Mike Babcock took a blender to the line up, and when you do that you can get two things. You can get a delicious milkshake that brings all the goals to your yard, or you can get a mess all over the kitchen because you forgot to put the lid on.
Tonight was the former, as the Maple Leafs defeated the Anaheim Ducks, but not as soundly as they should have. Ducks goalie John Gibson stood tall in the crease, but didn’t defend the net as well as the returning Frederik Andersen, who played his first game in the Honda Centre since leaving Anaheim in a trade in the chaotic summer of 2016.
With the victory for the Maple Leafs, the three game losing streak has ended and Ron Hainsey continues to add to the score sheet, posting his ninth assist of the season. This game was on later and airing opposite game seven of the World Series, on an oddball cable channel, which protected a few Leafs fans from seeing the top line of Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, William Nylander perform perhaps worse than the fourth line of Tyler Bozak, Matt Martin, and Mitchell Marner. Not that they were awful, but they were not the dominating top line that we are used to.
That could have been due to the fact that they were probably the only line that regularly played against NHLers, with the Ducks nursing many injuries to big name players such as Cam Fowler, Ryan Kesler, and Ryan Getzlaf.
Let’s take a look at the goals first before I ramble on any more.
The first goal of the game came from Connor Brown, as he redirected a pass from James van Riemsdyk, who took advantage of a turnover by the Ducks. Ron Hainsey was also given an assist on the play.
The Ducks would tie things up when Ondrej Kase would take a shot at the net, and the puck deflects off Andreas Borgman’s leg and past Freddie Andersen.
No scoring in the second period, but in the third Patrick Marleau would net the 100th game winning goal of his career, as he spins around in front of Jaycob Megna to backhand in a rebound past Gibson.
Finally, Leo Komarov would seal the victory with an empty net goal as John Gibson valiantly tried to save the net as he rushed back from the bench.
The goals were great, and the Leafs were pretty good too. Looking at the shot charts, it was all on John Gibson to keep the Ducks in this game.
At even strength the Maple Leafs were much more focused on shooting from in front of the net, and kept the Ducks away from Andersen, which worked except that one time the shot deflected off of Borgman. Even the Ducks only goal came off a shot from the boards that wasn’t headed to the net at all.
That’s not to say the Ducks were kept away, the Maple Leafs penalty kill needs to work on keeping the net clear more, when we load up the shot attempts for all scenarios we see a bigger jump in Ducks in front of the net.
Most of the Ducks quality attempts in this game came when special teams were involved, that area in front of the net gets awfully darker here, the Leafs need to smarten up that Penalty Kill, get it up into the top of the league.
So who were the top players for the Maple Leafs tonight? Well, in my opinion, and it’s my recap so that’s what matters here, but feel free to disagree in the comments, that’s why they’re there, Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev were the Leafs best defense pair tonight and the tops of the forwards for me was James van Riemsdyk. He didn’t get as many points as Ron Hainsey did, he had two, but he gave Connor Brown the opportunity by taking advantage of a bad turnover by the Ducks, rushing in with the puck and making the pass right to Brown’s tape so he can turn it into the game opening goal.
So what about that bit I said about Hyman, Matthews, and Nylander?
Well, you can’t deny Matthews talent, whenever he has the puck you know it’s somehting worth watching, but the quality of the players they were up against most of the net kept them from doing anything spectacular, as well as they weren’t on top of their defensive game at all tonight. Their play at the point was sloppy, they were giving away pucks like it was still Halloween and the Ducks were trick or treaters. As Arvind pointed out, Matthews was +9/-16 in CF/CA and Nylander 10/14. Not sure I remember the last time he was < 50.
It was one of those nights, and hopefully they can turn things around before puck drop tomorrow.
Tonight’s game was almost the opposite of the Sharks game, thankfully we got two point son this road trip.
Tomorrow night the Leafs are playing the Los Angeles Kings. We’ll see Kasperi Kapanen and Roman Polak replace two players in the line up and Curtis McElhinney will be the starting goalie. Stay up at your own risk.