Is William Nylander finally in a comfort zone? If Saturday’s game against the Bruins is any indication, the answer may be yes.
Nylander was moved to a line with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov to start the game, and while the fortunes of the team can’t be placed solely on the trio, the grouping proved to be ineffective. Toronto was badly outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, outshot by a margin of 11-2.
Coach Mike Babcock placed Nylander back with his customary linemates Auston Matthews and Zack Hyman, and the line (re-)shuffle proved to be a spark. The Leafs found their legs and skated to a 4-1 win, improving their road record to 3-6-5.
On the first goal, Matthews took a pass from Nylander charging down the right wing, and fired a shot past Tuukka Rask for his 12th marker of the season – his 10th goal away from Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs went up 2-0 when Zack Hyman deflected a point shot from Matt Hunwick, later in the second period. Boston got on the board when Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen misplayed the puck behind the goal, resulting to a wraparound marker from super-pest Brad Marchand.
In the third period, Toronto restored their two-goal lead on the power play. Tyler Bozak fed a nifty backhand pass to James van Riemsdyk, who buried the puck home, tying Matthews for the team lead with a dozen goals on the season.
Connor Brown rounded out the scoring into an empty net.
Babcock called Nylander’s performance ‘huge’ when addressing reporters at the end of the game.
“We wanted to put Brown with Kadri but I thought [Nylander] was skating right from the get-go,” Babcock said. “His buddy is (David) Pastrnak over there who’s obviously playing real well. It’s always nice to play well against your buddy and he stepped up tonight and was important for us.”
Hunwick finished the game with a pair of assists.
The Leafs lost the services of defenceman Martin Marincin after he was checked into the boards in the first period by David Krejci.