The Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes may have breathed a sigh of relief when Auston Matthews’ suspension was announced. The Toronto Maple Leafs superstar was suspended for two games for a cross check in the game against the Buffalo Sabers. But anyone who believed that the failure of the NHL’s top scorer (45 goals) would severely weaken Toronto was taught a lesson. With their squad depth, the Canadians compensated for the suspension of the top striker. After the outstanding 4:0 against the Stars on Tuesday, a 3:2 against the Hurricanes followed on Thursday.
Rasmus Sandin, John Tavares, Ondrej Kase and Ilya Mikheyev all scored in the win against the Texans. In the win against Carolina it was Mikheyev, Kase and Mitchell Marner. In other words, the burden was spread over several shoulders, so that Matthews’ failure was less important. “It’s as I predicted. Everyone on the team knows we have a bigger role to play in something like this,” Marner said of Matthews’ absence.
While the Maple Leafs were clearly the better team against the Stars, they had much bigger problems with the Hurricanes, as expected. With 36 shots on goal, the Metropolitan Division leaders even recorded significantly more shots than Toronto, who had just 21 shots on goal. The fact that the Maple Leafs still won is due to the high effectiveness and a strong goalie. Rookie Erik Kallgren was only in his third NHL game and second game as a starter, driving the Hurricanes to despair with 34 saves.
“It was one of the most eventful weeks of my life, there was really a lot going on,” said the 25-year-old overjoyed. He’s actually part of the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, but was promoted to the Maple Leafs in March and has been a solid backing ever since. Against Dallas, the young Swede was a starter between the posts for the first time and started straight away with a shutout. His performance against Carolina deserves a similar rating. If you add up both games, Kallgren remained without a goal for a total of 104:09 minutes. This is his rookie’s longest streak without a goal since January/February 2011. Back then, James Reimer even went 110:47 minutes without conceding a goal. “It’s surreal but I’m just trying to enjoy it,” said the Maple Leafs goalkeeper.
Kase praises the goalkeeper’s performance. “I know Kallgren had a shutout in the last game. But I think he was incredibly strong in today’s game. This game was even more difficult for him.”