The final score flattered the New York Rangers.

This was a dominant Toronto Maple Leafs road win, reminiscent of the trouncing of Detroit back on November 27th. The two teams may have similar records, but it wasn’t apparent on this night.

Your game in ten:

1.  The Leafs came out in the first ten minutes with a sense of urgency, like they knew the first goal would be pivotal on the road. From the outset, they continued to rewrite the narrative on early-season slow starts.

Under Sheldon Keefe, they entered the night with eight wins and four losses having outscored opponents 16-3 in the first. They started off strong again, jumping to a 2-0 lead by the 12th minute before two defensive lapses let the Rangers tie it up before the period ended.

The Leafs got back into gear in the second, racing down the ice rush after rush against a young Ranger defense, chalking up 78% of the expected goal share at 5 on 5 that period. But all of that pressure still had the teams tied at 3-3 entering the third. Unlike the previous 12 games where the Leafs were outscored 21-11 in the third, this time they actually finished strong, coasting to a 6-3 victory.

2.  There were a couple of defensive lapses in the second half of the first period, both off of dump-ins. Jake Muzzin couldn’t get to one round-the-boards dump-in in time to stop the puck from heading towards a wide-open Brady Skjei in front.

Not to be outdone, Tyson Barrie went to the end boards a few minutes later on another dump-in. Under forecheck pressure he flipped a blind backhand pass behind the net towards his partner, except Rielly was covered. That led to a pass out front and an easy goal by Ryan Strome seconds later. Two dump ins, two goals.

3.  I think Mitch Marner is back in full form. He now has 28 points in 25 games, a 1.12 PPG pace that almost matches last season’s 1.15 pace. He certainly showed the flash that he had for much of last season. Marner was free-wheeling much of the night, firing six shots, scoring twice, leading rushes, stealing pucks, getting the Rangers blue line to back up, and generally making tape-to-tape passes and dekes look routine.

However, the John Tavares line was also tasked with stopping the hot Strome/Panarin line and were on for all three Ranger goals against. But on the whole, I thought Mitch Marner was excellent.

4.  Pierre Engvall continues to impress, ranking first among forwards with a 13-4 shot attempt advantage when he was on the ice. I find it hard to imagine how he could be sent down when Trevor Moore and Andreas Johnsson return. That’s a real conundrum for the Leafs given their salary-cap situation.

Engvall has much-needed size, above-average speed, great stick reach, can play center, can play the penalty kill, is defensively responsible, and he can score. Although it’s early to talk about point production, he has also scored the third-highest points/60 for forwards who have played all 13 games under Keefe (2.62/60 minutes).

5.  The penalty kill under Sheldon Keefe looked good (again), led by Muzzin and Ceci on the first unit, and Holl and Dermott on the second. Marner and Hyman are back and healthy and Engvall, Kapanen, and Mikheyev can also add support.  The Leafs have only allowed four power-play goals in 30 opportunities since Keefe took over while scoring three themselves shorthanded. That goal differential of -1 means a net 96.7% rating, which is the best in the league since Keefe took over.

6.  This was Frederik Andersen‘s 13th start in 14 games and it wasn’t his best outing. He saved 19 of 22 shots and his 86.4% save percentage was only the third time he has fallen below 90% in the past month. The first goal looked preventable and he also had a couple shots get past him and hit the post in the first period.

Chris Johnson reports that the Leafs have been reducing Andersen’s shot load in practice. That’s a good start, but load management has to be a concern. Michael Hutchinson is starting the next game against Detroit and the Christmas break will provide some rest. Those will help, but Andersen is still projected to start somewhere around 66 games. That has to be a concern for the Leafs after the Christmas break.

7.  Auston Matthews may not have scored a goal, but he played well with and without the puck. He and his line didn’t allow any goals against, led in shot attempts 19-12, and controlled 78% of the expected goal share. He had two assists, but his line looked dangerous most of the night.

8.  William Nylander played a strong two-way game and stood out all night. In his 17 minutes of ice time, he scored two goals, had one assist, and he was on the ice for a 19-9 advantage in shot attempts. This was probably one of his best games of the year – skating through all three zones, parking in front for a setup by Kapanen, scoring off the rush, and battling for pucks behind the net.

9.  The third line of Engvall – Kerfoot – Mikheyev was giving the Rangers a lot of problems in their own zone — they outshot their opponents 13-3 in just over 9 minutes together at 5 on 5.  There was one stretch in the second period where the line controlled the puck for 45 seconds in the offensive zone. All three are capable of playing off the cycle, and as Mikheyev and Engvall showed tonight, they can make plays and score when given the opportunity.

10.  With their fourth win in five games and ninth win in 13 under Sheldon Keefe, the Leafs are starting to make a push. They have passed Buffalo and are tied with Montreal, who have a game in hand. Florida is a point back but has two games in hand. The team now faces Detroit to complete a back to back set with Michael Hutchinson in net before playing a very good Carolina team on Monday. The fight for the playoffs has just begun.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers

Game Highlights: Leafs 6 vs. Rangers 3