The Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils last night marked a number of key takeaways. First, coming just before the trade deadline was Mark Giordano. He played as advertised.

Second, Petr Mrazek had a rare good game and was better than people expected. Third, the Maple Leafs’ special teams are good this season, and that’s a step up from what was the case last season.

Related: Kyle Dubas Calls Out Blackhawks GM For Leaking Fleury Conversations

Takeaway One: Keefe Loved Giordano’s Play

Head Coach Sheldon Keefe was almost giddy about Mark Giordano’s first Maple Leafs’ game. It was Giordano’s first time on NHL ice in a Toronto uniform (although it was not Blue & White) and it seemed to go very well.

It had to be a treat for him to play, but as he told the media “I felt good all day. I remember coming here when I was a young guy, and you had all the nerves.” (from “Maple Leafs down Devils on Engvall’s late short-handed winner, Joshua Clipperton, Toronto Star, 23/03/22).

The 38-year-old veteran defenseman and 2019 Norris Trophy Winner played for the first time in his hometown rink. Nice gesture for coach Keefe to give him the start. During the game, Giordano played on the third pairing with Timothy Liljegren.

While the key moments of a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils all came elsewhere on the sheet, Mark Giordano gave the Toronto Maple Leafs just the type of performance they’d expected of him in his debut with his new team on Wednesday. (@SachdevaSonny)https://t.co/Mt0WELjv77

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 24, 2022

Keefe noted after the game that Giordano’s debut simply calmed him (personally) down. Specifically, he noted that “My comfort level was high when he was out there. The puck got on his stick and things seem to settle down.”

Keefe added, “You can just tell that he is a veteran. He knows how to play. Despite coming into new teammates, a new city, and a new system, he is just confident, moving pucks, defending, and getting in people’s way. I really liked his play tonight.”

Takeaway Two: Petr Mrazek Bounces Back with Solid Game

Speaking about coach Keefe, he was cited as saying that he hoped that being put on waivers and clearing them would help motivate Petr Mrazek. Seems that there’s a chance it did. Mrazek stopped all but two of 22 shots in last night’s 3-2 win over the Devils.

New Jersey got two goals during a push during the second period; but, otherwise, he shut down the opponents effectively all night. As Mrazek noted after the game, “That’s how hockey is. Things turn around quick.”
That begs the question of if they’ll turn again just as quickly again. Will coach Keefe start Mrazek against the game on Saturday with the Montreal Canadiens? If so, which Mrazek shows up?

Petr Mrazek Maple Leafs

All Maple Leafs’ fans know that Mrazek had been the victim of four poorly played games. How ugly did it get? He allowed 17 total goals in those games. However, he made up for that last night when he only gave up two.

Mrazek needed a good game, and he got it. As Keefe noted about the Czech goalie, “It’s a bit of a shock to an established player that goes on waivers, and then when you clear it should be even more of a shock that you haven’t been nearly good enough.”

Keefe then took an opportunity to challenge Mrazek by announcing that “It’s an opportunity for him to really get to work now, it is real and we need him to be better.”

Given Mrazek’s recent play, what team would want him (and his $11.4 million contract) when he has a .884 save percentage in 17 contests? He found out – none! As Keefe noted, has to be a wake-up call.

Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs Can Win With Their Special Teams

It just wouldn’t be right not to talk about the Maple Leafs’ improved special teams play this season. The team came into last night’s game with the NHL’s top-ranked power play and the fifth-ranked penalty kill. Surprisingly, during the game, the Maple Leafs had no success on the power play, but plenty of success a man down.

Both Ilya Mikheyev and his penalty-kill and third-line partner Pierre Engvall scored goals on the penalty kill. That was the difference in the game. In two sentences, Engvall shared the team’s short-handed strategy when he noted, “We do a pretty good job closing it up for the other team. Good structure there, and then we use the speed to create chances.“

Ilya Mikheyev is a great penalty killer.

The key to that is the speed of last night’s goal scorers. Both are fast and skilled and have come into their own this season.

After the game, when coach Keefe was asked about the penalty kill’s success, he added to Engvall’s thoughts when he said, “Speed, tenacity. We’re applying pressure, we’re putting people in bad spots, and our guys anticipate very well.”

Keefe then added, “Then it’s the instincts of the players.”

Related: Maple Leafs Rasmus Sandin Put on LTIR: Nuts, He’ll Be Missed 

The post Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs 3-2 Win Over the Devils appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.

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