After a breakout performance from their top line, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping for more when they host the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
Toronto’s trio of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Joe Thornton combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) in Saturday’s 3-2 road victory over the Ottawa Senators. Marner led the way with a goal and two assists, Thornton recorded his first goal and assist in a Leafs jersey, and Matthews had an assist and also scored what ended up as the game’s winning goal in the third period.
After the trio combined for just two assists in the Maple Leafs’ first two games, Saturday’s performance was a hint of what is possible as the three forwards continue to jell.
“I think we’ll continue to keep growing as a line because we are having fun and we get excited before every game,” Thornton said. “I think you can tell each game we’re getting better, and that’s a real good sign. …The amount of attention these two guys get, I’ve just got to get open for them and just be ready to shoot the puck and get ready to distribute.”
The Jets also got a pair of three-point nights from linemates Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Flames. Connor had a goal and two assists, while Laine had an assist and scored twice, including the overtime winner.
Perhaps the key goal, however, came from Mark Scheifele just 34 seconds into the second period. Winnipeg trailed by a 3-1 score after the first period, as head coach Paul Maurice said his team looked “tight” in the early going.
“As soon as we score there early in the second, our legs and our hands showed up,” Maurice said. “We stopped being tight and then we were just a real good team after that. … We all felt it was there, we were just hesitant with the puck and with our feet.The goal was critical because it took some pressure off.”
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of 26 shots to earn the win on Saturday. Since the Jets also play Tuesday in Ottawa, Hellebuyck and backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit will probably split the back-to-back outings, with Hellebuyck likelier to start against Toronto.
These consecutive games come after both a three-day break for the Jets and some unexpected time off on Saturday. The team’s scheduled Saturday practice was canceled as a precautionary measure due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
Winnipeg defenseman Tucker Poolman has also been placed in COVID-19 protocol, and is uncertain for Monday’s game. Dylan DeMelo (paternity leave) is expected to be available against Toronto and could take Poolman’s spot on the blue line, but Laine will miss the game with an upper-body injury.
Toronto will need a roster replacement for forward Nick Robertson, who left Saturday’s game after suffering a knee injury in the first period. Robertson is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen is expected to start on Monday, after posting a 4.47 goals against average and an .839 save percentage in Toronto’s first two games. Andersen is looking to get on track and reinforce his position as the Maple Leafs’ top choice in net, especially after backup Jack Campbell got the win (stopping 17 of 19 shots) on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against Winnipeg, dating back to the 2016-17 season.
–Field Level Media