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Good one, Randy — Ducks fall in OT and put the Leafs in first place in the NHL

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The sweep of California is complete.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Anaheim Ducks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs wrapped up their California road trip looking to make it three for three with a win over the Ducks. Since this game is the second of the back-to-back it’s a Garret Sparks game, his fourth of the season.

There are no other changes in the Leafs lineup, and while I know some fans want to see Trevor Moore, how could any one of the wingers on this team sit out after the last two wins? You just can’t do that when they’re all hot.

The last two games have been fun, great wins, big scores, and with just a little bit of weakness on the quality of the shooting at five-on-five. The amazing power play is more than compensating, and we certainly saw the second unit improve, particularly against the Sharks.

Can the Leaf do it again and sweep the state of California? Sure, but it’s hockey, and anything can happen, and that’s why we watch the games.

Ducks lines tonight:

Wow, a waiver claim on the top line, and I have no idea who half the defence is.

First Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

Pontus Aberg, the waiver claim, gives up the puck to Nazem Kadri, and John Gibson makes his first of what will be many amazing saves.

Nice chippy shift by the Par Lindholm line in the offensive zone. I am way more okay with this line getting no actual scoring chances on a shift like that than I am when Kadri is centering the line.

Kadri gets shoved into the boards hard — so the Ducks are mad he fought Thornton too?

[15:00 - 10:00]

Woot! Gardiner skates a puck in off an offensive zone faceoff win by Kadri and the puck just goes in. Somehow. You watch the slo-mo:

1-0 Leafs and Marleau gets the credit.

Ennis is doing Ennis things again, getting chances. But the fourth line of the Leafs get hemmed in against the Ducks fourth line and they look very bad defensively. This is an ongoing problem that some careful deployment is helping to mitigate.

Sparks makes an easy save, and he hasn’t been tested much.

Ron Hainsey with a super easy zone entry denial. The Ducks are not in this game yet.

Mo with a shot. Gibson with the save. Cogliano, stuck back defending Mo’s rush, is still looking for his pants.

[10:00 - 05:00]

Jake Gardiner easily out-dekes a Ducks player, Kossila, I think. The Leafs easily get the puck out of the zone.

Sparks leaves the net gaping open behind him as the puck bounces free, but the defence easily clears it with no Ducks pressure.

The Tavares line easily wins some board battles and puts on heavy pressure.

Leafs easily take the puck right off of Rickard Rakell at the goalmouth. Seriously, they just breezed in and lifted his stick and got possession back.

[5:00 - 00:00]

A Par Lindholm pass is picked off, and the Leafs easily get the puck back from Rakell (one of the Ducks best players).

Sparks tries to golf the puck up ice, and it hits Getzlaf, not a Leafs player. That was almost a hard save he had to make after that.

Ducks pressure hard for the first time all game, and Sparks makes one more actual save. And we end the period with the fourth line pinned in again, and Sparks coming up big on a weird high shot.

Leivo and Ennis get loose at the dying seconds, and their third man up in the offence is...Igor Ozhiganov.

Numbers

The final flurry gave the Ducks a 19-15 Corsi advantage, but Moneypuck’s Expected Goals are .74 to .49 for the Leafs. That is a very weak offence. Most of their shots in close were tight angle shots Sparks easily gloved at the side of the net.

Thoughts

  • This was too easy. The Leafs are slow, and the Ducks will score on them if they come out in the third like that.
  • The Ducks are, however, incredibly bad in ways not described by their horrible shot differential on the season.
  • The Leafs have not successfully rolled an all-offence top nine, either because Auston Matthews is missing or Kadri is functioning only as a checking-line centre. When Matthews comes back, in 10 days or so, I hope to see them do that rolling offensive pressure.
  • I do wonder if Sparks would be better with a regular set of shots against him. Chance has favoured him with lighter work than is normal for a Leafs goalie.

Second Period

[20:00 - 14:00]

The early going is a little faster for the Leafs, and the first shot comes from Leivo.

The first decent chance for the Ducks comes off the rush from Aberg to Rakell.

Oh, now that’s the proper Andreas Johnsson! He gets in the zone, he gets creamed in the corner, and Johnsson just bounces back into the play and Gibson has to make a save. That’s the man who scored all those AHL goals.

Oh, and he drew a penalty, so it’s now the first power play of the game.

If you imagine the Leafs tired and ready for a beach weekend before they come home, this power play is how those Leafs would play it. Still dangerous, but not crisp.

[14:00 - 10:00]

The Rakell line is trouble again.

Kappy shoots it at Gibson, or so it seems, but Gibson is great at finding the position to go down but still be big and cut down all the shooting angles to nothing. I was dubious of him years back, but he’s just so solid now.

Damn. Ennis with a good steal of the puck, and Leivo takes the pass and sends it into orbit.

[10:00 - 05:00]

The pace has stayed fast, but no one would call this a pretty game right now.

Leafs execute a perfect stretch pass just as the commentary is about how they failed at one.

And the Rakell line is back in Sparks’ face again. Getzlaf does not look like the driver of that line to me, Rakell does.

Kappy is left to wander in the slot, and gets off a rocket of a shot that misses.

The Ducks then decide to try the same method the Kings and Sharks used to lose and they take another penalty.

The second unit inspires no fear in the Ducks this time. And the Ducks PK seems to be a little more on the ball. The first unit looked, how to phrase this, like they’d rather the second unit got even more of the power play time in future.

[5:00 - 00:00]

Adam Henrique bowls over Sparks behind the play. Total accident. Remember when he was good? Yeah, that was last year.

Kappy with a shot, how many is that?

Okay, my fault for calling attention to the whole waiver claim thing.

The Leafs allow another rush from way back, and this time they get a cross-ice pass and the shot goes right through Sparks like he’s not even there.

1-1 on the scoreboard and Aberg leads this team in goals?

Numbers

The Corsi and Expected Goals are very close to even, just not quite as even as the score. Kapanen leads the Leafs with four shots (of the Corsi type), all of them Scoring Chances.

Thoughts

  • The Leafs allowed a few rush chances to the Ducks that they defended very poorly prior to the goal.
  • The Ducks look like a team that should have as many points as the Kings.
  • Sparks has been mostly good in a game he should be good in.
  • Jake Gardiner has looked very comfortable all over the ice the last few games.
  • Most of the Leafs offence looks tepid and the bottom six are giving up way more shots than they’re taking.

Third Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

Ray is kinder to the Leafs D than me, and he thinks they’re playing the neutral zone well. Sure, but I feel like they are letting the Ducks get in tight really easily at times.

Someone not on the Rakell line forces Sparks to make a good save.

Tavares is on the doorstep, and then he’s sliding through it as he goes down with the Ducks defender. This is exactly the sort of weird, unexpected play that might decide this game.

Ennis just sort of had the puck on his stick, but he was facing the wrong way and couldn’t really do anything with it. This game looks like everyone is playing like that.

Kase gets a rush chance, and it’s all AHL all the time. Sparks gives up a huge rebound straight into the slot (seriously, I had Bibeau flashbacks), and then he ends up swimming in the crease to keep the puck out.

That moment of terror seems to have got the Leafs skating a little.

[15:00 - 10:00]

Cripes! Leivo, during a fourth line is pinned sequence, centers the puck into the Leafs slot, but Ennis pounces on it because the Ducks are that bad.

The Leafs finally with an offensive flurry that Gibson handles. And the Leafs come back again for seconds well. They need to bear down here and play hard for the final 13 minutes, and they’ll have this game.

Oh, Jake Gardiner! He saved this game, as he deflects a puck off his skate when Sparks had left a large amount of the net for his defender to cover.

[10:00 - 06:00]

Okay, call me pessimistic, but I now expect the Leafs to lose this one. they are not upping the pace like they need to, and Sparks looks scary right now, while Gibson is a wall.

Damn! Brown with a hell of a rush, that Gibson stops, and Johnsson overskates the rebound.

The post makes a save for the Leafs.

The game is opening up a little, and the Leafs are doing their thing, but meeting the Gibson wall every time.

Wow. Zaitsev makes a hell of a save off his leg on yet another rush chance when Sparks ends up leaving the net wide open to a shooter. This save is much less intentional than Gardiner’s. The bad news is Kapanen takes a penalty on the play with six minutes to go.

[6:00 - 00:00]

Zaitsev blocks a Montour shot on the PK, and he’d like a win to make the bruises feel better.

Sparks had some good saves on this must-kill PK, but also that other thing going on too.

Gardiner with a steal and a break, but then he met the wall.

The Leafs are not getting much happening, but neither of the Ducks, as it becomes all about the physical battles for the puck.

And we’re going to OT.

Numbers

Here’s a number: 0. That’s the number of loser points the Leafs have so far. They are the only team without one.

Thoughts

You got me who to say has the edge in the game. So far it’s been choppy with not much flow. Three-on-three is a whole other show though.

Overtime

Tavares and Marner start with Rielly, and it’s Marner with the chance. No surprise it’s Rackell and Getzlaf coming back immediately.

Marner changes at a weird time, and lets Sparks save an easy one on a nominal three-on-two. I don’t generally like the Leafs bench management in OT.

Kapanen on what looks like a set play, moves in and drops it back for the trailer, but no one gets a good shot off on two runs of this move.

Sparks with a save on Silfverberg. Then on Aberg.

Mo! Yes! Mo knows how to score. Also Tavares and Marner made this play happen, but MO put the Leafs in first place!!!

I shall do penance for my pessimism.