I must admit, I did not think the Vegas Golden Knights were for real. Not when they started well, not when they stayed alive despite going four goalies into their system, not when they beat up on legitimately strong teams. I couldn’t get over the lack of name talent on the roster, which is largely stocked with pretty good, but not outstanding players.
Well, I’m an idiot. This team is legit, and in a weak Pacific, they can definitely make some noise in the playoffs. The Leafs will try to ruin their sterling home record today, and end 2017 with a victory as thrilling as the one that rang this year in.
[20:00] Malcolm Subban gets the start for Vegas. Freddie goes for the Leafs, as expected.
[19:39] Early chance by Zach Hyman in front of the net - he hits the post, and Matthews just barely misses on the rebound.
[17:46] The Knights get a 2-on-1 early, which Martin Marincin saves with his stick. Leafs catch a break early.
[17:36] Unfortunately, it’s short-lived. Gardiner is caught out of position (legitimately not even in the picture), and a no-look pass from Alex Tuch finds Pierre Edouard Bellemare alone. He tucks it by Andersen, and the Knights are up 1-0 early.
[15:44] Uhh, it’s gonna be one of those games. Another 2-on-1 for Vegas, and Wild Bill Karlsson pots his 18th (!!!) of the year. 2-0 Vegas.
[14:34] William Nylander draws a holding penalty on Brayden McNabb. Leafs maybe with a chance to get one back.
[13:50] I knew I shouldn’t have signed up to recap this game. On the PP, Vegas gets a partial break. Andersen keeps the game nominally alive.
[12:40] Nothing doing for the Leafs on the power play, but on the plus side, they haven’t gotten scored on in the last three minutes!
[11:10] Wild scramble in front of the Leafs net, and wouldn’t you know it, Roman Polak takes a penalty.
[10:53] Amazingly, Polak has been the better of his defense pair today - Borgman has looked horrific. Anyways, the Knights are on the PP now.
[10:03] In general, the Leafs D is not good right now.
[9:10] The Leafs manage to kill it off, and now they need to stop making horrific decisions at 5v5.
[6:36] Uhhh yeah, this is a loss. Erik Haula walks in off the rush and an innocuous looking shot finds its way past Andersen. 3-0 Vegas.
[6:30] Probably the first goal where you can reasonably blame Andersen.
[5:16] The Knights are just all over the Leafs right now. Creating chances for fun, and another penalty is taken by Toronto. This time it’s Marincin for holding.
[4:17] Andersen robs Marchessault on the power play, after a pass from behind the net.
[3:18] Leafs kill the penalty off.
[2:17] Marner sets up Bozak in the slot, but his shot was blocked. Yes, I just included it because it was the only chance of note the Leafs produced in a long time.
[1:48] The Bozak line has a strong offensive shift - they’ve been the Leafs best in the early going.
[0:00] So that period could have gone better.
[20:00] Okay guys, now this time, try not shitting yourselves!
[18:51] Good shift from Matthews’ line to start. No phenomenal chances, but at least it was in the right zone.
[18:27] Vegas takes a too many men penalty, and the Leafs might be able to crawl back into it now.
[16:56] Nylander sets up Leivo in the slot, but he misses the net. Maybe I’m being harsh criticizing him, but Leivo is ONLY on the power play because of his shot. He needs to hit the target there.
[15:58] Anyways, the Leafs fail to get much going on the power play. A couple decent chances, but not their best work.
[15:27] Marner (the best Leafs so far) finds Bozak who gets in on a partial breakaway. His chipped backhand is stopped, however.
[14:53] Leafs goal! Patrick Marleau gets the Leafs on the board. Connor Brown makes a great pass to an area beside the net, and Marleau pokes it home. 3-1 Knights.
[14:27] Marincin almost gives it right back with a horrific giveaway. Andersen stops the chance.
[12:57] Toronto’s fourth line and third pair gets hemmed in for a long time, but no lasting damage is done.
[11:34] 4-1 Knights. Marincin tries to to go D-to-D, but his pass hits the ref and stalls behind the net. A Knights player pounces on it and passes to a streaking William Karlsson, who gets his second of the game.
[11:11] Nate Schmidt takes a penalty - Leafs to the PP.
[8:57] Another ineffective power play. I consider catching up with the Leafs in the beer department, who have appeared to down a few before today’s game.
[5:12] Sorry for the infrequent updates, but honestly, it’s rinse and repeat.
[4:19] Shortly after a great chance by Connor Brown (and great save by Subban), Gardiner takes a holding penalty, impeding a streaking Knight. Vegas to the PP.
[2:24] Leafs kill off the power play, which is just about the only area of their game which has been decent tonight.
[0:47] Matthews scores! Maybe the Leafs have a prayer. Zach Hyman jumps on a loose puck in the offensive zone, passes to Matthews, who walks in and rips one past Subban. 4-2 now.
[0:20] On a fun note, Zach Hyman’s assist now means that he has as many points as any Habs player.
[0:00] Slightly better that period, at least in terms of the score, but still a long, long way to go.
[19:33] GOAL! Matthews again! And now it’s a one goal game. A Rielly shot leads to a rebound in front for a totally unmolested Matthews, who pokes it home. 4-3 Knights.
[19:33] All of a sudden, the Leafs are in it again. The Knights challenge for goalie interference, but it was clear that there was none.
[15:29] Leafs pressing now, but not able to generate any huge chances. Vegas seems content to counterpunch, for now.
[14:49] Off a faceoff, Bellemare finds himself all alone in front of the net. Somehow, Andersen saves it and keeps the game within reach.
[13:49] Dammit, Vegas might have sealed it. Shea Theodore goes end to end, passes it to William Karlsson, who centres to Jonathan Marchessault. 5-3 Knights.
[10:43] Andreas Borgman has had an absolute nightmare. Just awful on-puck decisions, losing battles, covering the wrong guys. On a terrible night for the Leafs D as a whole, he’s stood out in a bad way.
[7:21] To my eye, Rielly and Hainsey haven’t been as bad. But it’s been ugly for just about every one of the Leafs defensemen.
[4:24] This game has settled at this point. The Leafs look defeated.
[2:49] A strong shift from the Matthews line + Gardiner/Rielly adds some excitement, but no goals.
[2:20] Toronto pulls the goalie, and begins the most stagnant 6-on-5 I’ve ever seen.
[1:36] Karlsson gets the empty netter. To his credit, it’s among the prettier empty net goals I’ve seen, as he dives to poke it in. With it, he gets his hat-trick. Well deserved win for the Knights. 6-3 Vegas.
[0:00] That’s game.
- The Leafs deserved to lose, and Andersen bears little responsibility for it. Aside from Haula’s, I don’t think he could’ve done much about any of Vegas’ goals.
- The Matthews line started slow, but played much better as the game progressed.
- Marner was great, his linemates were invisible.
- I didn’t notice the Marleau line, except for their goal.
- The fourth line got murdered - somewhat expected against Vegas given their extreme depth.
- .... now the defencemen. Honestly, they were all garbage. Rielly and Hainsey less garbagey than the rest, but garbage nonetheless.
- Some blame must be placed on the forwards for this too. But so many of the issues were with what was (to my eye) defensive execution. Failure to win puck battles. Unforced errors in passes. Just sloppy shit.
- Anyways, Vegas is a good team, and the Leafs, all told, are still in a good position for the playoffs. They have a far more favourable schedule in 2018. Let’s hope they take advantage.
- Happy New Year to all. Have fun tonight, and stay safe!