Some good old home cooking was just the fuel the Leafs needed and took full advantage, handling the last place Florida Panthers with a 6-1 victory at the Scotiabank Arena Thursday evening. Similar to the effort a couple days previous in Newark against the Devils, Toronto would not be denied and as coach Babcock has preached since the day he arrived 4 years ago, “Don’t let your talent replace your work ethic.”
Toronto worked hard from puck drop and eventually wore the Panthers down with a skill set the visitors just couldn’t match. As one NHL GM said, “Toronto is embarrassingly rich in talent.”
But as we all know talent isn’t enough and this Maple Leaf club is starting to realize working hard combined with the depth of talent they possess, will open up a lot of ice and be extremely tough to match.
Morgan Reilly lead the charge with 4 assists and Matthews netted a pair along with couple helpers; Tavares with a couple and team points leader Mitch Marner had a goal and 2 assists.
The Leafs power play stagnant the last three games went 3-3 and Florida learned the hard way to be down a man against this potent unit.
Interesting though, the Panthers had 3 breakaways in the first 10-minutes; with the Leafs pressing Florida decided to float a man behind the Toronto D looking for a stretch pass opportunity; while Andersen wasn’t tested too often he did make a couple key stops early to keep the game even in the opening frame.
That allowed the power play to finally break its mini slump and the Maple Leafs were off and running.
The concern for Toronto again is some sloppy man coverage allowing the Panther wingers to get behind the D and can’t always be relying on Andersen to bail them out.
With hard working Zach Hyman out for minimum 3-weeks (ankle sprain) Frederik Gauthier was inserted into the lineup and played a solid game; rang one off the crossbar but his big body presence was effective in the O-zone and what he really brings up front. It opens up the ice for speedy wingers Ennis, Lindholm, Johnsson or whoever ends up with him depending on the game situation.
Nice start for the Maple Leafs who play 13 of the next 18 at the Vault and will need consistent play like this to pick up ground on Tampa.
Next up are the New York Rangers Saturday followed by Detroit for a rare Sunday match.