10 thoughts on a great night at the ACC, highlighted by William Nylander’s first career three-point night.

1 – Calling Nazem Kadri for embellishment on a play where he was slashed in the back of both legs simultaneously and then punched in the head repeatedly when down on the ice has to be one of the stupidest calls we’ve seen this season.

2 – Here was William Nylander’s statline last night: one goal, two primary assists, 75% CF, 12 individual shot attempts at the net, 4 shots on goal, 50% on faceoffs. The D + center combination he played the most against was Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie, and his line dominated possession. The 19-year-old is up to 7 points in 12 NHL games and he’s doing it from a much tougher position to jump into the NHL and produce at (center) as opposed to softer minutes on the wing. It’s hugely promising, if not unexpected given his dominance of the AHL. Babcock has suggested Nylander would likely start on the wing if the Leafs were healthier down the middle, so it remains to be seen what happens going into next year, but what gives him a chance to play center right away and stick there is the attribute Babcock referred to last night: “he’s a smart, smart kid who knows what you’re going to say to him before you say it.” He had a couple of excellent backchecks last night where closed down space in the blink of an eye. Also not hurting his cause, at least so far: He is currently 50.6% on the faceoff dot after he went 54.2% in preseason. Sheldon Keefe doesn’t hesitate to use him on key draws for the Marlies, either. He’s got a steep learning curve ahead still – that goes without saying — but there’s lots to like so far.

3 – In the short term, Babcock has said Brooks Laich is more of a winger playing out of position, so Tyler Bozak’s return seemingly shifts him to the wing and bumps Freddy The Goat back to the Marlies, but we’ll have to wait and see.

4 – The Leafs have received .954 goaltending over the last five games, with Jonathan Bernier taking four of the starts and playing arguably his best four-game sequence of the season – not that that’s saying much in such a down year. Bernier has allowed five goals in four starts, and if we recap the goals in the three games since he shut out the Wings with a 38-save performance: Brian Boyle was left wide open at the bottom of the circle on a pass out from behind the net (no chance) vs. Tampa Bay; Ben Smith scored on his own net and Connor Carrick deflected one off of Nazem Kadri and into the net versus Florida, while the other two Panther goals were empty netters; last night vs. Calgary, he had little chance on either goal. It looked like Matt Stajan had beat him clean shortside for the 1-1 goal, but it actually picked up off Kadri’s stickblade and found the top corner, while Joe Colborne got inside on Morgan Rielly and received a bounce off of his body on a shot that was going well wide of the net. Longwinded way of saying: He’s been good and it’s a significant part of the Leafs’ recent uptick in results.

5 – There was close to zero doubt Connor Brown and William Nylander were good enough in the AHL last season plus this past preseason to make the team out of camp, but for reasons we’re all aware of they were held off the roster until the deadline. Even still, who had the Leafs improving without Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk, Dion Phaneuf and Roman Polak (and more recently Leo Komarov)? They’ve been a top five-ish possession team — by both shot attempts and scoring chances – since the deadline, and they’re getting some results now that the puck has started going in and they’re getting good goaltending (5-2-1 in their last eight).

6 – That said, everyone should heed Mike Babcock’s reiterative warning against “overevaluating” a good run of play when the games stop counting. The Leafs are loose and catching teams by surprise lately; not that it should fully take away from how hard they’ve worked or the promising play of the kids, but playing better when the pressure is nonexistent is something Leafs fans should be well and truly familiar with.

7 – As far as the blueline is concerned, it hasn’t hurt one bit having Matt Hunwick shut down for the season. Hunwick played big, tough minutes in a role he had no business in and that’s not entirely his fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that his results were terrible — -6.1 CF% RELTM is the worst of any Leaf this season, and he’s 128th of 135 in points per 60 among NHLers to play more than 1,000 minutes this season. Shifting some of those minutes around and getting the likes of Martin Marincin and Frank Corrado more involved, in addition to adding Connor Carrick into the mix (he has acquitted himself well), has been a net positive.

8 – Connor Brown recorded his first NHL point on one of the empty netters last night, but he’s been quieter than we know he can be based on some of his “wow” performances in preseason. Many envisioned a similar impact to Zach Hyman given what we’d seen from Brown in the past. We’re only three games in, but it’s probably mostly down to linemates and limited even-strength minutes. Babcock is trying to get Milan Michalek back up to speed after his injury, but in a tail-end to the season that’s all about getting the kids some NHL experience, it seems like moving Connor Brown up with Kadri and Michael Grabner is the sensible move. With zero points in his last six, it’s not like Kadri’s been producing of late and couldn’t benefit from some experimentation.

9 – Nazem Kadri‘s current six-game slump is his worst since October of 2014. He’ll need a strong finish to even hit 15 goals and 40+ points. At this point it’s safe to say the regression to the mean some expected from the start of his season, when he was among the league leaders in shots generated, hasn’t come to fruition. He’s playing tough minutes and JvR’s injury hasn’t given him much to work with, but he’ll need to put in an offseason of work on his shot because he’s had a hell of a time trying to beat goalies from beyond the hashmarks this season.

10 – It goes without saying there’s a big difference between the Leafs falling to second or third last instead of dead last if it’s William Nylander and Zach Hyman driving the bus and producing as opposed to PA Parenteau and Brad Boyes doing the scoring while chasing a contract for next season. To even talk about this is getting ahead of oneself. While outlosing the Oilers is proving as difficult as we expected, the Leafs have stiff competition coming up with the Ducks, Bruins, Lightning and Panthers in their next four.

Game Highlights

Mike Babcock Post Game

All Situations Shot Attempts

chart (24)

Shot Location Chart

Screenshot 2016-03-22 01.29.59

Leafs Player Stats — Toronto 5 vs. Calgary 2

C. Brown RW010100001814:135:480:307:55000
C. Carrick D002110012114:000:550:0413:01000
F. Corrado D001011001812:100:000:0012:10000
J. Gardiner D022013012724:15:005:060:4318:26000
F. Gauthier C000210021611:060:160:4010:107750
M. Grabner RW000200002012:490:001:3511:14000
C. Greening LW100401012117:225:520:0011:3020100
Z. Hyman C102210012215:430:390:5014:14000
N. Kadri C00-1111212117:435:100:0212:3161233.3
B. Laich C011001002317:085:290:4410:553730
J. Leivo LW101320001813:485:290:008:19000
M. Marincin D001012012421:160:162:5118:09000
M. Michalek LW00-1000002316:505:520:0010:58000
W. Nylander RW123441002318:125:520:0012:209950
P. Parenteau RW103110202418:235:520:1212:19000
M. Rielly D000330212824:22:007:080:5516:19000
B. Smith RW010103012015:140:161:2913:292340
R. Valiev D001110001711:550:000:0011:55000

Leafs 5v5 Possession Stats — Toronto 5 vs. Calgary 2

NameCorsi ForCorsi AgainstCorsiCorsi For%Zone Start%
CONNOR CARRICK1012-245.45%40%
ZACH HYMAN22121064.71%54.55%
CONNOR BROWN74363.64%33.33%
MILAN MICHALEK1010050%42.86%
FRANK CORRADO138561.90%30.77%
BROOKS LAICH610-437.50%12.50%
BEN SMITH912-342.86%11.11%
RINAT VALIEV119255%30.77%
JOSH LEIVO95464.29%33.33%
COLIN GREENING412-825%12.50%
WILLIAM NYLANDER1991067.86%54.55%
MICHAEL GRABNER119255%37.50%
NAZEM KADRI1012-245.45%42.86%
MORGAN RIELLY2013760.61%44.44%
JONATHAN BERNIER46361056.10%36.36%
JAKE GARDINER1714354.84%36.36%
MARTIN MARINCIN2016455.56%40%
FREDERIK GAUTHIER126666.67%28.57%


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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at