The Toronto Maple Leafs end 2019 with a wild win over Minnesota

James Kurtzman
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Toronto Maple Leafs 4 - Minnesota Wild 1

The Toronto Maple Leafs end 2019 on a high note while improving to 13-4-1 under head coach Sheldon Keefe.

But more impressively they had one of their best defensive games in a long time. From limiting turnovers as well as scoring chances, they held the Wild to only 27 shots with six of them coming in the third period.

Even Sheldon Keefe liked the way they played saying "I thought we made some good adjustments and definitely played a really solid game." "We got off to a lead and they had to force some stuff to get back into it. so I think we did a better job of not playing into their hand and forcing too much, and made them come to us. I thought we did a good job."

Sheldon Keefe deserves a lot of credit, even more than he's getting. Before he took over for Mike Babock, the team in Blue and White weren't even in a playoff spot. Now they sit 2nd in the Atlantic Division, top of the league in wins, points, point percentage, and goal differential.

Alex Kerfoot opened the scoring in the first period for his 100th career point but the players who stood out the most were Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares. They say if you buy a Ferrari you want it to run like a Ferrari and the Leafs Ferrari's are finally running like they should. Matthews, Nylander, and Tavares both had a goal and assist in the win but if you dig a little deeper you'll see what I mean.

Matthews' goal was his 8th in the last 7 games, his 50th of the 2019 calendar year, and moved up to 2nd in the league in scoring (27) just two goals away from David Pastrnak (29).

Nylander has 6 goals and 6 assists in his last seven games. In that time he is tied for second in the league for the most points (12) alongside Mitch Marner and oh yeah Matthews is in first with 14.

John Tavares has 35 points in 34 games but 10 of those points has come in his last five games.

But of course I can't forget about Frederik Andersen the soon to be All-Star (yes I know Leaf fans he's been an All-Star to you for years now). He became the first goalie to hit 20 wins this season; he's second in shots against (1,001), and second in saves (916).

Goal #1: Tavares fed Kerfoot for a one-timer at 5:55 of the first.

Goal #2: 31 seconds left in the first and Nylander put in the loose puck.

Goal #3: Another one-timer but this time it was Nylander to Matthews 8:34 of the second and it was on the power play.

Goal #4: Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild scored on a power play. Last time he scored on home ice was 56 games ago, dated back to October 11, 2018.

Goal #5: Tavares shot from the other end of the ice onto an empty net.

"Things are building, confidence is getting better," Tavares said. "I think we're starting to have a really good feel of the way we want to play. we can still be better, but certainly I think the things Keefe implemented has really translated well with  the skillset of our team, the type of players we have and his message."

There is no doubt that the Leafs finished the first half of the season strong but can they start 2020 the same way? Their next opponent are the Winnipeg jets on January 2nd.