Wednesday, October 18, 2017
It was a tough day for Canadians around the country, as they discovered the loss of an icon and legend, in the passing of The Tragically Hip frontman — Gord Downie. The selfless rockstar lost his battle with terminal brain cancer at the young age of 53, a tragic injustice for a man so full of life.
Many players have voiced their sympathies throughout the day, and there’s no doubt of the impact he left on each individual and the game itself. A renowned human and avid hockey fan, Downie often used his star power to raise awareness for the greater good inside and out of the sport.
The Hip’s final Man Machine Poem tour truly brought together an entire nation and was a triumphant send off for a beautiful soul and iconic band.
He stopped one of those shows to raise awareness of the historic mistreatment of northern First Nations, and for that was honoured by the Attawapiskat First Nation Chief, Bruce Shisheesh. Just one of Downie’s many common gestures of good nature, in true Canadian fashion.
A highly-embraced moment of silence was held at the Air Canada Centre prior to the singing of each national anthem.
Toronto commanded a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals just one night prior in the first game of a back-to-back situation and looked to build upon their 5-1-0 start. However, the Detroit Red Wings would meet the Leafs in Toronto on Wednesday night riding a stellar 4-2-0 start of their own.
As a result of the back-to-back, Curtis McElhinney was given the start in favour of resting Frederik Andersen. The 28-year-old Dane played in a career-high 66-games last season, second only to Oilers’ Cam Talbot.
For McElhinney, a solid start would provide some much-needed stability for his job. Despite signing a 2-year deal this offseason, the Maple Leafs went out and acquired what appears to be a fully capable backup, in 25-year-old Calvin Pickard.
Patrick Marleau would lace-up for his 1,500th career game, becoming just the 18th player in league history to do so. Not to mention it being his 630th consecutive game, the 3rd longest iron-man streak amongst active NHL players.
An undisciplined line-change helped Toronto jump out to an early 1-0 lead in the opening frame. Nazem Kadri exploited the open ice and burned several defenders before unleashing a laser past Jimmy Howard at the 5:56 mark.
The Leafs seem to enjoy scoring goals in pair’s this season and continued that trend with another strike just 0:43 seconds later. Zach Hyman notched his 3rd goal of the season with a deflection of Morgan Rielly’s initial shot, in front of the net.
Fast forward to the second period, and it was much of the same as Auston Matthews and Connor Brown went back-to-back just 0:40 seconds apart.
Matthews completely undressed his competition en route to his 6th goal in seven games. Again, he simply did some hockey thing and proved he’s pretty good at it. He dangled through a few defenders and managed to sneak a shot through Trevor Daley, effectively chasing Howard from the game.
Petr Mrazek fared no better than his counterpart, while Connor Brown continued his plea for top-6 minutes with his 3rd goal of the season.
Detroit found a reason for optimism in the second period with a pair of goals to their credit. Both Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Ericsson scored 1:34 apart, respectively.
That only opened the door for Morgan Rielly to restore a two-goal lead and continue his stellar start to the season. Is this the year Mo finally eclipses the 40-point plateau? His 1st goal of the season came on the power play and was largely thanks to a screen in front by James van Riemsdyk.
Toronto would hold on for a second victory in as many nights, with Nylander adding the all-important empty net insurance goal. Surprisingly, that would mark just his 2nd of the season and can only mean good things considering his already lofty points pace, now at 7 points in 7 games.
A 6-3 victory means the Maple Leafs retain top spot in the league with a 6-1-0 record, and will have some time off before their next bought. Toronto will visit the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa for a date with the Senators.
With Erik Karlsson back in the mix, don’t be surprised to see the Battle of Ontario reignite with a new era at the helm. Something we debatably haven’t seen in some years, dating back to the end of Mats Sundin’s career in Toronto.
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E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca
On Twitter - @GordBrown_
Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs