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Devils 2 - Leafs 4 Recap: I, for one, welcome our new Swedish overlord

Nylander and Matthews dazzle again, as the Leafs inch closer to securing a postseason berth

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a big few days in Leafland. Led by the recent scoring surge of William Nylander, the suddenly-soaring Komarov/Kadri/Brown line, and the steady addition of Brian Boyle, the Leafs have put themselves in an excellent position to make the postseason. But as we know, that can come crashing down with a few poor performances. You still need to win the games. And tonight is no different, as the Leafs get to face a weak team with not much left to play for but spoiling. Lets get into it.

A couple lineup items to note: Eric Fehr is out, likely for the rest of the year. The #Freivo movement has succeeded, as the young winger draws in. Alexey Marchenko takes the suspended Roman Polak’s place.

First Period
  • [20:00] Alright, let’s go! Hopefully, this is more fun than a typical Devils game.
  • [20:00] They’re really pushing the ‘rookie record’ thing, huh.
  • [19:04] Good early shift from the Bozak group, who are able to exit their zone with ease and get a decent shot on net.
  • [18:33] I always find it hard to judge the ice from a TV screen, but it looks like it’s bouncing all over the place.
  • [17:01] Ooof, terrible start, and an awful goal for McElhinney to give up. John Moore streaks in on the right side. He throws it towards the net, and it ricochets awkwardly off McElhinney’s blocker and finds a hole to squeak through. Devils lead, 1-0.
  • [15:34] Josh Leivo draws an interference call, and the Leafs get a quick chance to tie it up.
  • [14:14] Don’t give that PP a chance! Josh Leivo is somehow keeping this streak going! Nylander finds Matthews on a cross-ice pass (after some nifty puck movement from Gardiner and Komarov), and Leivo tucks in the rebound from the Matthews shot. Tie game, 1-1.
  • [12:45] There’s a power rangers movie? How stupid.
  • [12:45] *Googles “Power Rangers screenings”
  • [12:30] Leafs dominating the shot clock so far. The Devils just have the one shot on net - of course, it went in.
  • [12:02] Marner creates a turnover when forechecking in the midst of a change, and it falls to Matt Martin. Martin surprisingly exhibits some real patience with the puck, finding a trailing Gardiner, who sees his shot saved.
  • [10:27] Nylander mishandles the puck on a potential 2-on-1 - missed opportunity there.
  • [9:31] Adam Henrique gets a breakaway out of nothing, and forces Boyle to hook him. New Jersey to the PP. Not sure why that wasn’t a penalty shot, to be honest.
  • [8:45] Marner is playing some PK, with Boyle in the box. I like that move. The only thing what would worry me about him being a regular PKer is increased chance of injury.
  • [7:31] The Leafs kill off the penalty.
  • [6:00] Taylor Hall with a great chance, as all three Leafs forwards get caught deep.
  • [3:34] I’ve been skeptical of the #Freivo movement at times, because I think he has severe limitations, but on merit, I really do think his play has merited a longer look. As I say that, he nearly sneaks in on a breakaway, but is called offside.
  • [2:55] A scrum ensues after the Leivo offside, and we get some 4-on-4 as a result.
  • [2:30] Hall is creating everything for this team. He sets up Travis Zajac for a point-blank chance, but it gets blocked.
  • [1:43] Sometimes, you’re just hot. And William Nylander is on fucking fire. A 2-on-2 (turning into a 3-on-2 for the Leafs) sees Matthews come down the middle and dish off to Nylander on the right. He displays his trademark patience, waiting out everyone before ripping one past Kinkaid. 2-1 Leafs.
  • [0:52] I thought there was a hint of offside there, but I guess not, since the Devils don’t challenge.
  • [0:00] Oof, Marchenko takes a last-second shot off the face, and is down for a bit. Gets off under his own power, thankfully.
  • [0:00] End of the period. Leafs up 2-1, off the back of Leivo and Nylander goals, offsetting McElhinney’s shaky start.
Second Period
  • [20:00] Second period gets started. Marchenko is on the ice, so I suppose he’s no worse for wear.
  • [17:56] Leafs score! The Bozak line pins New Jersey in their own zone, and as the Devils exit, Taylor Hall turns the puck over to Bozak in the neutral zone. Bozak comes in and passes it off to Marner, who fires a low shot off the pads of Kinkaid. JVR tucks the rebound into the yawning cage, and the Leafs have another goal. 3-1 Leafs. Wouldn’t be surprised at all there if Marner was aiming for the rebound on that shot.
  • [16:21] By the way, Bozak now hits 50 points for the first time in his career, and Marner now has his 40th assist.
  • [14:08] The Leafs have kind of settle into this game well. It never really feels like the Devils have an imminent threat, except when Hall is on the ice.
  • [11:07] The Leafs’ defense has been great about pinching and pressuring exit points for the Devils. Marchenko just did it, and created a slot chance for Nylander in doing so.
  • [9:49] This Devils team reminds me of the Leafs from last year, in that I won’t remember 80% of the players on this team tomorrow.
  • [9:13] Matt Martin was the puck-carrier on a 2-on-1. It went as well as could be expected.
  • [8:15] Connor Brown with a nice shift, putting a lot of pressure on New Jersey in their own zone, and creating a turnover or four.
  • [7:28] Nylander gets called for goaltender interference rushing to the net after taking a pass from Matthews. Valid call, that.
  • [5:46] This PP actually looks dangerous by Devils standards, but McElhinney has recovered nicely and stymies them. The Leafs kill it off.
  • [3:32] Another strong shift from Matthews’ group leads to a shot and an eventual icing from a tired Devils group.
  • [1:05] Thus far, the Leafs have done a very 2000s-Devils like performance, where they’ve totally nullified the offense of their opponent once they got a lead.
  • [0:00] End of the period. Leafs look comfortable so far, and just need to see out the 3rd. Let’s hope they do it.
Third Period
  • [20:00] One more period (we hope). Gotta secure the win!
  • [18:24] Disjointed start to the period. Lots of whistles and stoppages.
  • [17:33] So maybe this will jinx the Leafs, but I honestly feel no fear of this Devils team. They’re generating no offense, and the offense they do generate is being taken by players who are of no real danger.
  • [13:51] One very frustrating thing about this broadcast crew is how often they misidentify players because they’re looking at numbers. They referred to Matthews as Boyle, likely because both of their numbers end in 4. But I don’t get how you can watch 72 games of Auston Matthews and confuse him for a guy who’s like, 3 inches taller, skates totally differently, and isn’t on his line.
  • [13:08] Rielly takes a penalty. I’ll be honest - I didn’t see it, because I was typing the mini-rant above.
  • [12:46] My Internet briefly cut out, and when it came back, I saw Boyle fighting with some dude. I tell you what, the 6’6” hockey player is not the guy I want to fuck with. Looks like a Hunwick hit on Kyle Palmieri lit the fuse.
  • [12:46] Babcock is drawing up a play on the bench? I mean, literally, on the bench. He’s not using one of those clipboards Carlyle struggled with.
  • [12:46] So when all this is tallied up, it looks like the Devils will get a 5-on-3, and quite an extended one too. I didn’t see what happened, but as a biased Leafs fan, I assume that the refs are out to get us and we did nothing wrong.
  • [12:04] Any team, no matter how offensively anemic, is terrifying on the 5-on-3. But the Leafs have done a good job thus far getting into shooting lanes. There is very little movement on this power play though.
  • [10:56] Devils score! A point shot goes through a crowd of bodies and beats McElhinney. There’s a hint of goalie interference. Let’s see if the Leafs challenge.
  • [10:56] Oh, never mind. The puck was in the net by the time the player bumped McElhinney. That’s a good goal. 3-2 Leafs, and the game gets quite a bit more nerve-wracking now.
  • [10:56] So now the Leafs have to protect a lead with 10 minutes left. And what looked comfortable is now significantly less so.
  • [10:16] Immediately after, Marner draws an interference call, and they get a chance to restore the 2 goal cushion. If nothing else, they will hopefully erase 2 minutes from the game clock.
  • [8:35] Yeah, looks more like it’s a ‘kill 2 minutes’ power play than a ‘kill the game’ power play.
  • [6:45] The annoying thing about that goal is now the Devils have a reason to try. They did not give a shit throughout most of this game, but they will now.
  • [5:32] The Leafs are retreating a little. They’re hesitant to pressure like they did in the earlier parts of the game, and that’s letting the Devils get more control of the game.
  • [5:05] And obviously, the Leafs are on the tail end of a back to back.
  • [4:19] The Matthews group ices the puck twice in quick succession. No shots, but it’s not comfortable at all right now.
  • [2:40] Miles Wood tries to go outside on Rielly, who keeps up with him the whole way. That’s no easy task... Wood is crazy fast.
  • [2:17] Babcock is now making defensive substitutions... Boyle taking Nylander’s spot on Matthews’ line, likely as a faceoff contingency
  • [1:26] As tense as this is, the Leafs have done a masterful job of reducing chances. The suspense is from the one goal lead, not from pressure the Devils are leveraging.
  • [0:45] And right on cue, Connor Brown pots one into the empty net. 4-2 Leafs, game over.
  • [0:00] Big, big win for the Leafs against a team they absolutely should beat. Cements their position even more, and on a night that could easily have been a schedule loss, they fought hard and earned 2 points.