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Recap: Maple Leafs win a wild one over the Ducks 7-4

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It was a grinder’s duel for one period, and then all hell broke loose.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks are a strange team. All there stats, even taking into account their injuries, say they are the worst coached team in the NHL. Their special teams are bad, their five-on-five is bad, and when John Gibson isn’t in net, usually their goaltending is bad.

But the thing about a team like that is, the players are still who they are. They still have skill and talent and know what they’re doing most of the time.

In addition to their basic abilities, they shit the bed against the Habs and they’re mad about that. It seems like this is the fourth or fifth time that’s happened, where a road team rolls into Toronto all angry over their play in the previous game and looking to prove themselves and get some stress relief.

Well, okay. The Leafs need to play hard every night, and having a walk against a truly bad team or a team playing poorly doesn’t do much for you except pad your goal differential. Playing against a team that plays you hard is what makes you better. That fizzled in Boston, this is try number two at it with the new lines.

First Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

The Ducks are bigger and stronger. This is simply the truth, and while the Leafs try to counter that with speed, they achieve mostly chaos at first, while the Ducks win every board battle and race for the puck

The Leafs one good chance is an interesting reminder that Ryan Miller isn’t much of a goalie anymore. He ends up so far out of the blue paint on a chance in tight by Marner and Marleau, that if fate had been kinder, that would have been goal.

At the other end of the ice, Frederik Andersen would like to know if you want brown toast or white with those scrambled eggs. He is working it hard to keep the Leafs in this game early on, and the post gives him some assistance.

As the first five minutes comes to a close, the Leafs are finding some success in getting into the offensive zone quickly, but they can’t cycle against the tougher Ducks, so they need to shoot it fast.

[15:00 - 10:00]

One thing you get from the Matthews line, all three of them, is passing that’s clean and smart. They get one chance from that aided by their speed, and then Gardiner makes the right play to Nylander, who punts it to Hyman who gives it to the man who should always have the puck:

1-0 Leafs on a play that Miller looked worse on than he did the earlier chance.

The Leafs are immediately hemmed in post-goal, and Zaitsev takes a penalty when he brings down a Duck out of season.

The Ducks power play is not all that clever-looking, but repeatedly the Leafs nearly clear the puck, buy not quite. There’s a few guilty parties, all players who usually do much better, but they strung their failures together into four shots on goal for the Ducks.

[10:00 - 5:00]

The Leafs make Andersen work a little post PK, and then they come on strong with a couple of scoring chances, including a Marner chance where he picks up a sweet turnover.

The Ducks take an interference call drawn by Nylander, and the Leafs get a power play chance.

The Leafs power play looks very hot with a lot of good puck movement and some shots on goal. But the Ducks get a chance when they muscle Marner right off the puck in the neutral zone and turn it over.

The post power play defensive line for the Leafs plays the best I’ve ever seen it. It’s just the fourth line, no strange combination, but it works.

[5:00 - 0:00]

The Leafs are succeeding a lot more in the defensive zone at winning the small battles. In the offensive zone, they’re even better. This looks like the start of something good here.

There’s a pile of bodies in front of Andersen caused by Adam Henrique, a very good pick up by the Ducks. The faceoff is right in front of Andersen, and as the play goes on, Polak is dumped hard in front of the net, and it seems the AHL was lurking inside Travis Dermott still: He runs at and cheap shots Kase, and the Leafs will finish this period on the PK.

This second try at the power play is better for the Ducks, and they control the puck due to their own efforts until the second PK unit gets out there and has better luck disrupting things.

The period ends with the penalty just over.

Notable Players

William Nylander was excellent without the puck and better with it.

Roman Polak was very strong defensively, literally and figuratively, and was very good on the PK.

Matthews’ line was excellent when they had chances, they just had too few. The fourth line was mostly invisible, and Bozak and van Riemsdyk are carrying their line but not connecting on their passes so far.

Second Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

The second period starts out good with a little offensive zone time, but then the Kadri line gets locked in the defensive zone, and Getzlaf gets a goal after a bad turnover by Marner along the boards.

1-1 on the scoreboard.

Last year’s Leafs would be on their heels from this early goal, but that’s the past. Andersen holds them in when they need him too, and they chip away at the puck while struggling to get out of their own zone. They’re in the battle, but it’s going to take hard work.

[15:00 - 10:00]

Suddenly the fourth line is alive, and they’ve got Dermott deking and diving with them, and this is the other thing that lurks inside him — intense offensive skill and smarts. He keeps it up in the defensive zone, and his job out here with Polak is to man the puck. Man it, he does.

The Matthews line get some speed and skill going next, and suddenly it’s the Leafs’ game again.

A turnover off a faceoff gives the Leafs the puck, and no mistake! William Nylander with a great shot.

2-1 Leafs.

The Leafs are really on the puck, defensively sound, moving it forward getting chances, and the result is a heartbreaker considering how Andersen has kept them in it.

The Ducks just put on a clinic on puck control and passing, and he has no chance.

2-2 on the scoreboard.

The Ducks are right back in the zone, working the puck and controlling the play.

The leafs take a penalty for high-sticking, always a dumb one, and the Ducks get a well-timed (for them) power play.

[10:00- 5:00]

The Leafs do well on the PK, particularly Kapanen who hacks the puck off of the Ducks puck carrier in a move that looks practiced because it is. The idea that he would go back to the AHL for Nikita Soshnikov is absurd.

Well, they do well on the PK until the very end.

3-2 Ducks on a play Andersen looks a bit week on.

This game did not seem like it would be a goalfest in that tight gritty first period.

This is a mess, Leafs, how do you get out of it?

The plan seems to be to play their game, move the puck, try to skate.

After a game full of jousting between Andersen and Corey Perry, Perry drives right through the blue paint, and takes out Andersen. He actually does it by kicking him in the head as he’s flying out of the way.

Andersen comes out of the net for the first time this year. Curtis McElhinney comes in.

Leafs. You need to put the pedal down and take control of this game.

The Leafs get a break when the Ducks take a slashing call. This power play needs to be fully powered.

Connor Brown passes to nowhere, and it fizzles at first.

[5:00 - 0:00]

Oh that’s fully powered! Yes sir, that was all the way to 11. Kadri to Marner to tie the game with a gorgeous goal after a failed shorty breakaway by the Ducks:

3-3 on the scoreboard.

Ducks get a post, and McE makes a save right after, and he’s finally getting some work in.

The game is chippier, but also more open. In theory, that should favour the Leafs.

Komarov is busy forechecking on a line change doing his job, and Kadri gets the puck and hands it to Gardiner who floats it in for Komarov to deflect. What a goal for the fourth line!

4-3 Leafs.

I hate to say it, but over to you, Ducks. That’s how this game has been going. Instead the whole Kadri line is out there with chances.

Another post for the Ducks!

Suddenly Tyler Bozak is in beast mode! What’s going on? He draws a penalty and the delayed penalty 6-on-5 is wild. There’s only 35 seconds, though, so not much happens.

Notable Players

Ryan Getzlaf, to be honest.

All of the Leafs top four defenders have been solid, with Gardiner the obvious standout. I’ve like the third pair too most of the time.

The Kadri line has been hot, but the Bozak line was ice cold until the end of the period.

Third Period

[20:00 - 15:00]

We start on the power play for a minute and a half. The Leafs get chances, but not enough of them. The power play ends with the best one, a pass from Nylander to Matthews.

The Leafs get a chance right after the power play ends, and then the play swings down the other way and McE lets in a horrible goal on a leaky RVH. This should not happen.

4-4 on the scoreboard.

That’s a real heartbreaker. What a dreadful goal to give up to open the third period. That’s a lot of hockey to get to a tie game.

The Ducks play pinball in the Leafs’ end, and the game is out of control.

It’s so out of control, Gardiner laces a loooong stretch pass to Nylander who fires that one home!

5-4 Leafs!

Okay, McE, hold the door.

[15:00 - 10:00]

Babcock is willingly playing his fourth line, and damn, but they very nearly score, just dribbles past the post. Their speed can kill as much as the top line’s can.

McE kicks out one of his amazing rebounds. They go so far, they surprise everyone.

Babcock is playing this like he really wants the next goal, putting Dermott with Rielly. Looks like Polak is getting some nice safe Jake-time.

[10:00 - 5:00]

The Ducks are either starting to look tired, or that’s my wishful thinking.

Bad clearing attempt leads to bad play leads to a turnover leads to play going the Leafs way, and all they need to do is win more of those than they lose.

[5:00 - 0:00]

Hainsey is a victim of the Leafs own speed, slowly dying as they roar back into their own end, and he can’t get off. In the messed up change that follows Kapanen ends up on the ice with Matthews and Hyman. A recipe for even more speed.

6-4 LEAFS!

The Ducks are done!

Hyman gets an ENG to end it and the final is 7-4 Leafs!

Final Thoughts

None that are coherent! I have not looked at any Corsi data, that’s nonsense in a game like this. When it all breaks open into this sort of chaos, it’s time to take the chances you get and make the most of them. The Leafs succeeded in doing that with skill, and speed. The Ducks failed when their strength and limited scoring threats weren’t enough.

If that had been Gibson in net, though...well, it wasn’t, so forget it. It’s a wild and woolly win!