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Never in doubt: Panthers 0 - Leafs 1

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Freddie picks up the shutout as the Leafs beat the Cats

NHL: Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

It’s a cagey start for both teams, with not much happening until the Leafs take a too many men penalty just over two minutes in. It feels like the Leafs take a lot of these. Florida has a good power play, and it shows, as they maintain a lot of puck possession and generate quite a few decent chances. The Leafs are able to kill it off though. Immediately after, Marner nearly gets on a two-on-one, but is just unable to dangle the last defender.

[15:00 - 10:00]

This was heading to be another boring 5-minute segment, until Aleksander Barkov receives a beautiful pass from behind the net and fires a shot from the slot. Andersen rescues the Leafs, as he does so often.

The next shift sees Matthews’ unit express themselves offensively for a couple strong chances. No goals, but the game finally has opened up a little.

[10:00 - 5:00]

The Bozak group capitalizes on a solid zone entry from Zaitsev and drives the net repeatedly. Luongo is still holding up, and he’s more than capable of doing that for anotehr 45 minutes or so. Otherwise, not too much happens in this block.

[5:00 - 0:00]

Huberdeau gets a point blank shot that seemingly beats Freddie, but hits Denis Malgin, who inadvertently blocks it. Meanwhile, Bozak’s group has another solid shift, along with Polak/Dermott. That line has been pretty decent, in my opinion, even without Marner on it.

Speaking of looking good, Kasperi Kapanen turns on the afterburners after receiving a puck in the neutral zone, and turns a routine play into a breakaway. His shot misses the net, unfortunately, but his blazing speed was on full display.

It looks like the first period will end scoreless, but James van Riemsdyk gets is 25th of the season. Bozak spots him lurking at the left faceoff dot, and his shot goes five-hole on Luongo. 1-0 Leafs.

As an aside, it is insane how often Romanuk identifies Connor Brown as William Nylander, or vice-versa. He did it again in the lead-up to that goal. Their numbers are similar, and they’re right handed shots. Aside from that, the two don’t skate, play, or move anything alike. It drives me absolutely insane.

Anyways, the Leafs exit the first with the lead thanks to JvR. The Leafs are dominating play at even strength, with Florida’s power play the only thing keeping it close on the shot clock. Gardiner and Zaitsev, in particular, look excellent... they’re feasting (along with Matthews’ and Bozak’s lines) on Florida right now.

Second Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

Early on in the second, the Panthers create more offense than they did in the first, at least at even strength. The first two shifts are mostly spent in the Leafs zone. But the Bozak line breaks the pattern and as is their wont, feasts on the dregs of this Florida roster.

The Kadri line has one of their best shifts on the season, punctuated by a beautiful shot-cum-pass from Zaitsev that leads to a high tip and goalmouth scramble. Gardiner gets a high slot shot in the aftermath of the scramble that Luongo saves.

Matthews’ line has had three shifts in the first five minutes of this period, and have surrendered shots against on all of them, while generating none of their own. Not ideal. They’re back down to even in shot attempts, after dominating the Panthers in the first.

[15:00 - 10:00]

But as I say that, Matthews jumps on a loose puck, and draws a penalty. With the goalie pulled, Matthews hits the post after a great pass from JvR.

The Kadri unit on the power play has a great start with oodles of zone time and pressure, but towards the end of their shift, Rielly falls and Colton Sceviour gets a breakaway. Andersen deals with it, and the Leafs exit the power play tied. In general, this has been a slightly less successful period than the first, but still solid.

Evidently, Kadri hears my cry, and makes a beautiful move to create a two-on-one with Marleau. His pass is right on the money, but Marleau misses.

[10:00 - 5:00]

Rielly makes a really excellent defensive play on Evgeny Dadonov to prevent a scoring chance after he steals it at his own blue line. Shortly after, Kadri and Marleau get another two-on-one. This time, Kadri shoots, but the different decision begets the same result. Kadri was shooting for a rebound, but the Panthers played it well.

Greg Millen takes a stoppage in play to praise Dale Tallon. Every mention of Dale Tallon should mention that he is responsible for giving the first place Golden Knights two of their best players. It’s insane how little shit he’s gotten for the abject job he’s done in Florida since his return. Absolutely mind-boggling.

By the way, Zaitsev just totally shut down a Barkov power move... he’s good at defending in his own zone! He’s just terrible at getting out of it, and is too willing to concede it. I don’t have any illusions of this changing drastically as his career progresses, and to an extent, the Leafs are already limiting these flaws by pairing him with Gardiner, who is comparatively strong at both of those things.

Florida’s depth has a rare moment of competence, as they have a strong shift against Dermott/Polak and the Bozak line. Polak turns the puck over below his goal line, leading to a chance for Jared McCann. Andersen does his thing, and it’s still 1-0.

The Leafs ice the puck, but on the ensuing play, JvR draws a penalty. The Leafs head back to the power play.

[5:00 - 0:00]

The Matthews group on the power play just seems so toothless... they get nothing done on the power play. There’s a lot of chatter about how Matthews deserves more power play time, but based on how they’ve done this year, they don’t. The Kadri unit is much, much stronger. And as if to prove my point, that unit comes on and immediately generates a great chance for Marner.

Dermott is wonderfully creative in the offensive zone. He obviously has a lot of room for improvement in his own zone, but his play outside of it is strong. He makes a nifty move to free himself up for a shot late in the period.

Marner flashes his patience with the puck again, finding Jake with a beautiful cross-ice pas. Gardiner is unable to turn it on net quickly enough to get a good shot off, but he re-centres the puck, where Marleau just turns it wide.

Another relatively strong period for the Leafs, though certainly not as good as the first. Of course, with only a one-goal lead to show for it, the game still feels more tenuous than it probably should.

Kadri’s entire line has stood out very positively for me among the forwards, with Zaitsev doing the same on defense.

Third Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

Marleau is robbed again by Luongo... the two oldest players on the ice have both been in fine form, but it feels like the Kadri line is going to score eventually. They’ve been the Leafs’ strongest group on the night.

As I say that, Marleau takes an interference penalty, and the strong Panthers power play gets the chance to tie the game

[15:00 - 10:00]

They nearly do just that... their top unit is scary. I suppose that’s to be expected given how top heavy they are as a team, especially at forward. But despite the pressure, Andersen and the Leafs penalty kill do their job, and keep the lead.

The Matthews line really fell off a cliff after the first period. Have done nothing offensively in the rest of the game. They’ve been fortunate that the Leafs defense has held firm.

[10:00 - 5:00]

Matthews tees up a one-timer off the stick of Nylander, but it gets saved. As play goes the other way, the Panthers get a great chance and nearly a rebound off a scramble in front, but it gets swept away from the net in time. The Panthers have slowly begun to shift the tide of shots away from the Leafs, which is to be expected due to score effects, but is still not ideal.

[5:00 - 0:00]

Florida is at the part of the game where they’ll throw anything to the net. So expect a lot of defensive zone faceoffs, Andersen freezing the puck, and little offense for the Leafs (except from the Kadri line, because they are the only Leafs forward group who have been consistently excellent tonight).

That’s not totally fair to the Bozak and Moore groups, who have been solid. In particular, Kapanen has been electric, and Brown / JvR competent as well. But the Kadri group has generated so many dangerous chances for the Leafs.

Bozak sets up Komarov for a tap-in, and honestly, I have no idea how he didn’t score. I know we say this often about Komarov, but it’s insane that he couldn’t finish that. Right now, I’m not sure he can finish his dinner. Maybe he starred in the Finnish version of Space Jam last summer?

He’s back on the ice now, doing what he’s better at — playing defense. No amazing chances for Florida in the last five minutes, which is about as ideal a situation as you can hope for if you’re the Leafs.

The Leafs turtling works! They suppress chances, even with the Panthers net empty, and they secure the win!