Jake Muzzin reads the room, helps Maple Leafs secure needed victory

We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.

With none other than Justin Bieber there to celebrate (quite dramatically, no less), the Toronto Maple Leafs eventually solved the San Jose Sharks on Friday at Scotiabank Arena, scoring four times in the final 20 minutes and 1.9 seconds to come away with an all-important win in a game they mostly spent trailing.

Experiencing how a veteran team can frustrate even when fatigued from the night before, the Maple Leafs have a chance in front of them to apply some potential learnings tomorrow night, as they travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens on yet another back-to-back.

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Until then, two points:

First Point: The intelligent choice

Jake Muzzin's value to the Maple Leafs is becoming increasingly obvious. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jake Muzzin's value to the Maple Leafs is becoming increasingly obvious. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jake Muzzin read the room.

Perhaps he didn’t feel the tension building toward a mild fan protest in the arena as the seconds wound down in the middle frame, but he knew exactly how much time was left on the clock. Understanding there couldn’t be consequence for storming the front of the net, he arrived in time to “hit” home a centering feed from Jason Spezza that re-routed into his direction after a touch from an opponent’s stick as well as the base of the net.

“I figured why not?” Muzzin said in the locker room post-game.

Equalizing with less than two seconds left on the clock not only rescued the mood in Scotiabank Arena, but set the Maple Leafs up for success in the third.

Toronto was still made to earn it, toiling away past the six-minute mark in the third period until Morgan Rielly finished off a clever transition feed from William Nylander. In the end, Ilya Mikheyev and Auston Matthews also counted, making for a scoreline that better reflected the happenings on the ice.

In part deflecting attention from his contributions, I am sure, Muzzin said the team would have still felt strongly about its effort and the prospects of returning to the win column had he not changed the dynamic of the game with his heads-up decision late in the second.

“I think we were fine either way,” he said.

You do wonder, though, how the Leafs would have fared had Muzzin not have literally stepped up in that moment.

Second Point: The dumb choice

This is what we don’t like to see.

At about the same time Muzzin was changing the complexion of the game, Matthews, who has one documented concussion on his track record already, was in a dark room being forced to demonstrate that he still had his wits about him.

This ugly and unnecessary high hit from Sharks defenceman Brenden Dillon forced a spotter over to tap Matthews on the shoulder in the second period.

Fortunately, Matthews received a passing grade and returned for the third, eventually offering a glimpse of the sort of hands Patrick Marleau’s boys had to deal with in the mini-stick arena in the basement over the previous two seasons.

Nasty.

Looking fully capable on the ice, Matthews was unfazed off of it.

"I felt like it was a hit to the head. I saw the replay, kind of looked that way but it's a fast game,” Matthews said. “The (referees) are trying to make the best judgement, but I know what I felt. It's all good.

“We picked up two points, that's all that matters."

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