The Nashville Predators were looked to be a top team coming into this season. They acquired one of the best defencemen in the game, PK Subban, and making their D younger, faster, and more dynamic, his offensive abilities were supposed to make Nashville a hard team to play in the tight Central Division.
However, they didn’t start things off as a top team. Coming into this game they had a 6-5-3 record and have only been average.
The Toronto Maple Leafs came in tonight with a 6-6-3 record. Almost identical to the Predators, however in the case of Toronto, it’s a positive, it’s meeting expectations.
So what happens when a team facing the pressure to win faces off against a team that’s just happy to be here?
Spoiler: The happy kids beat the stressed out kids.
The Leafs kicked off the game with a goal from Mitch Marner, shot from the boards far to the right of the goal, but it made it past Mazanec on the far left side, invisible as it traveled.
It was a great play between the forwards. Bozak would win the draw and send it back to James van Riemsdyk, who would send it down the boards to Marner, and JVR and Mitch switch places, Marner comes up the boards and rifles it at the net, scoring high glove side. I guess the books out on Mazanec.
Later in the first period Bozak and JVR come into the Predators end fast after Marner passes the puck up to Bozak from the defensive end. Bozak passes it to JVR who comes from the boards to the opposite end of the faceoff circle, shoots, and then catches his own rebound off the pads to net his fifth goal of the year.
On Nashvilles first goal of the game, Johansen takes a pass at the blueline from James Neal who heads to the corner of the neat with both Marincin and Hunwick hanging off him. When Johansen passes the puck across the crease from the boards, the TWO defenders on Neal are somehow powerless to stop him from scoring. No one was watching the pass on this play, they were both too focused on Neal, and Komarov was left alone, the only one trying to defend against the guy with the puck.
Maple Leafs goal number three comes from Jams van Riemsdyk again, with the pass coming from Bozak. Bozak rides the boards down to the goal line in the Preds end, and JVR is one step too fast for Craig Smith to keep up with, heads right for the net to easily smack in Bozak’s pass.
Predators goal number two comes near the end of the second period, as play is going on in the Predators end, Victor Arvidsson sneaks past Jake Gardiner and gets to the Leafs blueline where a clearing opportunity from Colin Wilson meets his stick and Arvidsson cleanly beats Andersen on the breakaway.
Leafs goal number four comes from a Leo Komarov deflection of a Martin Marincin shot. It all starets with Matt Hunwick keeping the puck in the Preds end, shooting it behind the net where Leo Komarov and Connor Brown tangle with the Preds D, Brown send it up to Marincin at the blueline who takes the shot with plenty of traffic in front of the net. Leo peeks around the players and gets his stick in just the right place to redirect the puck into the back of the net.
Leafs goal number five caps off JVR’s second career hat trick. A simple backhand off the faceoff makes is past Mazanec, and the hats start flying.
James van Riemsdyk caps off the hat trick, Leafs up 5-2 pic.twitter.com/ReHtKFLawh— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) November 16, 2016
The SIXTH(!) goal of the game for the good guys comes from William Nylander, who fights his way with the puck out from behind the Predators net, turns around at the faceoff dot and whips it past the tender and into the net.
Behind the puck:
The Maple Leafs forwards played an excellent game tonight, always fighting for control, and often winning those battles. Frederik Andersen made lots of big saves, and played very well in this game as well, making # saves. A few key saves led to Maple Leafs goals, particularly goal #2, where the play started off a rebound. He’s adapting to the new style being played in front of and being asked of him, and I’m sure that pre-season injury is going away now as well. Hopefully a corner has been turned for Freddie.
The biggest hole in the Leafs was once again the defence. Up above on James Neal’s goal we read that both defencemen were paying no mind to the potential pass coming across the crease, and allowed Neal to take advantage.
No ones perfect on this team, however if there’s a thought of playoffs this or next year, the defence needs to be seriously addressed and overhauled.
A tricky play in the second where Polak maybe probably should have been called for boarding, but if the refs missed/didn’t call it, well, that’s on them.
The Matthews/Hyman/Nylander line struggled a little. Hyman left alone when he has a shooting chance, Nylander suffering from, as Arvind put it, ‘Phaneuf-itis’, missing the net with many shots, Matthews still paying back the hockey gods for the four goal debut game.
The biggest highlight of a non-goal variety, was the play of the fourth line. While not a huge part of the game time wise, the trio of Martin, Smith, and Soshnikov took their time with their Predators cohorts and essentially dominated them.
This was a really fun game to watch, lapses on players part aside, it’s always great to watch a Leafs victory, with some beautiful goals to see, and plenty being scored. I want to be at a game where they score six. That crowd sounded fantastic, and seemed to be enjoying the game. Hopefully this season is a reminder to the many, many, many, people on the ACC crowds case, that the crowd can be a great one. The team on the ice needs to be good as well though.
The next Maple Leafs game is Thursday night, home to the 8-7-1 Florida Panthers, fresh off beating the Canadiens in overtime tonight.
Thanks for reading, and for those of you keeping score at home, uh..oh, no one so far is doing that recap. It won’t be me, I’ll be at the IceDogs game checking out some 2017 draft options. I’m sure someone good will do it.
Until next time Leafs fans, keep fit, and have fun.