Leafs win; Liljegren scores

Are we witnessing the rise of Timothy Liljegren?

The Toronto Maple Leafs defencemen scored the equaliser in last night’s game against the New York Rangers.

It’s an achievement which means little for most but a lot for the Swede and his future in the team.

Critics had previously considered his capabilities to be lacking when compared to his team-mate Rasmus Sandin.

They argued that he had some leeway on the basis he was a first-round pick but also that he was included in the team to do the job of defence and that was it.

Last night’s performance raises some questions about whether he is realising his potential this season, but more on that later. 

How did it go down?

The Leafs would go on to square their game series this season with the Rangers last night, with a spectacular finish.

Sheldon O’Keefe was clearly encouraging a crazy level of shot volume to harass the Rangers’ goalie and Rangers had to respond by digging in.

Pontus Holmburg would deliver the first goal two minutes into the evening, with a charge down the centre towards the Rangers’ goal.

Samsonov would collect the puck from behind the goal and pass it down to Kerfoot who was starting get crowded in Rangers forwards. He managed to pass down the flank to Anderson, who could see Holmberg making the run.

The puck crossed the open ice and on to Holmberg’s stick. He made the run beating defenceman after defenceman until he blasted it past Shesterkin.

November 6, 2021, Calgary, AB, CANADA: New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin reacts to letting in the fourth Calgary Flames goal during third period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Credit Image: © Jeff Mcintosh/The Canadian Press via ZUMA Press)

Rangers dig in

After the shock of conceding so soon, the Rangers would switch on and bulk up their defence to prevent any further key chain passes that would allow Leafs extend the lead.

When the Second Period got going, the Rangers Forward Filip Chytil, would seek to put the Rangers ahead and seal the win for them in the middle of the game.

The equaliser would come directly off of Rangers winning the Face-off. The Czech would take the swing from the face-off spot, beating all of the Leaf sticks and Samsonov’s pads to make it 1 – 1.

The goal-scoring Czech would deliver his 15th in the 6th minute.

Rangers would put pressure on the Leafs defence. Kakko would chip the puck from right to left and into Lafreniere’s waiting stick.

The Canadian forward would deliver the shot back to Kakko who raced towards the Leafs’ goal. Waiting just by the left and in the dangerzone was Chytil.

Kakko passed the puck and the Czech sunk it past Samsonov to make it 2 – 1.

Liljegren’s launch

It wasn’t a clean goal but it was enough to make sure the Leafs squared the game. Liljegren skated around the O-zone and putting himself in the slot to collect a possible rebound from William Nylander’s shot.

Fortunately for Liljegren, Nylander’s shot would not find the net. Instead, his quick reaction was to bludgeon the rebound home.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitch Marner (16) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Jan.31, 2018. The Leafs have activated Marner from injured reserve ahead of their game tonight against visiting Colorado. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Later he would admit that such a move was something too daring for a younger Liljegren.

‘“Felt good … I think I feel a little more comfortable going down (to the opponent’s net) and stuff like that now. Especially that time. We’re down one goal and need a goal, so try to get some more offence.’ 

It was a quick redemption given he’d started the Third Period with a two-minute penalty for delaying play.

Marner’s magic

It went right to the wire for the Leafs. Marner came out as saviour, managing to seal the victory with just 19 seconds left to spare.

Keefe would keep Liljegren on for the Overtime 3 – 3 game, assisting Marner’s photo finish.

Some excellent slithering play between Liljegren and Marner would help the forward swoop in past the Rangers and slot the puck in the bottom right, to the sounds of rapturous applause from the home crowd.

Shape of things to come?

Liljegren has spent the past seven seasons with call ups and call downs between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Maple Leafs.

He’s managed 61 appearances at the most with the Leafs last season, scoring 5 goals. This season has seen him appear 38 times and score 4 times, much sooner than previous.

Add into that, the confidence that’s building in him from O’Keefe, as a result of the Rangers game, will we see him rise?

Where next?

The Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Ottawa Senators on Friday night for the third time this season. They already have two victories against the Sens so far and could be on course for a Third.

New York Rangers will face the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night for the third time also this season. Both teams have a game each going into their third.

Posted on: 26 Jan 2023