The Toronto Maple Leafs’ four-goal outburst in the second period was enough to overcome a Buffalo Sabres team that didn’t go away quietly on Monday night.

Your game in ten:

1. Tonight, Auston Matthews hit the 30-goal mark and John Tavares hit the 35-goal mark in the same game — game #62.

If Tavares and Matthews carry on their current pace and play out the season healthy, both will break 40.

Malkin and Crosby have posted 30+ together in the same season a few times, but never 40+. They were on pace to break 40+ apiece in 2016-17, but Malkin only played 62 games due to injury (of course, they won the Cup that season). The same goes for 2007-08, but Crosby got injured (they made the Cup Finals that season).

Last season, there were 14 teams with one 30+ goal center. The Leafs — with Nazem Kadri and Matthews — were the only team with two. Eight teams didn’t have a 30-goal scorer, period.

I could be wrong here, but I believe you have to go back to Sundin-Sakic on the ’93 Nordiques and then Gretzky-Nicholls on the ’89 Kings to find the last instances of two 40+ goal centers on the same team.

We’re witnessing something truly special here and it’s not to be taken for granted.


2. The Leafs penalty kill has now given up five goals while conceding in four consecutive games.

On the 1-0 Jack Eichel goal, Frederik Gauthier looked fired up about his new PK assignment and he overpursued the puck carrier on the goal (there was no reason to chase there). That’s something they’ll go over on video and correct for next time — all part of him adjusting to the role, but an inauspicious start there nonetheless.

The 5-on-3 goal had an element of bad luck (also just the sort of thing that happens when you’re down to three men) as Morgan Rielly read the shot and went out to block it only for a fanned attempt to turn into an inadvertent pass down low, and Ron Hainsey couldn’t recover in time at the back post.

The Jeff Petry goal on Saturday was down to the Habs emerging with the puck out of the corner despite the Leafs having numbers in the area; Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman needed to win a battle or at least ensure they were preventing Andrew Shaw from having the time to pick his head up and make a play off his backhand across the ice to the wide open Petry on the weak side.

The Alex Ovechkin goal against Washington was Ovechkin doing Ovechkin things, with the only hope there being to win the initial draw (maybe Hyman could’ve gotten a stick in the lane with an extra hard stride as he closed down).

On the Colton Parayko goal against St. Louis, Tavares bit hard up high on Parayko as he opened up for a possible pass off to Tyler Bozak, and that afforded too much time and space for Parayko to measure a perfect wrister that went off the bar and in.

Overall, you do want to be aggressive, but the Leafs need to be a bit smarter about things and make sure they’re not giving up that kind of time/space and those easy lanes.


3.  The other trend that needs to end is the Leafs conceding the first goal (five in a row) and more generally the tendency to “turn it on” for parts of games. The complete 60-minute effort is the elusive goal of every team — always strived for and rarely achieved — but the ebbs and flows have been particularly pronounced for the Leafs of late.

After their three-game losing slide, that is now two wins in a row where the Leafs gave up three goals and yet Frederik Andersen was arguably deserving of first star. He made huge saves early to keep it to just 1-0 in the first period and came up with more big saves again to ensure the Leafs didn’t fully cough up a 4-1 lead. The Leafs are going to have to tidy things up in their own end here in the next 20 games and start putting together some more “even” efforts as they ramp up for the playoffs.


4.  On a related note, it’s hugely encouraging what we’re continuing to see out of Frederik Andersen of late. He’s deserving of nothing but praise, so I hate to drop in a caveat here, but I’m really curious to see if this form continues on right through March following the enhanced conditioning work he did last offseason. Last year around this time, Andersen started to show signs of slowing down a little bit under the strains of the workload — he posted a .896 save percentage after March 1 (and a .896 in the playoffs as well).

The other question concerns how much rest the Leafs will give him down the stretch. Babcock’s point about best-laid plans never working out is coming true as the Leafs are in a dog fight for home ice in the playoffs.


5.  The Jack Eichel vs. Auston Matthews “anything you can do” contest delivers every time without fail in these matchups. Even Leafs fans had to be picking their jaws off the floor watching some of what Eichel was doing with the puck on his stick tonight. He hit two posts on top of his two goals (both of which were beautifully taken). John Tavares had a really hard time containing him in that matchup.

Matthews also did his part with his goal, and he is really coming on again lately with arguably his best run of form since early October (prior to his injury). I agree fully with Babcock’s assessment after the game that Matthews, “is way more physical on offense.”

The difference in this game — it was obvious the Leafs had three or four lines rolling and sustaining momentum at different points in the night while the Sabres mostly had one.


6.  Fascinating stat here: All three of Frederik Gauthier’s goals include Trevor Moore assists. Moore is now up to four points in his first eight NHL games while playing fourth line minutes. Opposite Tyler Ennis (who has nine goals in 37 games), the Leafs could have a really nice pair of depth weapons on their fourth line wings here. They’re not big, to put it mildly, but they’re both courageous, skilled and have good motors, and they’re centered by the 6’5 Goat, who greatly benefits from the added skill and pace on his wings.

I got the sense listening to Babcock after the game that some hard discussions likely took place between he and Dubas about adding a 4C before the deadline and whether or not Gauthier is ready to fill that role properly over a potentially (or hopefully) long Spring of hockey. Unlike his predecessor, Kyle Dubas chose not to spend assets to upgrade in that area and then moved out one of Babcock’s PK staples in Par Lindholm. Gauthier looked like he was invigorated by the show of faith tonight, and it’ll be interesting to see if an upgrade in wingers is all he needed to chip in enough offense to justify his regular spot in the lineup.

If he struggles to take on the PK minutes capably and doesn’t impact the game consistently enough at 5v5, Babcock might not be a particularly happy camper. But tonight was a step in the right direction and a hopeful sign of things to come from Goat and his line.


7.  Interesting report at the intermission from Bob McKenzie suggesting that the Leafs’ main target was Wayne Simmonds, as that runs contrary to what many in the fan base were thinking about Kyle Dubas’ level of interest in the player at this stage in his career (he’s also a RW).

At the same time, if the Leafs couldn’t better Nashville’s offer of Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth, the interest couldn’t have been all that strong. You’re likely talking Connor Brown and a second/third to get it done, assuming the Leafs had to better the offer to keep him in the conference.

The Micheal Ferland interest was apparently also real, but Carolina opted to hang onto the player after their recent turnaround.


8.  On a similar note, this was a really interesting answer from Babcock about heaviness after the game:

“There are two parts. Zach Hyman — we’d like to have one on each line, but they just don’t make them like that. I think Little John has come a long way in that area. We need Kappy to do more of that. But we have a lot of guys. Willy can really cycle the puck and he has to commit to doing it. Matthews is way more physical on offense than he used to be. That is important as well. We just need to continue to grow that throughout the group.

Moore, for the size of him, has got a heavy keister and hangs onto the puck pretty good there. We need more of that.”

– Mike Babcock on heaviness

It looks like the Leafs thought hard about (and tried) adding this element via a deadline addition, but instead, they are going to challenge their current group to raise the bar when it comes to how they compete, take and dole out punishment in those physical battles over a playoff run.

I do think William Nylander is showing clear signs of how maturation and experience on their own — that includes a lot of good work in the gym as well as going through the wars on the ice — beget heaviness. Now that he’s got his conditioning and confidence back, he looks really strong on the puck of late (drew a penalty, set up a goal tonight).


9.  As for the trade the Leafs did make, I thought it was very much in line with Kyle Dubas’ modus operandi. Luke Glendening or Kyle Clifford probably could have been had as fourth-line options, but he held onto the assets, shipped out Lindholm, brought in a younger asset with more offensive upside as well as RFA control in Nic Petan, and rewarded an internal graduate who had earned it with his play for both the Marlies and the Leafs in his big-club appearances.

There is plenty of logic to it, and if the Leafs were going to spend assets to add up front, you’d rather it be for someone who would’ve moved the needle a little more such as a Ferland (or in a more expensive, impactful and complicated move, Chris Kreider).

In the big picture, this is something you can expect out of the Leafs going forward under Dubas. Not that Glendening or Clifford — both signed beyond this season — are all that cap unfriendly at $1.8 million and $1.6 million, respectively, but the idea is going to be to develop young talent to slot in on the cheap, avoid any excess dollars on the margins of the roster, and keep that pipeline flowing as the Leafs navigate a difficult cap situation.

Dubas locked in Moore to a really nice two-year deal (worth $750,000 AAV) a month and a half ago with this kind of move in mind.


10.  My bet: Kasperi Kapanen is going to score a bunch more big goals for the Leafs in the playoffs. Beyond the track record of already doing such things, you can just feel it already down the stretch here — the fire in his eyes, his sense for the occasion, and his ability to elevate in key moments. That’s two games in a row featuring great individual efforts from Kapanen to secure the win — one on the empty netter versus Montreal and then the shorthanded goal tonight.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres


Condensed Game