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Recap: Leafs Ground Jets

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Toronto comes away with a 4-2 victory against Winnipeg.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs journeyed to Winnipeg to play against the Jets, and before the game, we had the privilege of watching Randy Bachman play “Takin’ Care of Business”. Randy is about nine hundred years old now with a voice like a dog bark and the song sucked when it was written, but it’s important for hockey to be four decades out of date at all times.

First Period

The Leafs get a couple of chances early, Kasperi Kapanen getting a shot from the hash marks after a brutal Jacob Trouba give away, and then a bounce to Mitch Marner that he rifles. Connor Hellebuyck, whose name I will misspell throughout this recap, is up to the challenge.

The Kadri line continues its habit of playing pretty well but not really getting chances. The Tavares line starts a shift well, but then gets run back by Nikolaj Ehlers and friends and just gets absolutely dizzied by them. After a good start for Toronto, the Jets really come on strong here and get multiple excellent chances.

Things don’t get much better as the Mark Schiefele line follows up with a flurry against the Frederik Gauthier line after Igor Ozhiganov makes a bad giveaway. Auston Matthews finally gets the puck going the right way again, but can’t put a solid shot on goal. Lots of movement before Kyle Connor and friends get whistled for an offside nine minutes in.

Connor Brown gets off on a partial break (sprung by Jake Gardiner) but can’t finish off a bouncing puck. There’s some more end-to-end action and Martin Marincin looks rough, to be honest with you. The play ends with Connor Helebuyck smothering a Nikita Zaitsev shot.

The Tavares line puts up multiple great chances, but so far the Jets goalie is up to the task. In other news, you know who doesn’t look all that impressive right now? Jacob Trouba. Huh.

After a great board battle, Zach Hyman tries the wrap around again, but Helubuck kicks it out on him. John Tavares tries for the follow up but no luck. Good shift though.

All this good Leaf pressure is finally rewarded: they make some sustained pressure and Patrick Marleau pressures a rebound clear. It comes to Kasperi Kapanen, who fires one past a Matthews screen as well as Hellabutt. 1-0 Leafs!

After a few Jets SOGs, the Leafs head back to the Jets end and Morgan Rielly pinches off the line; Patrik Laine slashes at him and the Leafs go to the power play.

Toronto’s first unit buzzes, but Mitch Marner takes too long to pull the trigger and Hubblebutt makes a great save on Auston Matthews. The Jets kill the rest with both skill and luck.

The Jets come back hard after the PK; Laine dings a post off the rush in their closest chance. Freddie has been on the ball generally, and between him and the post the period ends 1-0.

It was one of those back-and-forth periods where no one was playing consistent defence, but the Leafs probably got the better of it, those two brutal shifts in the middle notwithstanding. Our top two lines looked dangerous again, which was a welcome change from the St. Louis game. All in all, it was Leafy, but in a good way.

Second Period

The Leafs begin strong; Marleau nearly flicks a backhand in off a slot pass from Nazem Kadri. The Leafs are rolling pretty well right now. The broadcast is remarking on the strong side winger coming back to help (offering shorter pass) while the weak side winger blows the zone for a potential long pass. Something to watch.

The fourth line strikes! Off a stretch pass (huh), Gauthier gains the zone and then fights for it; the Leafs keep at it and eventually Josh Leivo get a shot that Tyler Ennis tips in. 2-0! Ennis has been working hard lately; glad to see him rewarded.

Brandon Tanev leads the Jets forecheck and does impressive work, getting a chance and drawing a penalty. I would call it Hyman-esque, which is a definite compliment from me. Jets to the PP.

The Leafs put up a solid kill, highlighted by a little one-on-one rush from Par Lindholm that ends in a bad angle SH shot. Good stuff, my boy, kill that clock.

The Leafs are keeping the heat up, although it’s the Leafs so it’s not like they’re playing shutdown D or anything.

FINALLY. Kadri comes down the right wing after a nice spinning pass from Brown. He snipes an absolute bullet for his first one of the year past Hufflepuff. 3-0 Leafs!

The Leafs are continuing to use the stretch pass, and for the moment, it’s working out for them. The Jets have been missing a fair few shots, but the Leafs have been the better team. Kyle Connor and Dustin Byfuglien combine for a bit of pressure but don’t really get to the centre of the ice.

Honestly that was one of the more impressive periods the Leafs have had. The Tavares line has had some defensive struggles but has looked dangerous at the opposite end. Matthews’ and Kadri’s lines are humming, and while they’re getting outshot, the Gauthier line did nice work to score. Feels good, keep it up boys.

Third Period

The Jets are pushing now, which is about what you’d expect from a team down 3-0. They get solid zone time for the first few minutes before the Matthews line breaks out for a couple of chances.

The Winnipeg pressure finally pays off. Trouba flips a puck in the slot to a waiting Nikolaj Ehlers, who fires it point-blank past Andersen. 3-1, and no one who’s ever watched the Leafs thinks this is over.

It gets worse. Connor Brown takes a hooking penalty, and the Winnipeg power play strikes. Wheeler throws it from the corner out to Scheifele, and he fires it through Andersen. 3-2.

Well, this game turned quick. The Kadri line gets a bit of a chance but clearly Winnipeg is awake. But then...

Marner dances through a couple of Jets defenders and throws a puck off Herbalfluff’s pad, and John Tavares whacks it home. 4-2. Phew.

Freddie makes a huge glove save, and I get the feeling the team will need him down the stretch. A bit later, Ozhiganov gets called for a hooking, and the Jets are back on the power play.

There are some tense moments, but the Leafs get the kill. The Jets are definitively better this period. That said, the Tavares line gets a close call in a scrum in front of the net; Tyler Myers pulls the puck away from the goal line.

Some back and forth ensues. Kadri rings a post off a weird bounce. The Jets pull Heffalump with 2:30 to go and Freddie makes a huge stretch save early. Poor Zaitsev gets dinged in the head with a puck but looks okay. Freddie holds the fort, and the Leafs get the win.

Thoughts

  • This was a highly Leafy game. Our best players looked good, we scored four goals, we won the expected goals battle. We also absolutely turtled for the first ten minutes of the third, and needed some big saves from Freddie down the stretch.
  • That said: this is a game to feel good about, by and large. The Leafs played a road game against what should be a legit contender in Winnipeg (though they haven’t looked it so far) and Toronto was the better team.
  • Really good game for the Matthews line. AM34 didn’t rack up two points, like we’re accustomed to, but he contributed significantly to the first goal, was dangerous all night, and had an excellent shots showing. Kappy looked like a legit 1RW as well, and Marleau turned in a solid performance.
  • The Tavares line was deadly at both ends, it felt like. You can take that.
  • Hallelujah for Kadri, he’s beyond due to score. He could have had more, too. When Nylander gets back he should get a wing upgrade.
  • Nik Ehlers looked great for the Jets, and they had a nice push in the third, but...the Jets ought to be better than this.
  • Good night all around. Next game is a rematch against the Jets on Saturday.