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Maple Leafs stomp Devils, 6-1

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Another strong performance from Toronto

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

First Period

  • [20:00] Lets get started.
  • [17:58] The first few shifts are uneventful, but the Leafs get the first chance of the game off a the familiar high-tip. Gardiner threw it on net, and Kadri nearly directed it home. Keith Kinkaid saves. Shortly after, Tyler Ennis gets a nice shot from in tight, but Kinkaid is equal to the task again.
  • [14:33] The Tavares line has their first magical shift of the evening, creating furious pressure around the Devils’ net, including a goalmouth scramble with Zach Hyman involved. Early on, shots are 7-0 for the Leafs.
  • [13:24] The Devils get their first sustained zone time of the game, thanks to their fourth line, but no terribly dangerous shots result.
  • [11:58] That shift has seemingly energized New Jersey, as they exert control over the next few.
  • [11:32] As the Leafs are breaking out of the zone, Sami Vatanen knees Tavares in a play that could easily have resulted in injury. Obvious penalty, and the Leafs head to the power play, starting with the second unit.
  • [11:16] The second unit power play is so bad. They have zero above-average forwards. To prove my point, Leivo misses Ennis who was free and clear at the back door on a rush chance.
  • [10:18] The Leafs first unit is also not at their best in this power play. They struggle to gain control of the zone. They eventually do, and use the limited time left to show why they’re so dangerous. A pretty tic-tac-toe play nearly finds Marleau alone by the side of the net, but he can’t free his stick; nice play from Ben Lovejoy to tie him up. The penalty expires with the Leafs only generating one shot.
  • [7:36] Leafs score! And of course, it’s the Tavares line that does it. JT himself pots it home, but it could have been any number of chances on the shift. Marner picks the puck up and walks in on Kinkaid, who saves it. However, the puck falls to Rielly, who finds Hainsey at the top of the zone. The Devils are scrambling, and Hainsey cleverly finds Tavares on the back door, who taps it home. 1-0 Leafs.
  • [6:55] Immediately after, Gardiner springs Leivo for a breakaway, but Kinkaid stops it to prevent an early two goal lead.
  • [6:32] It didn’t lead to anything too notable, but Dermott made a couple nice plays on one of his shifts to maintain control of the puck in his own zone in the face of forechecking pressure. That’s one of the reasons he always looks so good by shot share.
  • [5:34] The Leafs look as good executing in the defensive zone as I remember seeing them. They’re providing support to one another, disrupting the Devils forecheck, and leaving the zone at the first opportunity. In the midst of one of these sequences, Marcus Johansson takes a high-sticking penalty, so the Leafs head to the power play again.
  • [5:18] Another poor start to the power play as Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman combine for a 2-on-1 that nearly erases the Leafs lead. Coleman just misses the net, thankfully.
  • [3:57] The second unit looks like a band of unruly students poorly supervised by substitute teacher Jake Gardiner.
  • [2:46] After a strong shift by the Hall line (who else), Nikita Zaitsev takes a holding penalty, so the Devils will be on the man advantage.
  • [2:24] Connor Brown busts his lungs racing for a loose puck in the Devils defensive zone during the PK. It doesn’t amount to much, but I appreciate the effort. Brown has looked better to my eye than he did in previous years, and I say that as someone who has harshly criticized his game in the past.
  • [1:22] The Devils finally get something going on the PP, as nice one touch passing leaves Zajac alone in the slot. He gets the shot off, but Jake Gardiner deflects it out of play... a crucial intervention there. The rest of the power play passes without incident.
  • [0:00] A strong, strong opening frame for the Leafs. The only complaint is that they could have done even more with it on the scoresheet! They’ve really been excellent, with the Tavares line being particularly dominant. The Kadri and Lindholm lines have been relatively poor, but even then, it’s not as if they did anything particularly bad... they just didn’t bring a lot to the table. On the defensive side of things... well, there hasn’t been much defending to do. The Leafs forecheck has been active in the offensive zone, and the entire team has done a good job of pressuring in the neutral zone and breaking out on D when required, with Gardiner and Rielly looking particularly good to my eye. When the Devils have gotten shots, they’ve been from good areas, but that’s nitpicking given the shot domination the Leafs had over them in general.

Second Period

  • [19:10] For the second time in two periods, the Leafs get a breakaway. Lindholm springs Johnsson, but Kinkaid saves his attempt.
  • [18:08] Kadri scores! Kind of a nothing play that Kinkaid will probably want back, but it counts. Marleau does an excellent job forechecking and he forces a flubbed pass from Will Butcher. Marleau pounces on the loose puck, and floats it to Kadri, who deftly knocks it down mid-air, and fires a shot into the roof of the net. Kinkaid won’t love that goal, but that was a really nice play by Marleau and Naz. 2-0 Leafs.
  • [17:19] The Devils have some fight in them, as Kyle Palmieri spins away from Zaitsev behind the net and emerges on the goalmouth, forcing an excellent save from Freddie.
  • [16:55] The Leafs have their first truly Leaf shift of the evening, failing to get the puck out from their zone despite multiple opportunities. This was the fourth line and Rielly-Hainsey pairing, but fortunately, they were up against New Jersey’s fourth line, who couldn’t really capitalize.
  • [15:02] The much maligned stretch pass gets the Leafs out of the zone and into the Devils, and a few passes later, Connor Brown taps it home for a 3-0 Leafs lead! Hainsey makes another excellent cross-ice pass to Lindholm, who centres for Brown on the back door with nothing but net to aim for.
  • [15:02] This has been a PHENOMENAL game, throughout the lineup. At the end of the first, I noted that the Kadri and Lindholm lines were a little quiet. Both have scored in the second, and that’s exactly how you survive without two of your best forwards.
  • [14:03] It feels like the Devils’ chances have pretty much all come with their fourth line on the ice. Which is definitely the line you want to give up chances to, if you get a choice in the matter.
  • [12:37] Devils score! The Leafs do not cover themselves in glory in the defensive zone, as Nazem Kadri is too weak on the puck in front of his own net. Coleman steals it off him and fires it on net. The initial shot is saved, but the rebound goes right to Zajac, and he has an empty net to aim at. 3-1 Leafs.
  • [8:57] The Leafs have taken their foot off the gas to some degree, which is to be expected, but they do have to be careful.
  • [8:26] Kapanen flashes his extreme speed, knocking down a Marleau pass in the neutral zone while racing beyond the D to get a partial breakaway. For the third time, Kinkaid stops a Leaf on a breakaway.
  • [6:54] The game has turned into a bit of a track meet now, with both teams trading odd-man rushes.
  • [5:57] Haven’t noticed as much of the Tavares line this period, though it would’ve been near impossible to expect them to sustain the same performance that they had in the first.
  • [4:16] After overthinking on a couple scoring chances, Andreas Johnsson finally pots one! Sort of against the run of play, as the Devils had done well after the Zajac goal, but they all count. Gardiner takes a shot from the right wing, which gets deflected by the Devils defender. It bounces off Kinkaid right to Johnsson to pots it. He might be the most relieved man in Toronto right now. 4-1 Leafs. Lindholm gets the secondary assist, his second point of the night.
  • [3:05] The goal seems to get the Leafs moving again, as the Kadri line sustains extended pressure, and gets another goal! After a long shift in the offensive zone, Rielly floats a puck from the left point that Kinkaid never sees. It settles in over his left shoulder, and Rielly continues his stealth Norris bid. 5-1 Leafs.
  • [0:36] Leivo draws a penalty, and the Leafs can potentially add insult to insult.
  • [0:00] Hard to argue with that period for the Leafs. It wasn’t as complete as the first, but they started strong and got out ahead before slowing down in the middle part of the period. Good to see Johnsson get a goal, and even though Rielly’s marker was totally a fluke, I’m happy to see him continue his ridiculous offensive start to the season.

Third Period

  • [18:36] The Leafs don’t capitalize on the power play.
  • [18:09] Shortly after, they take one of their own, as Lindholm slashes Hall. Not a great call, to say the least.
  • [16:06] Nothing of note for the Devils on the power play.
  • [14:23] This is the type of game where you want a running clock through the last period. Biggest thing for the Leafs is to make sure they don’t sustain any injuries in the last 14 minutes of this game.
  • [12:48] The fourth line has been peak fourth line. Doing lots of the little things right with essentially no offense to speak of... hard to complain too much about it, given the Leafs dominance elsewhere.
  • [10:11] Nico Hischier makes a nifty play to find Hall alone in front, but Andersen stones him.
  • [7:59] Remember when I said the fourth line provided no offense? Well, Ennis just scored, capitalizing on a Devils turnover behind the net by walking out front and roofing it on Kinkaid. 6-1 Leafs.
  • [6:06] Alright boys, save from goals for later! Nikita Zaitsev fires a puck in from the right point, and Marleau has an ABSURD backhand shoulder-high tip that takes the puck past Kinkaid. It’s under review now.
  • [6:06] Ends up being no goal... shame, because that is an ridiculously good tip.
  • [5:21] Gauthier takes a high sticking penalty. Devils to the PP.
  • [4:28] aaand now Palmieri takes an interference penalty on Brown. Guys, lets just let this game end.
  • [0:00] It does. Solid Leafs win!

Thoughts

  • The Tavares line had an excellent first period and were much quieter thereafter... still an excellent game for them.
  • Marleau had a very strong game IMO... Kadri wasn’t too notable apart from his goal, but it was a typically strong performance from him as well.
  • Was very happy to see Johnsson score... he has been much better recently, and his line looks like a solid third line right now.
  • The fourth line was the fourth line... except they also got a goal, which is always welcome. Gauthier continues his surprising competence, and it’s now becoming a bit of a question as to which forward the Leafs will place on waivers when they get Nylander and Matthews back.
  • On the defensive side of things, Rielly and Hainsey got kind of dominated in terms of shot attempts and expected goals, but I can’t say I thought they were particularly terrible or anything. They also played predominantly against Hall’s line so to some extent, poor numbers were expected.
  • Zaitsev and Jake were consistently excellent throughout the night, mostly beating up on Devils depth.
  • I noticed almost nothing that Dermott and Ozhiganov did... which is fine for a 3rd pair, though I would’ve liked Dermott to make a more obvious impact on the game... this is really nitpicking though
  • Freddie was Freddie. Consistent and cool.