March 24, 2023

Just prior to the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were asked the question directly. “What’s made this team win again?”

As Marner Noted: Focus on Not Giving Up a Lot on Breakaways

Marner answered by saying that the team needs to compete and be consistent. Additionally, the team needs to play good defence without “giving up a whole lot off the rushes.” 

Marner noted that, for the last while, the team had avoided turning over pucks. Then he pointed ahead to last night’s game and said that it would be a factor in the game against the Golden Knights, which was a team that was good at transitioning off turnovers. He also noted the Golden Knights’ “deadly firepower.” Marner also noted that the team’s backcheck had been good over the past couple of games.

As Matthews Added: Bring Your A-Game Every Night

Matthews’ answered that he believed that the team had been confident. He also added that the team just needed “to be reminded of how good we need to be.” 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Murray, Amirov & Mete

Matthews added that, if the Maple Leafs were going to be able to play against the top teams every night, they needed to make sure they were bringing their A-Game and doing the right things that make them successful.

Obviously the Coaching Was Explicit

Maple Leafs’ fans can only assume that, when addressing questions from the media, players would revert (at least in part in the answers) to the coaching they’d been receiving. So, what fans hear out of the mouths of the players is what has been stressed in practice – especially when it refers to the team that they would be playing that evening.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But, for as much as the team was schooled in the right direction during practice and team meetings, during last night’s game, they didn’t do what they needed to do. In the end, that cost them the game.

Marner Was Right About the Golden Knights

Marner called it correctly about the Golden Knights. They did take advantage of turnovers. When the Maple Leafs lost the puck – for example, on the power play that turned into a Vegas’ short-handed goal – the Golden Knights made them pay.

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Maple Leafs’ goalie Eric Kallgren made some great saves during the game and helped his team turn a 2-1 first-period deficit into a 3-2 second-period lead. However, on the night, Kallgren stopped four of the five breakaways he faced.

It was one breakaway too few. He needed to stop them all.

Erik Kallgren Toronto Maple Leafs
Erik Kallgren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Both Marner and Matthews are correct. The team needs to control the puck better and needs to bring its A-Game. It didn’t, and it cost them a game they might have won.

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