Updated: Jan 10, 2019
Is it too early to give our Norris picks for this year?
The Toronto Maple Leafs, led by NHL point leader Morgan Rielly, were exceptional on the offensive side of the ice yet again as they flew away with a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Things didn't get off to a great start though, as 7:18 into the game, defenceman Nick Jensen scored his first goal of the year on an ugly three on one, following a Martin Marincin pinch, and a lack of coverage from the forward group. This marks the fourth time in five games that the Maple Leafs have given up the opening goal of the game. It's tough to try and say that this will hurt them down the stretch, given that their offence is so deadly, but you hope that they get that sorted out quickly.
Things got interesting shortly after when Detroit's Danny DeKeyser got tangled up along the boards with Toronto's Josh Leivo. The two went back and forth before they decided to drop the gloves (a first this year for Toronto.) It was a rather slow tilt, but Leivo did manage to land a huge right before they went down.
The fight may have sparked the Leafs, as they tied it up late in the period when Bobby Orrgan Rielly scored on a beautiful one-timer from the point. The goal gave Rielly 11 points on the season through five games, tying a record set by Bruins great Bobby Orr for the most points through five games by a defenceman in the modern era.
The Leafs then grabbed the lead early in the second with a perfect passing play to Mitch Marner set up by John Tavares. It was Tavares' first assist of the night and first as a Maple Leaf.
Auston Matthews continued his incredibly hot start with a powerplay goal to make it 3-1 midway through the second. Morgan Rielly recorded an assist on that play, giving him sole possession of the previously mentioned record.
The score remained 3-1 until the third when Nick Jensen was left alone to grab a rebound, and then grab his own rebound after that, netting his second goal of the game. The play was an ugly one for the Leafs, but one in which it's tough to blame one specific player. Everyone seemed to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time, giving Jensen a clear path to pick away at Frederik Andersen.
The lead was extended back to two shortly after when Auston Matthews scored another powerplay goal on a gorgeous through the legs feed from John Tavares. The goal was Matthews' league leading ninth goal in just his fifth game of the season.
Detroit was able to notch one more, before Ron Hainsey scored one of the luckiest goals you will ever see on the empty net to make it a 5-3 final.
Last Minute of Play
Frederik Andersen looked a lot closer to midseason form on Thursday. The Danish netminder only stopped 26 shots, but was hung out to dry on two of the three goals that he allowed. He also made a spectacular save on Andreas Athanasiou that left the Detroit commentators in awe.
If you had any doubt about John Tavares' passing ability before today, he stomped on it like a bug. The centerman had four assists including two spectacular feeds on the first and fourth goals.
Josh Leivo, in my opinion, has played himself into the fourth line winger role if, and when, William Nylander returns. Leivo has shown a grittier side of himself this year, battling harder along the boards, and getting into fights. He is a better option for the role than Tyler Ennis, Andreas Johnsson, or Frederik Gauthier.
Morgan Rielly for way too early Norris? The 24 year old defenceman had two more points tonight, bringing his league leading point total to 12.
Am I the only one who laughs the entire minute or less that the Leafs first powerplay unit is on the ice? The powerplay went two for five tonight, DROPPING their powerplay percentage to 47.3 percent.... Absolutely comical.
The Leafs take on the defending champion Washington Capitals on Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday night.