The Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner line scores five goals at one end, and Frederik Andersen stops 54 at the other as the Leafs get shelled in the shot column, but win the game 6-3 over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kadri finished the night with three goals and two assists for the second five-point night from that line in five days. Mitch Marner may have only had one goal and one assist but he was easily the most dynamic player for the Leafs tonight. Freddy Andersen used his whole 6’4” frame to make the easy saves, the hard saves, all (but three) of the saves tonight.
The Maple Leafs kick off the game with an odd first line, Tyler Bozak centering Leo Komarov and Kasperi Kapanen. I know Mike Babcock likes to get his faceoff winners on the ice as often as possible, but for the opening draw at center ice? That seems a little extreme. Jokes aside, this is most likely a situation where there was miscommunication with the official scoresheet and Bozak’s name was circled instead of Dominic Moore’s and the Leads had to adhere to the official sheet. Nevertheless, Bozak and Leo get a shot on goal each and only give up one the other way, not bad.
On his first shift of the game, “not-Tyler Bozak” Dom Moore speeds ahead for a 2-on-1, shoots a fluttering puck with his backhand and somehow beats Joonas Korpisalo for the game’s opening goal. Leo Komarov and Roman Polak draw the assists. Eat it, nerds!
Josh Anderson pushes Roman Polak from behind after a whistle and gets called for a roughing penalty. This was Polak’s fifth drawn penalty in 36 games, he has also taken 16, for those counting at home. Leafs get some good chances on the power play, but the puck fails to go in.
The Leafs maintain possession after an unsuccessful power play. James van Reimsdyk grabs a pass from Kadri tries to jam home a shot down low, but fails to do so. Nazem Kadri comes in, circles back out to the bottom of the circle and rips a shots through a crowd and over goalie Korpisalo. JVR gets the primary assist on the goal, and Morgan Rielly receives the second assist because he had the puck before Kadri passed it to JVR. This was the first even-strength point Rielly has gotten since he scored against Ottawa on January 10th.
Midway through the first period, the Leafs have controlled the lion’s share of the shot attempts (18-13), and chances (11-8), but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made Freddy work in his net.
Freddy sprawling to stop the puck. pic.twitter.com/yXVCCq1zfg— Flintor (@TheFlintor) February 15, 2018
With 9:40 left in the first, William Nylander draws a pretty soft hooking penalty on Nick Foligno. The Columbus captain takes a classic we’re-playing-on-the-second-half-of-a-back-to-back-after-travelling penalty, going to the box for two minutes or (hopefully) less. On the power play, Tyler Bozak is able to tip a Mitch Marner shot on goal, but Korpisalo stops him.
The Blue Jackets seem to enjoy having a winger circle to the high-slot or have a defenseman snap a shot through the crowd. The Leafs like to keep their centerman down in front of the net and only keep the two wingers in the high slot. It will be interesting to see whether the Leafs make an adjustment for the second period. So far, the Leafs haven’t been burned too hard by it, but the Blue Jackets have pulled ahead in shots on goal(11-16) and shot attempts (24-26). Early score-effects?
Meanwhile in the arena... “Oh, Baby.”
Hazel McCallion gets a 97th birthday cake, guy in the stands gets his thumbs up on a marriage proposal, Andersen has 16 first-period saves. "Everything is happening!" as Bob Cole would say.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) February 15, 2018
The Leafs get caught on an icing and can’t get the puck out of the zone. Foligno glides into the slot, picks up a pass from Alexander Wennberg with his skate, and beats Freddy to the glove side. Dean Kukan gets the secondary assist. Yeah, I don’t know who that is either.
The Leafs had a strong middle seven-ish minutes of the game, but the Blue Jackets really turned it on in the second half and have now pulled ahead in shots (12-19), shot attempts (28-31), and scoring chances (14-16).
Jake Gardiner, who apparently did not play for the last eight minutes of the first period, did not come out of the dressing room for the second period. HE WAS NOT GETTING TRADED. Apparently he took a Matt Calvert slash to the hand and can’t shake it off. Either way, the Leafs have two periods to play without their most productive pivot this season.
Nick Foligno scores his second after potting home Alex Wennberg’s pass on a 2-on-1 rush. Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand get the assists. Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman both lose stick battles in the neutral zone that immediately led to the odd-man rush the other way. That line has now been on the ice for both goals against and have an astonishing -10 shot-attempt ratio (4 for, 14 against). Yikes.
Kapanen takes a slashing penalty about two minutes later. Everything is falling apart. Everything except Freddy Andersen who made a big stop on Seth Jones to keep the Leafs tied and eventually kill the power play.
Luckily we have the Marleau-Kadri-Marner line! Mitchell Marner feeds Travis Dermott with a behind-the-back drop pass. Dermott walks the line with Gardiner-like grace before passing the puck to Morgan Rielly at the red-line. Captain Morgan rips a centering pass through the crease that gets finished by Kadri at the opposite post. All five Leafs were instrumental on this play. Teamwork!
Barely two minutes later, Dermott (with some help from Patrick Marleau) releases Kadri and Marner for a 2-on-1 break. Kadri sauces the puck over to Marner who restores the two-goal lead. I think my favourite part of this goal is watching Marner switch into a shooting position as early as just inside the blue-line so that he could receive the pass from Kadri and shoot as quickly as possible. This line has really transformed from being the shut-down line who just has to stop the competition into a line that can, arguably, be interchangeable with the Matthews line on certain nights.
Goals are raining in now. Jack Johnson takes a shot from the half-wall, through a screen, and past Freddy Andersen’s glove. Nick Foligno gets his third point of the game and Markus Nutivaara earns the secondary assist. Kadri, Marner, and JVR the forward group on the ice for that goal, Nikita Zaitsev has been on the ice for all three goals against in this game.
17:28 into the period, Kapanen is able to speed by Zach Werenski on the wing and snap a shot that rang off the post. The play goes back the other way and Boone Jenner gets in between Polak and Rielly for a shot himself before running into Andersen. Luckily, no one got hurt on the play.
So... The Leafs got absolutely shelled in the shot department in that period. The Blue Jackets hit Freddy Andersen 18 times in the first, 20 times in the second, beating him three times for a grand total of 41 shots on goal. FORTY-ONE! By comparison, the Leafs only took seven shots in that period, 19 shots total and have somehow scored four times. The Blue Jackets have also pulled far ahead in the shot-attempts column (41-66), and scoring-chance column (23-33). Blue Jackets do lead the league in having the most even-strength shots and unblocked attempts for per 60 minutes — three more of each per game than the Leafs — but this is ridiculous.
Rielly eating up majority of ice vacated by Gardiner. He’s at 16:01 after 2. Zaitsev is next at 14:02, Dermott at 13:48, Polak 13:47 and Hainsey at 12:41. #tmltalk— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) February 15, 2018
Nutivaara turns the puck over to Marner right in front of the Blue Jackets’ net. Mitch’s shot is a good one but Korpisalo makes a quick pad save, sending the puck into the corner.
To correct the previous comment, apparently Gardiner is out with a lower-body injury and not a slash to the hand. Here’s hoping that it is not a serious injury.
Jake Gardiner ruled out with a lower body injury. #tmltalk— Paul Hendrick (@HennyTweets) February 15, 2018
Just like the first shift for the game, Bozak takes a shift with fourth-line wingers Komarov and Kapanen. Is Babcock doing this for real in lieu of a trade or call-up or just to troll the people hollering for Bozak to be demoted to the fourth line? They sure look good together.
Roman Polak and Boone Jenner get into a huge sword fight in front of the net. Both sides getting big two-handed slashes onto the others’ legs. You would think that Polak would stay with Jenner as the play progresses but he completely ignores him right at the exact second Brandon Dubinsky throws the puck to him in the blue paint forcing Freddy into making a world-class right leg save.
On the next shift, Kadri takes a holding penalty on Pierre-Luc Dubois sending the Leafs to their second man-disadvantage. With 20 seconds left in the kill, Leo Komarov gets away for a broken 2-on-1 with Zach Hyman. Leo is able to get the puck across to Hyman, but Korpisalo comes up with a piece of left-leg larceny, keeping the score at 4-3.
Dreamer gets his hat-trick goal! Marleau gives Marner the puck at the top of the slot. Good decision. Marner circles down to the right wing side and fires a pass through a maze of sticks to a wide open Kadri, who just has to tap the puck into the wide open cage for his fourth career hat-trick. First with Mitch Marner on his wing. Hot damn, Mitch. Hot. Damn.
Nick Foligno’s night started really well, but it may not end that way. Foligno elbows Dermott in the face after the 21-year-old defenseman falls onto him in the corner during a forecheck. He goes to the box for two minutes, leaving his team with two fewer minutes to try and tie a game Columbus desperately needs to win.
Hainsey and Zaitsev work well to retrieve the puck from below the goal-line. Zaitsev feeds Kadro, who touches the puck up to Uncle Leo. Leo bounces the puck off the boards to Marleau in the neutral zone. Patty doesn’t miss the empty net for his 19th goal of the season.
With the win, the Leafs are now 9-1 in their last 10 games. See you on Saturday when the Leafs travel to Pittsburgh to play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Hockey Night in Canada.