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Jets go low, Leafs go higher in the standings

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Four points from MAnitoba.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Winnipeg Jets
WINNIPEG, MB - APRIL 24: Officials separate Rasmus Sandin #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets during a first period scrum at the Bell MTS Place on April 24, 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 to close out a perfect trip to Winnipeg. Joe Thornton, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Alex Kerfoot all scored for the team (one guy on each line), while Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the Jets. Jack Campbell stopped 26 of 27 for a nice rebound win.

It was an emotionally charged affair after Paul Maurice’s comments yesterday. The Jets definitely tried to come at the Leafs, but if anything it took the Jets off their game.

First Period

0-1

Ehlers scored a minute into the first period with a backhand tip over Jack Campbell. Galchenyuk needed to get to his guy there. A goal on the first shot of the game.

Neal Pionk got all “dirty” on Galchenyuk a couple minutes later after Galch got a tip shot on Hellebuyck.

1-1

OLD JT! On the next shift, Joe Thornton picked up a rebound and beat Hellebuyck to the far side with a wrap-a-round. This goal made Jumbo Joe the oldest player to score a goal in Leafs history at 41 years and 296 days old. He’s got about another decade to go to beat Gordie Howe for oldest in NHL history.

The fourth line got another great chance when Brooks fed Spezza alone in front. Sheldon Keefe really trusts the kid. I perhaps see a Brooks article in my future.

2-1

We got a bounce! A weird shot off the stanchion from Muzzin bounced right into the blue paint for Marner to bury it. This goal brought back memories of the 2012 Calder Cup Finals against the Norfolk Admirals. That year was the inaugural season of the Atlanta Thrashers in Winnipeg.

Several Marlies defensive prospects have learned to stand up for themselves in the corners because of hard runs from wingers in the AHL. That hit was something Sandin did all the time in order to create space for himself to get the puck. Liljegren is a bit bigger but did it earlier in his career. Mac Hollowell has been doing it a lot recently. As Craig Simpson said it’s a completely clean hit. Wheeler got surprised, I bet he won’t next time.

Kyle Connor tried to fight Sandin after but the refs got in the way. Connor got an instigator, giving the Leafs a power play. Call it dirty, Paul, I dare you.

The Jets continued to retaliate on a clean hit.

After One

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 15-16 (48%)
  • Shots on goal: 8-8
  • Scoring chances: 6-4
  • Expected goals: 0.45-0.28 (64%)

Thoughts:

“While you were partying, I studied the blade.” Instead it was learning how to throw them incase Rich Clune wasn’t in the lineup.

And just for the record, anyone who either assumed or claimed the Leafs developed their prospects to just be zippy waterbugs forgets how dangerous the AHL is, even in this era. The young guys were taught to make space for themselves, and they didn’t get in trouble for their methods down there. Wheeler’s even said he’s made that hit before. But nevermind facts, I need the narrative that the Leafs are inventing contact sport.

Another good find, Omar.

Second Period

3-1

Nylander stops Kyle Connor on a 2-on-1 after both defensemen (Sandin and Holl) jumped up in the play) and then comes back to set up Tavares for the insurance goal. Brilliant brilliant play from Willy Ny. They really don’t give him enough to do each night.

Another penalty after another high hit.

The Jets kept getting more indignant, which gave the Leafs more power plays. The Leafs got 13 shots on two power plays in the second.

After Two

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 11-7 (61%)
  • Shots on goal: 8-4
  • Scoring chances: 5-6
  • Expected goals: 0.48-0.49 (50%)

Thoughts:

A much better shots period for the Leafs, not including a very strong differential on special teams. Leafs were consistent with their quality of chances, but the Jets came on a little stronger to even it up.

I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself, but the Leafs don’t give Nylander enough to do. He should be leading the rush on the power play (and never taken off the second unit), and give him more zone starts in the defensive end. He can do it.

Third Period

With a power play early in the third, the Leafs still had their first unit out in the last couple seconds. Nylander got the rebound at the side of the net but was robbed by Hellebuyck. Marner and Matthews also connected on another great chance.

Nikolaj Ehlers had to go to the locker room after his reverse hit on Jake Muzzin. He looked fine on the play, and it just goes to show that it’s a normal play and sometimes injuries just happen. Ehlers returned a few minutes later.

It’s unfortunate to see the most immature players on the ice being the oldest. Thornton has been taking some uncalled-for cheap shots on the other team, and this hit on Ehlers was no exception. Thornton went after Ehlers again after the penalty.

With less than three minutes left, the referees just started kicking all the vets to the showers. After a second period of pointed attacks from the Jets, this third period was definitely going to devolve into what it did, especially after nine meetings between the two (one more to end the season).

4-1 (ENG)

Kerfoot scored the empty netter and the Leafs win.

Takeaways

Full game 5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 33-33 (50%)
  • Shots on goal: 20-16
  • Scoring chances: 16-16
  • Expected goals: 1.29-1.12 (54%)

Thoughts:

With the Leafs holding the lead for much of the game, this was an impressive 60-minute performance from the team to keep chances even or ahead the rest of the way. When you add in special teams, it’s much more impressive. The power play is well on its way to returning to full form, and it’s all coming at the perfect time.

While the Leafs had strong control of the shots in the game, the Jets were commanding in the hits department. So I ask, which is the true test of merit?