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Leafs 1 - Habs 2: 12th time is not the charm

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NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Another Saturday night, another Leafs - Habs tilt in Montreal. The last time these two teams played, William Nylander starred, but Carey Price stole the show and won it for the Canadiens. Lets hope for a different result this time.

First Period
  • [20:00] So the pregame lines have Nylander and Brown switched. So Nylander will be on Kadri’s wing, and Brown will be on Matthews’. Earlier in the day, Babcock had some comments about how he prefers that look in road games for balance reasons, so he doesn’t have to juggle matchups. Seems pretty clear to me that this is code for “Nylander is awful on D, and I don’t trust him to not get exploited on the road”. Interestingly, the Leafs worst defensive line (JVR - Bozak - Marner) remains untouched, though with the way they’re scoring, it’d be hard for him to justify.

In general, Babcock has made some comments about Nylander’s competitiveness and attitude that are not concerning, but are worth noting. It seems obvious the coach feels the talented Swede has more to offer. Especially with how he pointedly praises the work ethic of less gifted players like Zach Hyman and Connor Brown. Will be an interesting subplot to the Leafs season as it plays out. In the eyes of some, the bloom has come off Nylander to an extent. Once the crown jewel of their organization, he’s been shunted to the side by the drafting of Matthews, and the charisma and explosiveness of Mitch Marner. So we’ll see how he reacts to not being the coach’s (or front office’s) favourite talented rookie.

  • [20:00] Also, the Leafs have lost 11 straight games to the Habs. That is depressing. Come on, fellas.
  • [20:00] So WWE star Chris Jericho does the intro for HNIC. It’s sort of weird, and a very ham-fisted ad for Survivor Series, a WWE event that you can get on the WWE Network for only $11.99 per month! What a deal!

(cashes check)

  • [20:00] Anyways, where were we? Ron MacLean does his usual intro, references a poem I’ve never heard of (probably), and we learn that the Habs will have Alexander Radulov back from illness. Kind of sucks for the Leafs, because he’s a beast.
  • [20:00] Goddammit, Tim Peel is reffing.
  • [19:50] As usual, Kadri’s line opens up. Backed up by Connor Carrick and Jake Gardiner to start.
  • [18:53] Morgan Rielly gets a clean shot away from the point after good board work by Nikita Zaitsev and James van Riemsdyk. Price makes it look trivial.
  • [18:00] Hunwick and Polak remain a pairing. Only God (Babcock) knows why.
  • [17:34] I’ve been critical of the 4th line of the Leafs, particularly the usage of Ben Smith over Peter Holland (which I stand by). But that line has been good for the last few games.
  • [16:43] Jeff Petry sneaks in through the back door and takes nice feed from Andrew Shaw. Andersen saves.
  • [15:55] Looks like Therrien is matching the Weber - Emelin pairing against Bozak’s line.
  • [15:23] Good pace to the game so far, though the Habs have probably gotten the better of it so far.
  • [14:04] Soshnikov is a man possessed when forechecking. He forces a couple turnovers in the offensive zone, but nothing comes of it.
  • [13:15] Kadri bumps into Price on a rush and gets penalized for it. Canadiens to the PK.
  • [13:15] Spoiler alert: They’ll be looking for Weber’s one-timer.
  • [12:03] Weber does get his one-timer off, but his stick shatters and it’s a non-threat.
  • [11:00] The Leafs kill the penalty without any further incident.
  • [10:36] The Habs are throwing everything at the net, from every angle. No shot is a bad shot, I guess, but they might be better served to not shoot from the positions they are.
  • [9:51] More great pressure by the Bozak line, but as the play goes the other way, Chris Terry gets a partial break, on which Gardiner is penalized for hooking. Habs back to the PP.
  • [9:25] Shorthanded, Hyman is able to skate with the puck a couple times and get some shots away. Nothing dangerous (because it’s Hyman), but it very effectively kills time.
  • [8:30] The Habs have got nothing set up on this PP. The Leafs are cutting them off at the blue line masterfully.
  • [7:20] Pretty sure the Leafs had more shot attempts than the Habs on that PK.
  • [6:44] After the PK, the Leafs end up with Kadri - Matthews - Nylander for a minute or so, and they get some extended pressure. No great chances though.
  • [5:47] The Habs aren’t generating great chances, but they are generating chances. Which is more than the Leafs can say currently.
  • [4:15] Habs score, and it’s deserved. Weber bombs a shot from the point, and it’s poked in by Paul Byron for a 1-0 lead. Zaitsev was a little out of position, as he chased the play into the corner.
  • [3:45] Soshnikov draws a penalty almost immediately after (kind of a soft call, in my opinion) and the Leafs get a chance. We’ll see what they can do with it.
  • [2:36] The Leafs get some good attempts with the Bozak unit on the ice, but nothing beats Price. The second unit was garbage though.
  • [0:56] Honestly, the Leafs have not played well. They deserve to be losing. Disappointing, consider that the Habs played yesterday.
  • [0:00] First period ends with the Leafs down 1-0, and deservedly so. Bad performance thus far. Habs lead the goals, shots, and Corsi count.
Second Period
  • [20:00] Lets hope the Leafs can actually generate some offense this period. Price is such a daunting figure though.
  • [19:33] Andersen makes an incredible save off a scrambled play and slap shot from Emelin. On the play, Bozak takes a penalty. The Leafs are playing with fire.
  • [19:28] They get burned immediately. The Leafs lose the draw, and a nice Habs passing play takes advantage of Andersen’s aggressiveness, and the Leafs are down 2-0. Galchenyuk is the scorer.
  • [19:22] I’ll call it now. This is game over.
  • [18:03] The Leafs can’t get out of their own zone. It’s not clear to me what the Habs are doing to make it so, but the Leafs are stuck in neutral.
  • [17:04] As good as Nylander was in the first Habs game, he’s been awful today. Kadri gets a nice shot away, but Price (as always) makes it look like child’s play.
  • [15:29] Yeah, the Leafs are generating nothing but perimeter shots to an unscreened Price. That’s not going to get them back into the game.
  • [13:24] Matt Martin draws a penalty, continuing a shockingly effective game for the fourth line. A goal here would be really, really, beneficial here.
  • [13:24] Also, Hunwick and Polak are currently sitting at 0% CF%. It’s impressive, in its own way.
  • [11:55] About halfway through the PP, the Leafs have gotten nothing going.
  • [11:13] The Leafs finally break through! And it’s William Nylander, who as mentioned, has been pretty invisible tonight. Komarov makes a nice cross-crease pass after baiting Price into a poke-check, and Nylander gets an easy finish. A lot of his goals are on the power play. Matthews gets a secondary assist, which is nice for him. 2-1 Montreal.
  • [10:55] So the Leafs have some hope now, but they still need to step it up at even strength. Being behind, the onus is on them to generate chances, which they haven’t done a great job of at even strength.
  • [10:29] Seriously, what happened to this fourth line. They look phenomenal. They’re not even being hard-matched against the Habs depth players. They just hemmed in the Galchenyuk line for a solid 30 seconds.
  • [10:08] The Leafs take another penalty! This time it’s Carrick for high sticking. It’s the correct call, but the Leafs are shooting themselves in the foot here. And while it’s only the middle of the second, a goal for Montreal would be a game breaker.
  • [8:51] The Leafs have largely neutralized the Habs power play by stymying their entries. But once they do get set up, they have all the control.
  • [6:55] Habs controlling the pace here a little bit after the power play.
  • [5:48] Marner’s audacity is impressive. He (rightfully) has the confidence to pull off anything his mind thinks up.
  • [3:54] Another great 4th line shift, and Price makes an excellent save on Ben Smith off a behind the net pass from Soshnikov. Later in the play, it looks like Emelin takes a deflected puck to the chin. Always super scary to see stuff like that, because it could so easily be worse. He remains on the bench and in the game.
  • [3:07] The Habs take a penalty (lots of them tonight, but in fairness, they’re all valid), and the Leafs have a chance to tie things up.
  • [2:50] The Leafs try the same play they scored on, but the Habs sniffed it out this time.
  • [1:05] Tame power play from the Leafs, who haven’t looked dangerous aside from the play that led to the Nylander goal.
  • [0:00] Period ends with the Leafs down 2-1. Two PP goals in the period, split among the teams. In general, the Leafs played better in the second, but they don’t look especially dangerous at even strength. Will be a tough comeback to make against the Habs.
Third Period
  • [19:36] Matthews shows some great puck protection, but nothing comes of it.
  • [18:01] Relatively quiet night for the Bozak line. Marner gets a tame shot away early in the period, but it doesn’t bother Price at all.
  • [16:55] For the first time all game, the Leafs fourth line is hemmed in, and Andersen has to make a nice save to keep it close.
  • [15:40] Bozak’s line starts to turn up the pressure, and you can feel the urgency from the Leafs here.
  • [13:55] The tempo of the game has more or less been set. The Leafs are going to throw everything to the net, the Habs are going to pack the slot to block everything, and hope to get something on the counter.
  • [13:29] This is probably Matthews’ quietest game offensively as well. Hasn’t generated the chances he normally does.
  • [12:48] The Leafs defencemen have been super aggressive in the offensive zone. That’s nice when it’s Rielly pinching. Less so when it’s Polak.
  • [11:40] Looks like Babcock has moved Nylander back to Matthews’ line for the third. Might just be a one-time thing though.
  • [10:22] The Leafs are taking a bunch of 1% shots and hoping they get a lucky bounce or a Price misplay. He’s not really being tested though.
  • [9:01] The announcers haven’t mentioned this that much, but the Habs played last night in Carolina. The Leafs SHOULD be carrying play against this team, and creating some good chances, but they just aren’t.
  • [8:02] Martin takes an absolutely idiotic penalty away from the puck, as he steamrolls Beaulieu. Just bone-headed. He and his line have had a good game, but that was insanely stupid in a one goal game.
  • [8:02] Stupid at any time, really. Very reckless play. Beaulieu could have been seriously hurt. If Martin gets suspended, Leafs fans couldn’t complain. Awful hit.
  • [7:16] The Leafs PK has been solid tonight, one lapse aside. But now the clock is a big issue.
  • [6:38] For the first time all game, the Habs are able to set up for the Weber bomb. Nothing comes of it.
  • [5:50] Marner with an audacious attempt to get through all five Canadiens. He gets 60% there, but can’t split the D after the blue line.
  • [4:05] The Leafs are really pressing now. Some energetic forechecking from Nylander and Matthews lead to some chances, but a timely hit by Weber and Price’s brilliance prevents the tying goal.
  • [3:50] On the play, Komarov draws a penalty on Charles Hudon. Leafs will go to the PP, and really, they should probably pull the goalie too.
  • [2:47] Of a failed shorthanded 2 on 1 from the Habs, Matthews gains the zone and fires a wrister from the slot, which Price contains.
  • [1:41] The Leafs gain an offensive zone draw and Andersen leaves the net.
  • [1:02] Toronto doesn’t get set up particularly well, and we’re down to a minute now.
  • [0:40] Montreal is packing the front of the net. Impossible to get a clean shot away.
  • [0:05] The Leafs with a lot of almosts, but nothing coming off for them.
  • [0:00] Game over. A late hit from Emelin on JVR on the final horn leads to a dogpile, but it won’t change the result. Another HNIC against the Habs, another hard fought 2-1 loss. I’d like to be more positive about this game, but at the end of the day, the Leafs were facing a tired team on the tail end of a back to back in two different cities. And really, it was a mostly even game, which isn’t good enough when the other team has Carey Price.

So it goes. Hopefully they’ll learn from it and move on, and one day, maybe we can beat the Habs. This is now 12 straight losses against them, which is equally funny and depressing.