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5 Thoughts on Stars-Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson wins the Robertson Bowl in overtime
The Toronto Maples Leafs beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, in a game you could have dubbed the “Robertson Bowl,” which lived up the billing as one of the Robertsons, Nick, was the star of the night.
On a programming note, these game observations pieces will be paid-subscriber only for about 24 hours. They will be unlocked for others tomorrow evening.
These are my thoughts.
1. Formally it was the second time Nick and Jason Robertson have played against each other in the NHL.
But the two brothers have shared the ice consistently in each of the past three summers, serving as workout partners at Ochard Lake St. Mary’s back in Michigan.
They’ve also competed head-to-head throughout life, they are two years apart, and Nick was often the aggressor as the little brother — I’ve been told stories by Hugh and Mercedes Robertson about how Nick would often be the one that caused a bloody nose for his older siblings.
It shows in how they play, Nick is more noticeable from shift-to-shift, he’s controlled chaos. Jason is more silent, it’s at his quietest moments that he flips the switch and reminds you that he scored 40 goals in the NHL last season.
And on Thursday, Nick was both more noticeable and outscored his older brother when he gave Toronto a 2-1 lead in the third period and later won it over in overtime, 3-2.
First the third period goal.
It was a nice finish, but the goal was created in this moment right here.
Robertson, No. 89 entering the faceoff circle, has spun off a hit from Jamie Benn, and is cutting to the net while Jani Hakanpaa goes to the corner to try and engage Michael Bunting, further opening Robertson’s path to the net.
Tyler Seguin, No. 91, is protecting against the point pass to Alex Kerfoot, No. 15, and ends up getting flat-footed as Robertson takes the freeway to the net.
In overtime, a slow-developing rush by Jamie Benn and Ryan Suter, was interrupted and turned the other way by a much younger trio of Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, and Robertson.
Matthews had options, Roope Hintz actually played it as well as he could have coming back defensively, and one of the beauties of 3-on-3 hockey is it leads to odd-man breaks like this.
2. Because no one truly knows what goalie interference is, the call on Seguin’s goal in the third period could have gone either way. Especially after the initial call was so adamantly waved off by the officials.
Eventually it was ruled that Mitch Marner interfered with his own goalie.
On initial viewing, I thought it was clearly a clean goal. Marner’s arm extension into Ilya Samsonov made it seem that way, but this overhead and this part of the play does give you a second to wonder which way it would go after a lengthy review.
It’s the type of play that should be a goal. Samsonov was able to play his position until his own teammate, and a bit of a sell job by the goalie, helped propel the puck into the Toronto net.
Good call by the Stars to challenge, and the Dallas Fightin’ Kelly Forbes struck again.
That’s bound to happen after losing to the Arizona Coyotes, and Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe only added gasoline to the fire with his comments.
And the Leafs top players were bullied by the Stars in regulation, even on a night where the shot count favored Toronto.
Matthews was a non-factor offensively until overtime, Marner’s biggest impact came on putting the puck into his own net, and the Maple Leafs media circus likely is only going to continue.
It certainly won’t help that Toronto went 1-for-7 (really 2-for-7 if you count Robertson’s goal since Mason Marchment hadn’t joined the play yet) and would have won this game in regulation if the top-paid big guns had put the puck in the net.
4. This section on Scott Wedgewood can be subdivided into two sections:
What I thought about the decision to start him before the game:
You could have started Jake Oettinger in this one, maybe the Stars should have, but I actually like the decision to start Wedgewood in Toronto. Wedgewood was always likely going to start two of the four games on the Dallas road trip, especially with a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday.
You could have had Wedgewood wait, and attempt to kick off rust with two games over three days, or you could have given him more of a “backup schedule” with two games over the course of five days.
With goalies, especially when it’s a pure starter/back-up like it is with Dallas, I think it’s ideal to find some routine and rhythm. This decision still allows Oettinger to carry a starter’s workload, while Wedgewood doesn’t go from a proverbial zero-to-60 to start his season.
What I thought about the decision to start him after the game:
Turns out the decision was a fine one. Wedgewood made 41 saves on 44 shots.
In the first period, Wedgewood wasn’t busy, but he was sharp when he needed to be, particularly making a stop on the rush after a missed tripping call on Miro Heiskanen led to a Maple Leafs’ chance.
The second period was dominated by Toronto, penalties helped that push, and Wedgewood was still solid. The only goal he allowed in the middle period, on the power play to Alexander Kerfoot, came on a rebound through traffic.
It’s also hard to find much blame for Wedgewood on Robertson’s goal in the third period or overtime.
5. Some other observations.
A game in Toronto, especially for a Western Conference team, comes with the age-old storyline about how many players are getting to play in front of their friends and family. And the Stars are no different, but you can read about the Toronto connections at a multitude of places.
Heiskanen may have lost the Lady Byng on Thursday night, picking up a pair of penalties, including a roughing minor in the second period. (I’m kidding, of course).
Denis Gurianov looked a bit sharper offensively in this game, but he’s still lacking the finish you’d like to see from the speedy forward in the Stars new offensive system.
Toronto called a timeout in overtime to get a couple key players a rest, that’s smart. More teams should do that.