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Recap: Maple Leafs unleash Auston Matthews on the Canadiens to win in OT

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Auston! Matthews!

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Here we are, finally. Ready for the real season to begin with the best Leafs team in how long? Decades, I think.

This is scary stuff, having a good team to cheer for. At this time last year, we all thought the Leafs would be okay, maybe a bit better. They’d made the playoffs the year before, and we wanted that again, but now, now we have great expectations. The risk is so much greater, the reward potentially huge, but the pain of failure ... best not to think about that. Best to take it one game at a time.

This is game one.

First Period

[0:00 - 5:00]

This looks like the Leafs. Freddie makes a save on Artturi Lehkonen, one of the Habs’ most dangerous guys, and then the top two forward lines get deep on the Canadiens and raise some mayhem.

This also looks a lot like the Leafs. They get the puck twice in the defensive zone but don’t exit.

The new Leafs fourth line looks like they fit right in, they get the puck six times and can’t exit the defensive zone without giving it back

Andersen is on his head as the Leafs just can’t get control of the play with now the Matthews line in the defensive zone. Bad turnovers the problem this time.

A little speed from the Tavares line looks chaotic more than successful offensively, but the Habs are playing well.

[5:00 - 10:00]

Andreas Johnsson centres the puck, but Kappy can’t get his stick on it for the best chance so far.

Kappy and Johnsson come back in a few seconds with a breakaway that is at least exciting. They’ve settled down nicely after that opening shift of doom.

A period of slapping randomly at the puck and passing it to no one ensues.

The Kadri line seems to play dump and chase, which... okay.

Go Leafs Go chant starts up, and it’s more of a polite suggestion than a reflection of any enthusiasm for where the Leafs seem to be going.

And I’m sorry. That’s on me, isn’t it?

Lehkonen walks by Ron Hainsey, and wheels around the net after dishing the puck, he gets it back, and in it goes. He’s a dangerous fellow, and the Leafs are easy to play against sometimes. This was one of those times.

1-0 Montreal

[10:00 - 15:00]

Oh, hello, we’re awake now are we? The Matthews line gets a nice offensive flurry going post-goal, and Price finally has some work to do.

They come back off the TV timeout and do it again.

Whoo hoo. Tavares draws a penalty when Jo Drouin hooks him, and it’s the Leafs power play making their debut.

Babcock puts out the second unit, just to mess with us.

Leivo handles the puck a lot, and he’s okay, good even, but he’s not Nylander. Sign the contract, Willie.

The first unit hits the ice, and Marner gets the first shot, of course.

Price is sharp on a Tavares shot, but the next go-round, comes-round to Mr Auston Matthews! Remember when he was terrible on the power play. Heh. That was then. This is now:

1-1 on the scoreboard

Beautiful shot.

The Leafs control much better coming off this goal, and they look like they are on the ball now.

Habs get a wraparound attempt, but Freddie closes the door.

[15:00 - 20:00]

The Tavares line has some fun trying to score while Tavares keeps the puck going with no grace whatsoever. Every time he falls, I expect him to score on the way down.

Kadri’s line plays a scrappy offensive zone shift, and then the Lindholm line repeat it, but all that board battling isn’t resulting in scoring chances. Well, there’s none against for a change, so that’s good.

The Habs fourth line pulls the same trick on the Leafs, and the last minute winds down without much going on.

Numbers

Thoughts

  • The Habs controlled the play for the first half, but it was even after that
  • The Leafs are allowing way too many good chances against to a weak team
  • Ron Hainsey is the weak link on the top four, and he has looked it so far
  • Ice time is very even with the four lines just rolling out

Second Period

[0:00 - 5:00]

Andersen is tested early, and so it will be all season long.

I don’t think Travis Dermott and Igor Ozhiganov are being sheltered at all, and they look good.

Matthews end-to-end! Lovely. Dermott gets the best shot off at the other end.

Lehkonen foolishly sends the Leafs to the power play.

The second unit comes out first again, and Patrick Marleau nearly gets a goal. The first unit comes out less than halfway through, and how many teams would take that second unit as their first?

The units are: Matthews, Tavares, Kadri, Rielly, Marner and Marleau, Ennis, Leivo (in Nylander’s spot), Gardiner, Johnsson

[5:00 - 10:00]

The what do we do after the top power play unit comes off dilemma is solved this time by subbing in Zach Hyman for Johnsson on the fourth line.

Ennis plays a very Scrappy-Doo game. I want him on the Kadri line adding some speed and smarts. He looks good with Matthews offensively tonight and just exerted some extra effort defensively.

And to the power play, we go. Naz drew the penalty this time on Domi. Dumb Domi move.

First unit goes first this time, and they struggle to get setup a little, which is the only way to defend them, and then, the Leafs do a dumb thing and take a too much man penalty on a bad change when Johnsson comes out when he shouldn’t have.

Benn jumps on the ice and makes a play, and that should have been the too much man the other way, and yet was not.

The Habs play three Finns and Petry on the four-on-four, and they were dominant.

[10:00 - 15:00]

The Leafs finish all this off with a minute of good PK with the old standby PKers.

Kadri gets on the ice with Tavares and Marner, and wow, that’s some decent wingers for him!

Hainsey dumps Domi hard at the line, and you know, I enjoyed that.

The Kadri line carry the puck in, and it results in a near Zaitsev goal, as you all expected.

[15:00 - 20:00]

Mitch Marner backchecks like it’s fun for him when Hainsey gets caught alone.

Habs get a post on some up and down play. Leafs need to find their speed here.

Zaitsev sends up a stretch pass the Kadri sends over to Leivo and Price has to make a great save. The Kadri line is excellent if they carry the puck in, horrible at dump and chase.

The Kadri line again, with their fill-in guy, John Tavares out on a change, and the pass to Tavares makes for a goal.

The first Maple Leafs goal for John Tavares.

2-1 Leafs

Hyman gets caught holding, and the Habs finish the period up one man. Marner gets out with Kappy for the PK, and of course they get lots of puck time and a couple of shots.

Booooo.

The Habs finally get control and bing, bang to what? Andrew Shaw on the power play? And it’s in.

2-2 on the scoreboard

Boooo.

It gets worse when Ozzie takes a penalty with seconds left.

Numbers

The ice time numbers show that Dermott and Ozzie are being kept away from the top line, but that’s it. So, not an extreme sheltering at all. The defence ice time is fairly even, and all four centres are close in minutes, but Kapanen and Johnsson are getting the lowest minutes, and they must be coming off early on changes.

Thoughts

  • The funky post-power-play lines are a lot of fun
  • Mitch Marner is fine on the PK
  • The Leafs look slow
  • Seeing Kadri with quality players really shows how weak his line is, but Leivo is outplaying Connor Brown tonight
  • Lindholm is dull and totally fine so far

Third Period

[0:00 - 5:00]

The Leafs open on the PK, and they are dull and effective. Dermott is a tough dude in front of the net.

Mitch and Tavares come out for the last few seconds, which should make for a fun transition, but leads to some confusion. They’ll sort it out.

I hate third-period ties because the teams play chippy and tense. The teams are playing chippy and tense.

Tavares tries a lazy clear up the boards that fails, and yup, he’s a Leaf now.

Wow, sloppy, sloppy turnover by Dermott there. Not that he’s the only player who is out of sorts out there.

[5:00 - 10:00]

The fourth line gets some zone time, and you know, proportionally speaking, they’re getting too much, and better players are spinning in defensive zone circles.

Bloody hell. Hainsey takes an interference penalty, and hands up if you know what interference is.

Lots of PK time now in this game for Dermott with Hainsey in the box. He’s an odd duck for that job since he’s not tall with a long stick, but he’s speedy and agile.

I don’t like Lindholm on the PK, which I feel a little I told you so about, but it’s still early, I’ll give him a chance.

[10:00 - 15:00]

Zaitsev with a chance at one end followed by a Tavares almost wraparound, and Lehkonen at the other livens things up.

Domi had most of the net to shoot at and missed.

To say the least, this has not been a good period for the Leafs.

Leivo and Brown are not able to move the puck through the neutral zone, and the Leafs come back to their own zone.

Awesome stick check on Domi by Dermott.

[15:00 - 20:00]

Horrible giveaway by Johnsson to give the Habs another chance.

Price made a save! That’s the first one he’s had to make in a long, long time.

Matthews gets dumped, the crowd gets mad, and Matthews gets a shot eventually.

A stretch pass to Connor Brown results in a chip in because that’s how he plays. Why even bother with the pass? No offence ensues, you might as well just turn it over in the neutral zone.

The better lines play out the period, and Zaitsev gets a shot in, but no one can do anything with the rebound.

Numbers

Yeeeeeeuck.

Thoughts

  • Andreas Johnsson is playing himself right into the press box
  • And yet, I hate the Kadri line with a passion so there’s other winger issues than just him
  • Zaitsev has made a lot of offensively significant shots or passes

Overtime

Blech. First game, and it’s a loser point so far with fake hockey to decide it. Make it two points, guys!

Marleau and Matthews come on to join Gardiner on a change and...

AUSTON MATTHEWS!!!!!

3-2 LEAFS WIN!

  • Ozzie had a rough moment on the PK for the one goal, but he’s okay
  • All the new guys are okay, particularly that Tavares fellow
  • I don’t miss Roman Polak, Leo Komarov or Tyler Bozak
  • Sportsnet offered up some really horrible camera angles and they need to simplify that

Poll

If Travis Dermott were a righty, would he be in the top four already?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes
    (465 votes)
  • 18%
    No, Babcock would still go slow
    (128 votes)
  • 16%
    The Leafs have three second pairs, it doesn’t matter
    (118 votes)
711 votes total Vote Now