With 2017 in the books, I thought it would be fun to look back at the top 5 Maple Leaf moments from the 2017 calendar year before moving onto the new year. This list includes on the ice and off the ice moments, starting with the Next Century Game this past December.
5. Winning the Next Century Game
100 years ago, on December 19th, the Toronto Arenas played the very first game in NHL history. The Arenas went on to lose that first game 10-9. To commemorate the inaugural game, the Maple Leafs hosted the Carolina Hurricanes on December 19th at 2pm. The same time and day the Arenas played their first game.
Leo Komarov got things started early for Toronto with a short-handed marker just 2:52 into the opening frame and Toronto never looked back. 8 different skaters scored a goal for Toronto, and the Maple Leafs hammered the Hurricanes 8-1 to start the next century of Maple Leafs hockey the best way possible.
James van Reimsdyk’s first period goal to make it 3-1 was the 20,000th in Leafs history, which was a nice cherry on top of the sweet, sweet victory.
4. Winning the Centennial Classic
January 1st 2017, BMO Field, more than 40,000 people and a great start to the NHL’s Centennial celebrations. The Maple Leafs took on the Detroit Red Wings at the Centennial Classic to start off the new year and after going into the third period, down by a goal, Toronto got 4 straight goals from 4 different players to take a 4-1 lead.
But Detroit mounted a comeback. Jonathan Ericsson got things started with a goal with just 6:46 remaining in the third. With less than 2 minutes to play in the game, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha each scored to tie the game and send it into overtime.
With all of Leafs nation worried Detroit would complete the comeback in the extra frame, Auston Matthews stepped up 3:40 into the extra frame to give Toronto the win and a very, very good start to 2017.
3. Kapanen Double OT Winner
In the first round of the 2017 playoffs, Toronto were major underdogs against the President Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals. After losing game one 3-2, Toronto knew they needed to win game 2 in Washington to avoid going home down by 2.
Enter Kasperi Kapanen.
Tied 3-3 in second OT, Toronto’s fourth line worked Washington down low. Matt Martin cycled it behind Washington’s net, Brian Boyle put a beautiful pass on Kapanens stick and the rookie didn’t miss as the Maple Leafs won game 2 4-3.
2. Matthews Wins the Calder
1966 was the last time a Toronto Maple Leaf won the Calder Trophy; until 2017. Auston Matthews took home the Calder for the first time since Brit Selby, thanks to his 40 goals, 69 points and 279 shots on goal; of which he lead every category for rookies.
Also, Mike Babcock’s reaction to Matthews winning the award was just as awesome as Matthews winning the award. He looked like a proud dad. Check it out below.
1. The Save of the Season
In game 81 of the 2016-2017 season, the Maple Leafs had a chance to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in 4 seasons and just the second time in 13. All they had to do? Win. It didn’t matter how, just as long as they got the two points. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the team coming to town looking to stop them.
Tied 1-1 with just under 18 minutes to play in the second, Penguins forward Tom Sestito went hard to the net to apply a screen on Leafs goalie Fredrick Andersen but clipped Andersen’s head and forced him from the game. Backup Curtis McElhinney played the remainder of the game, and gave us the #1 moment of the 2017 calendar year for the Maple Leafs.
After Kasperi Kapanen’s tying goal and Connor Brown’s go-ahead goal with 2:48 left in the 3rd period, Pittsburgh began a late push to tie it. With just 48 seconds left in the game, Phil Kessel sent a perfect pass to Sidney Crosby alone in front of the net but McElhinney shut Crosby down and helped send Toronto to their first playoff berth since 2013.
Jim Hughson, who was calling the game, called it the save of the season. I couldn’t agree more.
With 2017 in the books, and the top 5 moments tucked away for everyone to look back on, lets see what 2018 has in store.