Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Jarnkrok & O’Reilly

The Toronto Maple Leafs played one of their best games of the season but still lost to the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 5-3. They had a rough start to the game, losing two players to penalties within the first shift rotation. Jake McCabe’s high-sticking penalty and Noel Acciari’s chintzy hooking penalty put the Maple Leafs at a disadvantage. 

The Hurricanes converted on their 5-on-3 power play and then capitalized on the momentum to score again. With just half of the first period gone, the Maple Leafs were losing by a 2-0 score. The shots were also heavily in favor of the Hurricanes at 15-5. 

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Although the Maple Leafs came back to dominate the game and tie the score 3-3 (more about that later), they could not pull out the win. On one hand, the loss was disappointing. On the other hand, the Maple Leafs played well throughout and lost the game despite their strong performance.

The team will have a chance to regroup later tonight against the Nashville Predators. They now have a 2-2-0 record on their current road trip, but they are not losing any points in the standings to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Latest News & Highlights

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the player news from the game as well as other news surrounding the team.

Item One: Auston Matthews Dominated the Game

Auston Matthews was the most dominant player by far in the game. His impressive performance included two goals and an incredible 15 shots on goal. According to Naturalstattrick.com, he had 14 high-danger scoring chances, which was five more than the entire Carolina team. This performance continues a hot streak for Matthews, who has scored 10 goals in his last 13 games. On the season, he now has 36 goals and 75 points in 65 games.

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Matthews’ head coach Sheldon Keefe praised him as “one of the most dominant players in the league” and credited his performance as a key factor in the team’s success. Matthews’ strong play was part of a dominant performance by the team’s first line, which also included Calle Jarnkrok and Mitch Marner.

Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Matthews set several records in the game, including an NHL-high for shots in a period with nine. He also broke his own previous career-high of 12 shots by the end of the second period. Finally, he tied Dave Andreychuk’s franchise record of 15 shots by the end of the game. 

Item Two: Morgan Rielly Produces Two Assists

Morgan Rielly had two assists in the game against the Hurricanes. He contributed helpers on goals scored by Jarnkrok and Matthews. His recent strong performance also includes points in four of his last five games. He has put up six points in that span. 

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On the season, Rielly has four goals and 34 assists (for 38 points) in 56 games played.

Item Three: Calle Jarnkrok Continues Career Season

To say that Jarnkrok has been a valuable addition to his new team would be an understatement. Whatever he brings to the team’s first-line partnership with Matthews and Marner is working. 

Jarnkrok’s strong play has resulted in career highs of 18 goals and 36 points. Should he register two more assists, he’d be at 20 on the season. The highest total of his career is 19, which he has registered twice. 

Calle Jarnkrok Toronto Maple Leafs
Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jarnkrok seems able to fill almost any role for the team. His chemistry with Matthews and Marner has been evident, and he has become one of the team’s key contributors.

Item Four: Matt Murray Is Up and Down

It seems like one step forward and one step back for goalie Matt Murray. Murray tosses a .943 save percentage at the Florida Panthers, but he then gives up four goals again. 

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

Saturday night, in his loss to the Hurricanes, he allowed four goals on 27 shots. It marked the seventh time in eight games Murray’s allowed four goals in a game. 

Item Five: Erik Gustafsson Away on a “Personal Matter”

Erik Gustafsson was not with the Maple Leafs for their game against the Hurricanes on Saturday due to a personal matter. All we know is that he traveled to Washington for an issue to do with his family

Gustafsson was acquired by the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline and has registered one assist in eight games with the team. Prior to the trade, he had seven goals and 31 assists in 61 games with the Washington Capitals. 

Item Six: Ryan O’Reilly Was Back at Practice

Ryan O’Reilly is back at practice after recovering from his broken finger. There’s no specific word about when he might return to the lineup, but that return would seem imminent. 

Ryan O'Reilly Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan O’Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In his short time with the team since being acquired from St. Louis Blues, O’Reilly’s been a valuable addition to the Maple Leafs. His return to the lineup should give the team a boost.

Item Seven: This Maple Leafs Team Can Really Dominate

After falling behind 2-0, the Maple Leafs came roaring back. The team began a stretch of dominant hockey between the 8:24 mark of the first period and the 7:15 mark of the second period, where they outshot the Hurricanes 17-0 in a span of 15:39. 

After the game, coach Keefe stated that he thought this game might have been his team’s best of the season. Advanced analytics support Keefe’s analysis. The high-danger scoring chances tracked by Naturalstattrick.com indicate that the Maple Leafs had 33 high-danger scoring chances compared to the Hurricanes’ nine. 

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That’s how dominant the Maple Leafs were in generating quality scoring opportunities. Analytics aside, Toronto controlled the game in all situations – even strength, power play, and shorthanded. 

Still, they couldn’t win the game. But that’s hockey sometimes.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Although the Maple Leafs failed to gain ground on the Lightning last night, they get another chance tonight when they spend one of their games in hand against the Predators. Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning in their respective divisions. 

The Maple Leafs are looking to bounce back from their loss to the Hurricanes, while the Predators will be looking to rebound from a 7-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken Saturday night. 

Tonight, although it is currently unconfirmed, it would seem that Joseph Woll is going to start for the Maple Leafs.

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