Leafs’ Rielly Pumped about Team’s Direction After Centennial Classic
Morgan Rielly didn’t mind failing to score on a breakaway in overtime after all.
Not when Auston Matthews put the puck in the net a moment or so later.
And the jubilation that was being felt in the Maple Leafs’ dressing room at BMO Field following a 5-4 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings in the Centennial Classic?
It underlined what Rielly has been taking in for a while.
“This is different than anything I have ever gone through,” Rielly said.
“We have a great feeling going on in this room. I think we have lots of confidence with the people we have here, and that being said, we’re a closer group than I’ve ever seen. That might have to do with the age, it might have to do with guys being together for a bit longer …
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure we keep it going.”
The Leafs have won five in a row, have won six of their past seven games and are within spitting distance (three points) of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Remember that 13-game goal-less streak Matthews endured through the end of October and deep into November? In 17 games since, Matthews has scored 14 goals.
“I’ve been talking about him since the World Cup and how good he is,” Rielly said. “I don’t think there is anybody in this room who is surprised by it. He works hard every day, he has a skill set that allows him to do things that other people can’t do, but on top of that he has a good brain.”
Rielly jokingly blamed “the elements” for being unable to score on Wings goalie Jared Coreau, but had something else on his mind as the Leafs room started to clear out.
“I think this atmosphere was outstanding,” Rielly said. “We have the best fans in the world and it was on full display. There is lots to remember about tonight. I am looking forward to talking to my dad (Andy) about what was going on in the stands.”
If the Leafs were waiting for Matthews to become accustomed in the NHL before naming him captain, that wait is over. We’re not suggesting Matthews get the C in the middle of his rookie season, but certainly, we can expect a news conference some time during the off-season or around the time of training camp next fall. Not taking anything away from Mitch Marner of any of the other Leafs’ youngsters, but Matthews is the man now (teen?) and will be for years to come … Matt Martin and the Wings’ Steve Ott dropped the gloves early in the third period, and until then, there had been little in the way of entertainment. After, the two jawed at each other in the penalty box, with Ott mocking Martin. “Never fought him before,” Martin said. “It’s emotional. That is probably the maddest I have been in a fight in a long time. He’s a guy who plays his role well and I have nothing bad to say about him.” … That the Leafs blew a three-goal lead in the third period, with Anthony Mantha scoring at 19:58 to send the game to overtime, was not great. Martin marked it down to growing pains. “It’s concerning,” Martin said. “But we are a young team and our young players are some of our best players, obviously, and they have to learn in those situations. I don’t think you can learn until you are in those. You blow a three-goal lead and a few minutes later you come back to win the game, it’s a good thing and a positive thing to take away from it.” … Leo Komarov scored his third goal in four games, tying the game 1-1 early in third period. It helped that Wings defenceman Nick Jensen was unable to properly check Komarov, who re-directed a pass from Jake Gardiner behind Coreau … Marner’s goal seven minutes later had a bit of wonder in it, though the goal might not have happened if Mantha had made an actual attempt to check Marner … Zach Hyman had a chance to clear the zone, but did not, and soon after Mantha tied the game. “Not like I threw a (puck) in the middle of the rink can and there was a one-timer in the back of my net,” Hyman said. “It was a good hockey play by (Niklas) Kronwall.”
FROM THE HASH MARKS
If you were looking for something memorable during the first period, perhaps it came when a puck flew over the glass in the Leafs end and made it all the way into the stands in the north end. Fans reacted as though something magical had happened, which wasn’t shocking, given that the protective nets in the rinks across the league stop the majority of pucks from getting into the hands of spectators … Frans Nielsen wanted a penalty on Nazem Kadri early in the game and one should have been given by referee Dan O’Rourke or his colleague, Brad Meier. A slash by Kadri across Nielsen’s glove denied the Wings forward a scoring chance … The Leafs had nothing approaching a true scoring chance during a power play that started at the 49-second mark when Brendan Smith went off for tripping Kadri. A shot by Marner hit Coreau in the chest, and that was about it … The clubs combined for a total of zero blocked shots in the first period … Frederik Andersen had to make the toughest save at either end in the opening 20 minutes, coming when he got a glove on a Gustav Nyquist attempt in the final minute. It helped that Nyquist didn’t get all of the puck on his shot.