaching staff would likely lean on Jones over Ilya Samsonov. With Joseph Woll sidelined with his high-ankle sprain, look for Jones to continue to get his share of starts. 

Related: Maple Leafs Face a Goalie Dilemma With Jones & Samsonov

There’s going to be an issue when Woll is ready to return, but that’s a decision for early January or whenever Woll returns. If Jones plays 10 games or is with the Maple Leafs for 30 days, he’d have to clear waivers to be sent down again. This time, there’d be little chance he’d survive the process from the Maple Leafs’ point of view.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

In a gesture of appreciation, the Maple Leafs organization paid tribute to their captain John Tavares with an on-ice ceremony before the opening faceoff. The ceremony was classy. Tavares and his family were honoured for his accomplishment in reaching 1,000 career points. Now 33 years old, Tavares became the 98th player in NHL history to achieve this milestone.

Maple Leafs legend Darryl Sittler, who put up an impressive 1,121 career points, presented Tavares with a golden stick in recognition of his outstanding achievement. Congratulations to Tavares.

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The post Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Hockey Gods, Matthews & Jones appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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