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Leafs Hot Streak Continues With Win Over St. Louis

February 20, 2024, 5:20 PM ET [379 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs opened their four-game road swing in St. Louis on Monday afternoon with tight defensive effort in a 4-2 victory over the Blues. The Leafs held the home squad to just 21 shots on Ilya Samsonov and after a scoreless first and exchanging goals in the middle frame, wrested control of the game with a pair of goals in the third and and empty-netter late in regulation.

Auston Matthews continued his hot streak with his 49th goal of the season, Matthew Knies, William Nylander, and Bobby McMann scored for Toronto, and Samsonov made 19 saves in the victory.

"I loved the way we started the second period. We took charge of the game there. Big-time play by (Matthew Knies). Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “All in all, it is a good road game for us. We did enough good things to win today, and I thought we played a smart game that minimized any sort of chances or damage they could inflict on us.”

As they did successfully last season, the Leafs have been able to circle the wagons with key players out of their lineup and earn valuable points in the standings. Last season, with Rielly, TJ Brodie, and Jake Muzzin out, the club went on a tear, losing only twice in overtime from mid-November to mid-December. Monday’s win was their fourth game in a row, all without Morgan Rielly in the lineup.

The club is currently without four defensemen and was forced to play a pair of blueliners who’ve spent almost all season with the Toronto Marlies in Maxime Lajoie and Marshall Rifai, and playing Timothy Liljegren, Brodie, Jake McCabe, and Simon Benoit over 20 minutes.

Playing this responsible two-way hockey and contributions from their key players is clearly the pathway to success, but it seems that the Leafs have not learned that this is the way, because they continue to return to a pattern of inconsistency that in the end results in their downfall.

The keys to victory were the performance of Knies (who has begun to display the potential that many foresaw when he played at the University of Minnesota), the consistent production of Matthews (now one goal short of the 50-goal mark with 28 games left in the regular season), a key short-handed goal by Nylander, and three assists from Mitch Marner (who is on pace for his third-straight 30+ goal season and more than 90 points for the fourth time in his career).

The Leafs need to heed the lessons of that month–long stretch last season and the four games over the last week and play that way when they are at full strength and when April rolls around…..but will they do that??


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