The Leafs improve to 6-0-1 in their last seven games, and now have a six point lead in the North DIvision following their 4-2 win over Calgary tonight. We were told Matthew Tkachuk was in the lineup but I’m not sure I remember hearing him mentioned even once, and generally the Leafs were treated to the underwhelming performance that the Flames have been known for under new old coach Darryl Sutter. A rough go late in the first, followed by disinterest throughout most of the second gave Leafs fans a slight scare, but as underwhelming as the Leafs were at times, the Flames seemed equally underwhelming.
3rd Star: Second and Third Period Michael Hutchinson
Poor guy. I feel for him, I really do, but no one makes me more nervous in net than Michael Hutchinson. If he was actually in the 4th goaltender on the depth chart role that he was signed on to be in, I’d have no problem with the guy, but here he is, a staple of the Leafs back to backs, and as much he was awful in the first period, Hutchinson was a big part of the Leafs staying a float in the second period. Especially when killing the Hyman penalty, Hutchinson was key to keeping the game from getting out of control, and as much as he’s an absolute wild card in net, he’s probably as good a third string goaltender as anyone could reasonably hope for.
2nd Star: Alex Galchenyuk
From the moment the Leafs traded for him, there’s been an unrealistic hope that Galchenyuk would find his game and live partially up to his 3rd overall pick billing. There’s also the smug sense of satisfaction of him panning out after the Habs and Sens both let him go.
AELX GALCHENYUK 🚨
FIRST AS A LEAF! pic.twitter.com/8rq7I7k2cu
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 5, 2021
Tonight was another step in the right direction as Galchenyuk picked up his first goal as a Leaf, the game tying goal. In general it was a pretty positive night for the Tavares line, and the chemistry that Nylander and Galchenyuk are developing is another blessing for this team.
1st Star: Noah Hanifin
A long time ago Mike Babcock pushed Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter to consider selecting Noah Hanifin fourth overall in the 2015 draft. They opted to select Mitch Marner instead. That seems to have worked out well.
NOAH HANIFIN 🚨 FIRST AS A LEAF!
(JOHN TAVARES!) pic.twitter.com/ZeBtYnV2MW
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 5, 2021
As good as Marner has been, there was some vindication for Mike Babcock tonight, as Noah Hanifin put in the game winning goal for the Leafs tonight. They might have chosen to award it to John Tavares, but the real ones know it was all Hanifin.
40th Star: You guessed it,
Frank Stallone The Leafs Powerplay
So there weren’t a whole lot of chances to improve it, but another 0 for 1 outing means the Leafs are now 28 chances without a goal, and during those two minutes it really didn’t look like they had a worthwhile chance. I humbly suggest just putting the fourth line out for the powerplay with the third defensive pairing. Sure you still won’t score, but at least the top Leafs players won’t be exhausted when they return to 5v5.
The Leafs and Flames are back at it again tomorrow night. The Leafs will also have Jack Campbell returning to their net. The Flames are scheduled to face the Canucks following the series against the Leafs, and those games just aren’t going to happen. So tomorrow night is pretty much it for them until the trade deadline, and even with a win they’d be four points back on Montreal with the Habs having 5 games at hand. It’s realistic to think the Flames will be sellers heading into the deadline, so tomorrow night might be a good opportunity to form opinions on which players we’d like to see as Leafs, although no one really made a strong case tonight.