[20:00 - 15:00]
The Leafs get a strong first shift with their fourth line against the Canadiens’ first. However, the Habs rebound in the following few plays. A scary moment occurs as a scramble in front of the net leads to McElhinney tumbling all over the place. He appears to be fine, which is fortunate.
On his first shift, Andreas Johnsson receives a nice flip pass from Connor Carrick and slides it to Zach Hyman deftly for a breakaway. He’s stopped by Lindgren.... nice move, but a nicer save.
[15:00 - 10:00]
I’m beginning to see how the Canadiens have good shot results and terrible goal results. They had a nice sustained shift in the offensive zone against the Nylander line... it resulted in a total of 5 point shots, all of which were blocked or missed.
That said, they are getting the better of the play so far, and Artturi Lehkonen and Alex Galchenyuk in particular look strong tonight.
[10:00 - 5:00]
Yeah, Toronto, you’re welcome to start playing anytime. The Habs are bad, but they’re not Buffalo. So far, the Leafs aren’t doing a whole lot. They also catch a break, as Bozak high-sticks Galchenyuk, but the refs either don’t see it or don’t call it.
Kadri and his group finally get a strong shift, along with Rielly/Hainsey. Not great chances, but it’s better than before. The Leafs continue to build on it in the subsequent shifts, and eventually, are rewarded as Galchenyuk takes a somewhat brainless penalty for closing his hand on the puck. Leafs to the power play.
[5:00 - 0:00]
The Leafs have their customary awesome power play, and as always, Mitch Marner delights. He makes a beautiful cross-ice pass to Bozak, who has to cradle it for a second, giving Lindgren the time to get over and make a great save. Impressive from the American.
But he can’t save the next shot, which arrives off the stick of William Nylander. He walks in off the right circle and fires it far side. 1-0 Leafs. It’s especially nice to see the second unit do something on the power play... they’ve been rather ineffective all year, though if I’m nitpicking, they still didn’t really generate a great shot. It’s the same Nylander right circle wrister, which is nice, but probably not something that you can create a successful power play around.
Not much else happens for the rest of the period, but Dermott made a nice play rubbing out a Hab in the offensive zone to start a breakout. Nothing earth-shattering, but one of those little plays you like to see, especially as his defensive zone play is a relative weakness of his at this point in his career.
The Habs get some zone time, but consistent with the lack of talent on their roster (especially in tank mode), they are unable to turn them into shots on goal, as the Leafs (who are no one’s idea of a well-executing team in the defensive zone) block or cut down the angle on all of them.
[20:00 - 15:00]
We have a fairly boring start to the period.... this is not a high quality hockey game thus far. Johnsson shows a brief glimpse of quality, as he takes a pass from Hyman and absolutely hammers it into the chest of Lindgren. He follows up on the next shift with a few more shot attempts, which is always promising... he certainly knows where to be in the offensive zone.
Just one shift later, Travis Dermott makes a phenomenal bank pass to Kasperi Kapanen, who has a step on his defender, and you know he’s not losing that race. Kappy roofs it on the breakaway, and the Leafs get a 2-0 lead.
The Leafs start to pour it on, as a brilliant Lindgren save is required to stop Mitch Marner from turning it into a rout. I said it wasn’t a high quality hockey game, but the Leafs really turned it up in the last three minutes to make me look dumb.
[15:00 - 10:00]
Everyone’s getting in on it now! A Bozak pass finds James van Riemsdyk in the slot, but Lindgren is up to the task again. He’s been really good... this could easily be 4-0. He makes another strong save on Johnsson, as he deftly executes the high-tip off a point shot that the Leafs do so much. Toronto is dominating now, shift after shift.
Eventually, Montreal takes a penalty, and you could really feel that coming. Alzner gets the gate for holding, and the Leafs have a chance to blow this game open.
The Leafs have a typical Leafs power play (first period notwithstanding). Nylander’s unit does almost nothing, Marner’s unit immediately establishes control and forces a great save. That’s being harsh... Nylander nearly gets a second goal, but Lindgren makes another ridiculous save.
[10:00 - 5:00]
Luckily, Nylander’s unit has been better at even strength. They generate another strong set of chances.
The Habs finally answer back with some offense of their own, as Lehkonen gets a chance in front, which McElhinney deals with adeptly. Less adept was his attempt at handling the puck, which led to a seemingly empty net for a Montreal player to shoot into. In typical Montreal fashion, they weren’t able to convert on the gift, in part thanks to some A+ disaster recovery from McElhinney.
Polak decides that the Habs aren’t creating enough offense on their own, so he decides to give them sum. He tosses a backhand muffin in front of his own net, which Galchenyuk very nearly capitalizes on. Strong save from McElhinney.
[5:00 - 0:00]
If it’s not clear, the Leafs have been dominant, and they demonstrate it with another fourth line goal. Kapanen gets his brace, and makes it 3-0, after pouncing on a rebound. The zone entry was created with some brilliant skating by Rielly.
There’s a whiff of goalie interference, as Plekanec was knocked into Lindgren and impeded him. Montreal does challenge, and the goal is overturned. Back to 2-0 Toronto. Probably the right call, to be honest.
The Leafs keep it coming. Montreal gets a shot or two away, but really, this is all Toronto. Johnsson nearly gets his first, for what feels like the tenth time this game. That Nylander line has been buzzing the whole period, to a higher degree than the rest of the Leafs even. They’ve been paired often with Carrick and Dermott, who have also been excellent.
Brown, who has been among the quieter Leafs forwards draws a high sticking penalty on Michael McCarron, so the Leafs go back to the power play.
We get to see a bit of a hybrid unit, which generates some nice chances, but the Leafs just can’t get it by the goalie. But after a whistle, the Leafs top unit comes back on, and does what they do. Marner passes it to Kadri for the high tip, which flutters into the top corner. 3-0 Leafs.
This power play unit is amazing.... they have pet moves and setups, but they also have counters for each of them, so they’re very much a ‘pick-your-poison’ setup. Take away JvR and you leave the slot open for the high tip. Pressure Marner and you end up with a 4-on-3 elsewhere. It’s dynamite.
The period ends, and that was utterly dominant by the Leafs. Just phenomenal.
[20:00 - 15:00]
Johnsson gets another shot in the early going, his sixth of the evening. With that, he now passes the production of the average undergrad at the University of Toronto tonight.
It’s more of the same now. Occasionally, the Habs will venture into the Leafs zone and get an non-dangerous shot or two. Usually, it’s the Drouin/Gallagher/Byron line doing something... if not them, then Lehkonen and Glachenyuk combining. But these forays are few and far between, and the Leafs are sending wave after wave into the Canadiens zone.
[15:00 - 10:00]
Nicolas Deslaurier and Travis Dermott exchange slashes/cross-checks in front, but the Canadien makes the mistake of being the guy to hit first and last, so he gets a penalty called on him.
The power play ends before it really starts, as Bozak trips someone and we end up with 4-on-4.
Drouin largely dominates the 4-on-4, circling the zone multiple times and firing a few shots at the net. The Habs have some really excellent chances that they either miss or are saved by McElhinney to preserve the shutout. The lower emphasis on structure seems to lend itself well to Drouin’s strengths, by the way. But we go back to 5-on-5 without any changes to the scoreline.
[10:00 - 0:00]
Yeah, I’m combining the last 10 minutes into one block, because little interesting happened here.
The one interesting thing that did happen was Johnsson’s first NHL goal. Carrick makes a heads-up play to find Hyman unmolested at the blueline. He drives wide and centres for Johnsson, who finally pots one home after being around the net the whole night. 4-0 Toronto and a well deserved goal for the young Swede.
The game ends 4-0. Let’s just get into the thoughts.
- The Leafs beat up on a terrible team with little NHL talent. That’s exactly what they should do — job well done.
- What’s left to say about McElhinney. He sold his soul to SOMEONE, but as long as he keeps doing this, I don’t care at all.
- Johnsson succeeded when placed in an offensive role with Nylander and Hyman. He’s great in the offensive zone, and his shot generation was very impressive. He was justly rewarded with his goal. At the same time, this is a BAD Canadiens team, so I want to see this a little more before calling it more than one awesome game.
- Marner is amazing on the power play, and the difference between the first and second units is so stark. The first runs through Marner and is predicated largely on JvR’s net prowess. From there, they establish counters: the high tip, the cross-crease pass, and Rielly’s point shot. It’s beautiful to watch. The second unit is predicated on Nylander and Matthews being great shooters... and without Matthews, that threat often falls flat.
- Dermott and Carrick were excellent. They generally are if they don’t have to play in their own zone.
- Really, just about every Leaf was good. I don’t have a lot to add, except that game was awesome, and we should all politely remind any Habs-based websites of this game at all future opportunities.