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Five Takeaways: Leafs at Red Wings - 1/25/2017

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Polak scores in 600th game

TOR@DET: Polak nets pinpoint blast in 600th NHL game

Roman Polak unloads a slapper that goes through traffic and beats Petr Mrazek, extending the Maple Leafs' lead to 2-0 in his 600th NHL game

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Matthews goes to backhand to give Leafs sole goal of the first frame. In nine of his first 45 career NHL regular-season games, centre Auston Matthews has scored first to give the Leafs the first lead of the night - and he made it an even 10 Wednesday when he went to his backhand in front of the Red Wings' net and beat goalie Petr Mrazek at the 5:30 mark of the opening period at Joe Louis Arena.

The goal was Matthews' 23rd of the year - best among Toronto scorers - and his 39th point, moving him into a tie with winger Mitch Marner for the Leafs' lead in point-producers. Matthews has a knack for hovering around the net and taking advantage of loose pucks, and the 19-year-old rookie's ability to finish makes him one of the most dangerous competitors on the Buds' team - or for that matter, any NHL team.

Playing in milestone game, Polak scores in second period to extend Toronto's lead. Veteran blueliner Roman Polak is currently in his second tour of duty with the Buds, and the 30-year-old's appearance in Wednesday's contest marked his 600th career NHL regular-season game. That's achievement enough for most NHLers, but Polak added his third goal of the season at 15:35 of the second period on a booming slap shot from the point to make the evening particularly special.

Polak's had 21 regular-season goals in 599 career games entering the tilt against Detroit, and he's now two goals shy of equalling his career high for a single season - a high he set with the Leafs in the 2014-15 campaign.

Andersen continues strong play, keeps shutout streak intact for two full games. Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen stopped all 26 shots he faced against Calgary in the Leafs' 4-0 win Monday, and he was equally sharp against Detroit, turning aside all 14 Wings shots through the first 40 minutes of play, and another eight in the third to register his 21st win of the year and his second consecutive shutout - a feat no Buds goalie has matched since Ben Scrivens blanked Ottawa and Florida in February of 2013.

Andersen likely won't play when the Leafs travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers Thursday night, but the 26-year-old heads into the NHL all-star break poised and in possession of the full trust of his teammates. And as a bonus, he recorded his first assist as a Leaf on winger Nikita Soshnikov's goal (his second of the season) at 8:13 of the third that made it 4-0 for the visitors.

Marincin making a difference as he re-acclimates into lineup after injury. Blueliner Martin Marincin logged 20:30 of ice time Wednesday - second only to D-man Nikita Zaitsev (22:42) in his third game back in the lineup after missing 17 games with a lower body injury. And the 24-year-old put up an assist (on winger James van Riemsdyk's 17th goal of the year at 4:19 of the third) for the second straight game.

Marincin is never going to lead the Leafs in point production, of course, but his long wingspan and positional game can make a positive impact on the defensive end. And his assist against the Wings was his sixth of the season and seventh point of the year, equalling a career-best in both those categories that he set in 65 games with Toronto last season. It's taken him only 19 games to get there this year, a stat that suggests he, like his teammates, has better days ahead.    

Leafs playing like road warriors with one game to go before all-star break. The win over the Wings gave the Leafs their fourth consecutive road victory, and at least one point in 11 straight road games (9-0-2), setting a new franchise record. Part of that stretch of solid performances comes from their continued dominance on the penalty kill - Toronto killed off both of Detroit's man advantages, and have allowed just seven power play goals on the road all season, putting them in the top spot in the league in that regard - and part of it is due to them minimizing mistakes as a collective unit.

The Leafs will square off Thursday against a Flyers squad that is one of the NHL's better home teams (14-7-3) this season, but after a tough start to the year on the road, Toronto is now 11-6-6 away from Air Canada Centre and likely will present a major challenge to their next opponent as both teams battle to secure a playoff berth.

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