March 31, 2023

The Toronto Maple Leafs completed the series sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night with a convincing 6-2 win. The team got strong performances from the second line of Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Calle Jarnkrok, while Auston Matthews chipped in his 20th goal of the season. Goalie Matt Murray also rose to the challenge.

After a poor game against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, the team strung together two strong efforts against the Detroit Red Wings and the Flyers in back-to-back games. 

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share player news from last night’s well-rounded team effort.

Item One: TJ Brodie Is Day-to-Day With Injury

Defenseman T.J. Brodie, who played in every game last season, will not come close to hitting that mark in 2022-23. He was scratched late for last night’s game and is apparently day-to-day with an injury. The nature or severity of that injury has not been noted.

Related: 15 Craziest Things Ever Thrown on the Ice

The 32-year-old Brodie has been “hot” (for him) recently, with six points in his last 13 games and eight points in 28 games overall this season. With Brodie unable to play, Conor Timmins drew into the game on Sunday.

Item Two: Conor Timmins Scores First NHL Goal

Timmins had been a healthy scratch in the Maple Leafs’ past three games. However, last night, he took advantage of his latest opportunity (as he always does) with a goal and an assist in the win.

Conor Timmins Toronto Maple Leafs
Conor Timmins, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Timmins scored early in the second period to push the team’s lead to 3-1. After coming over from the Arizona Coyotes, he has a goal and 10 points in 14 games with the Maple Leafs. It was also his first NHL goal.

Related: Maple Leafs New Defenseman Conor Timmins: What Now?

Given his offensive production, Timmins is a hard player to keep out of the lineup. But as soon as he’s able, Brodie will likely draw back into the lineup.

Item Three: Matt Murray Is Back on His Game

Since the middle of December, both Maple Leafs goalies have seen their save percentages fall and their goals-against averages rise. Fans can hope that the past two games will become more routine for Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov than the high-scoring games they’ve recently experienced.

Matt Murray Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last night, Murray only allowed two goals on 36 shots, while his team made life easier for the first-year Maple Leaf, scoring six. After the suddenly prodigious Calle Jarnkrok scored the first goal midway through the first period, Murray never allowed the Flyers to get back into the game.

Related: Grading the Maple Leafs’ Matthews, Marner & Murray

Murray has a 10-4-2 record, a goals-against-average of 2.57, and a save percentage of .916 in 16 games this season. After giving up five goals on only 26 shots when the Kraken crushed the Maple Leafs 5-1 on Thursday, it was a solid bounce-back game for Murray.

Item Four: Captain John Tavares Has Reached the 40-Point Mark

With three points last night (a goal and two assists), John Tavares became the fourth Maple Leaf to hit the 40-point mark this season. The winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2018 now has 40 points in 41 games. 

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Tavares is on a three-game point streak and has scored four goals and four assists in his past five games. Now officially halfway through the season, Tavares is on an 80-point pace, and he’ll come close to reaching a point-per-game pace if he continues to produce.

Item Five: Calle Jarnkrok Is Proving to Be a Wise Top-Six Choice

When Calle Jarnkrok arrived during the offseason, many fans wondered why the Maple Leafs would sign a player who didn’t have a goal and only four assists in 17 games last season to such a long-term contract. It’s early, but Jarnkrok seems to be providing reasons for the organization’s decision. 

Related: The Worst First-Overall Draft Picks in NHL History

Since returning from his groin injury less than three weeks ago (Dec. 20), Jarnkrok has scored four goals and seven assists in nine games. Last night, he contributed a goal and two assists to bring his totals to nine goals and 11 assists in 34 games this season. 

It was another solid game for Jarnkrok, who seems to be that missing piece to the team’s second line; every member of that line collected three points against the Flyers.

“Ever since he’s been back he’s been terrific.”
With Calle Jarnkrok fitting in well on the second line, do the #Leafs still need an upgrade on the top-six between now and the trade deadline? ⤵️

Jarnkrok’s most productive scoring season was in 2017-18 with the Nashville Predators, when he scored 16 goals and 35 points in 68 games. He’s on a pace to break that mark this season – even after missing games.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Of note, despite the recent spate of high-scoring games, William Nylander has not hit the scoresheet in three straight games. He was reportedly iffy for a game over last week because of illness but was able to play. He’s had 11 shots on net in his past three games, but one has to wonder if he’s feeling 100 percent.

Related: Maple Leafs’ William Nylander’s Award-Winning, Turnaround Season

Before these past three games, the 26-year-old forward was off to the best start of his NHL career, with 22 goals and 23 assists in 38 games. He set a career-high in 2021-22 with 34 goals and 46 assists (for 80 points) and was on a pace to far exceed that number this season.

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