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Recap: Leafs surprise the Red Wings with a win in the final minute

Maple Leafs win it 3-2 on a beauty that came at just the right time.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to play back end of a back-to-back with the backup in net. The Leafs cannot loll around in their own zone watching the goalie play defence for them when that goalie is Curtis McElhinney, so they will need to play decently against the very bad, yet still capable Red Wings.

Speed should decide this game offensively, as in one team has some and the other does not. The Leafs should just hand the Corsi crown to Detroit right now.

Mike Green is out with an inflammation of his trade muscle, and the Leafs have swapped in Connor Carrick for Roman Polak. Other than that, it’s business as usual.

First Period

It’s a sea of red in Detroit for this game. Red empty seats, that is, although it has filled up in the cheap seats by the end of the slow, slow anthems.


The Leafs start out with some no-look turnover passes and some actual shots.

McE is frozen solid as a shot goes wide, so it’s that sort of night.

Paul Romanuk just gave out “collective plus/minus” as a stat. This is where he adds up the plus/minus of three players on a line. Stats are in, we should do stats, they said in the meeting, and this is what they came up with, I guess.

If there’s one thing the Red Wings are good at it’s ring around the rosy passing cycles in the offensive zone. And if there’s one thing the Leafs are good at, it’s standing and watching those.


The Leafs low-to-high offensive system is such a stark contrast to the Red Wings. Turnovers ensue, but then so do scoring chances from dangerous areas.

They play a montage of Jake Gardiner’s night last night, and yeah, pretty damning. It’s frustrating though, that people genuinely believe that’s how he always plays.

McE has a few easy saves to make, but nothing he can’t handle, but it’s ring around the rosy time again. Leafs get lucky when an empty half of the net goes unfilled on a fanned shot.

McE looks a bit shaky and is kicking out his huge rebounds direct to the slot. The Leafs could stand to control the play a little. Let’s not be too ambitious, but shoot for 35% Corsi maybe.


Leafs are getting mad, and likely yelled at, so the heavy forechecking is starting to happen in the offensive zone.

Matthews hits future Flyer Petr Mrazek in the mask with a shot and the whistle goes before the rebound is buried in the net.

I’m now officially obsessed with how different their offensive styles are. Mitch Marner camps in the slot, the Red Wings are like kids just learning to skate who don’t want to be too far from the boards.

Broadcast is discussing “getting pucks through to the net from the point”. The Leafs are really bad at this, actually, and generally have a worse Fenwick (unblocked shots) percentage than the Corsi. Some of that is high volume forwards shooting from questionable locations and getting blocked a lot, some of that is limited defensive blocking. But the fact that the Leafs don’t shoot from the point much is likely one reason why they do as well as they do at scoring.

The low-to-high technique relies on defenders moving in with the puck to shoot so forwards can get the rebounds. Rielly, Borgman, Dermott, Zaitsev, Gardiner do this. Polak, Hainsey and Carrick just wail on ‘er.


Hainsey with a great shot that’s from way out, but I will say, he’s very good at taking smart shots even from a distance.

Spectacularly bad defensive shift by Matthews, Nylander and Komarov with Hainsey and Rielly. Epic levels of ineptitude and “to the line but not out” and just, holy crap, guys, get your shit together. That was a guaranteed goal from even a halfway decent team.

Kadri’s line finishes this rather dull and scoreless period with a chance. It’s their turn to get the zone time, it seems. The Matthews line follows up with a little flurry that almost looks lively.

The Numbers

Despite my snark, the Leafs finished up on the right side of the shot differentials thanks to a flurry that began about the time they started forechecking. The results look good, but the execution in the defensive zone was really poor for most of the game. That’s a dangerous way to play.

That’s a lot more point shots than usual for the Leafs, but also all of their usual high-danger low-slot action.

Second Period

We begin the second period with some Corsi stats, and okay, this is a thing they do now on Sportsnet. Neato.


Red Wings with a chance I could likely save, and they just are not shooting screened or from in tight at all. I’m not complaining, but they just look so lacklustre.

Nylander does the low-to-high move all on his own, no need to pass, he just takes it for a skate until there’s a pass opening. That was Zetterberg that did that to the tanking Leafs early in Babcock’s Leafs’ career, wasn’t it? Payback.

Kadri line gets a flurry at the net. I think it should be called the Marner line because he is the driving force.

Oh, Luke Glendening draws a penalty. He had terrible numbers in the first period, but he just used his size to steamroller down the ice, and now the Red Wings have a power play.


McE makes a good glove save in traffic.

Shorty chance for the Leafs: drink.

Oh, my, god, how did that not go in? McE had been moved out of position, the net was gaping. Abdelkader shoots it wide.

Gustav Nyquist rockets a shot in, and it’s tipped, and now it’s 1-0 for the Red Wings, and one of the worst power plays scores on one of the best penalty kills on their second really good chance.

Nylander fans on a rush shot: drink.

Jake! That’ll teach ‘em to make video montages of your bad days! Gardiner fires in a perfect shot, and it gets tipped. This was not a stand and wail ‘er shot by Gardiner, it was a carefully placed shot while he was moving laterally.

1-1 on the Scoreboard.

And suddenly it’s a Marner goal virtually off the faceoff! Great shot from Marner on a smart move that has some similarities to Gardiner’s shot. I love watching a guy score a goal with his brain.

2-1 Leafs.

Matthews takes the puck down the right wing, slams the brakes on, and passes to Nylander, who shoots, and you know, guys, switch it up like this a little more often. I know it physically pains Matthews not to shoot, but their plays have a predictability to them.


Brown gets a sweet chance that Ouellet breaks up with a slash, so it’s a Leafs power play.

Oh, ho. Maybe Glendening does want to be a Leaf. He turns a block into a chance the other way. Nice set of plays on the PK.

Bozak has caught the fan on the shot sickness, and he lets a nearly empty net go unfilled, but the Leafs are controlling the puck well and get multiple chances.

The Leafs are moving faster, and keeping the Red Wings from getting set up in the zone, so no more passing circles.


Red Wings take a penalty for shooting the puck over the glass and the Leafs get another power play chance.

There is no power in the power play. The Leafs struggle to get setup and when they do, the passing isn’t making the Red Wings PKers move like you want them to.

And look who it is carrying the puck down the ice on a shorty chance — Glendening. I’d take this guy on $1,8 million for even three years, I think. Everyone has too much term.

Leafs let the Red Wings finish the period controlling the puck, like good neighbours.


The Leafs are taking it to the Detroit team and tipping the proportion of shots from in close in a very dangerous direction.

They made the bench too short in a brand new rink? You do you, Wings.

Third Period


A tetchy board battle in the offensive zone for the Leafs is there first sign of major effort. The play comes right back to the Leafs end, and there’s a wrestling match behind the net between Abdelkader and Carrick. The refs can’t be bothered to penalize anyone.

Someone poured molasses on the ice and slooowed this gamed down.


The Leafs need to play the fourth line a bit more to save tired legs now, but they’ve been dull tonight.

Matthews stopped on the doorstep. Mrazek is player of the game for the Red Wings for sure.

And of course the fourth line gets some zone time because I said that.

Hyman with a breakaway under pressure, and Mrazek sticks with him, good save.

The game is not slow anymore, and that’s not good because the Red Wings have a rush that gets defended well, and then...I don’t know. This is frustrating, because Carrick defends Nyquist fine, the rest of the Leafs roar into position, they aren’t in a panic or under pressure, the Red Wings are all older than most or their dads, but they just stand stock still and stare at the puck.

Zetterberg gets his eighth of the year (!!!) by just sauntering in for a pass. Easy.

2-2 on the scoreboard.


Kapanen gets loose and hits the jets, and...

Kasperi Kapanen! Young man, you will stop passing to Leo Komarov on a two-on-one! Leo misses a wide open net.

They show a montage of Leo’s failures lately, so he’s bound to score now.

Leo tries to get a boarding penalty, but the ref is unwilling.

Good pad save by McE after he bobbles the puck. That’s really his scouting report in one sentence.


This irritating game looks like it’s lurching towards OT. The Leafs are trying to open things up, the Red Wings are closing them down.

The Leafs fans in the Pizza Box are in full volume.

Zaitsev fans on a shot. It’s an epidemic.

Noooo. McE is out of his net, and he does a kinda neat fake pass behind him. But I get scared when he wanders.

Mrazek has to make a huge save on Marleau. Really, Flyers, pull the trigger on this deal.

Auston Matthews!!!! He saves us from OT!!! He is the hero. 3-2 Leafs.

Hyman and Nylander with brilliant play without the puck make this goal happen. They are all geniuses in the offensive zone away from the puck, and not-geniuses in their own end.

Leafs win it!