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Recap: Leafs dig out a win against the surprising Red Wings

The final score was 4-3, but the real question is, how did the fourth line centre play?

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

There seems to be a bit of an idea abroad in the land lately that Tomas Plekanec has been a big disappointment on the Leafs. He has no points in his 96 minutes of five-on-five play so far. That’s usually reported at 10 games because there is a general idea that 10 games might tell you something about a player. At less than 10 minutes per game? Yeah, I don’t think so.

He does have 2:52 of power play time without a point as well. By the way, did you know Josh Leivo has no power play points in 30 minutes of time on the man advantage?

Anyway, I decided to play along with this and flip the usual way we rate points, which is number of points scored per 60 minutes of five-on-five play Instead, I want to see how many minutes it takes the Leafs players to score one point at five-on-five.

Andreas Johnsson has one point in 39:33. That was easy, he only has the one. Kasperi Kapanen has one point for every 43.9 minutes he’s played. Josh Leivo has taken 33.3 minutes to get each point. Dom Moore is 39.26, Matt Martin is 31.35 and now for a decent sample size: Connor Brown with over 800 minutes played has taken 41.19 minutes to get each point. You get the point, I hope, that points take time to appear on the fourth line, and for a utility player, even if they get scoring line minutes, it can still be a hard slog between each one.

William Nylander, who leads the Leafs in five-on-five points with 40, has used 25.17 minutes to get each one. Auston Matthews uses 20.66 minutes to get each of his.

The other thing about points is that they aren’t carefully placed at intervals. Very good scorers can be consistent for long stretches, Nylander and Matthews are not bad in that regard, but your 4C is not your 4C because he puts up points like he’s punching the clock.

But, okay, how is Plekanec doing in a broader sense with his two young and fast linemates? Why don’t we watch that together in this game against Detroit, and see how they do.

This is the all (nearly) fourth line recap.

First Period

Weirdly, the Leafs are not on board with this, and they start the Kadri line, not the Plekanec line.

The fourth line come out on the fly after the Bozak line were spinning in circles a bit. Johnsson digs the puck out on the boards and they are off. Plekanec, er, mugs a guy up in the offensive zone corner while the youngsters look to shoot it on net. So far, so good for the fourth line. Kadri gets the offensive zone faceoff.

Okay, that Zach Hyman sorta-fight was hilarious, and his mom cheering him on in the stands was even better.

Plekanec takes the defensive zone faceoff after the fight. Dermott tries a stretch pass that fails, so the Leafs need to get the puck back. Dermott does, Polak moves it up and the pass misses and it’s icing.

James van Riemsdyk is on for Johnsson and has to stay with the rest of the fourth line. That faceoff leads to a shot on Andersen who freezes the puck. Bozak and Brown come out for the next faceoff, so that was it for that shift.

Johnsson is out with the Matthews line for a shift with Hyman in the box still, and they get a shot off.

A Dermott turnover leads to a penalty by Connor Brown, so it’s PK time for the other utility players.

Detroit win the faceoff and get a shot right away. The next draw results in Plekanec and Kapanen spending a lot of time in Detroit’s zone running the clock. Detroit cannot set up and are being harried by Kappy. Plekanec goes off.

Martin Frk gets a good shot on Kapanen’s side, but then the Leafs clear after the next chance. Andersen was the good PKer there.

Johnsson and Plekanec finish the PK, and Johnny draws a penalty!

Plekanec on the faceoff was good, Kapanen was great all over the ice, but Johnsson won that fourth line competition by ending the power play.

Boring good players are out for the four-on-four, but Johnsson’s out for the short power play and he gets a nice tip chance from the slot.

The next faceoff results in the Red Wings trying to clear the puck, and it goes over the glass. The Leafs have a five-on-three for 36 seconds. Naturally it’s all those top-nine type guys out there.

I’ll tell you what. The Red Wings PK is not half what Toronto has. Jimmy Howard is excellent, so it’s still 0-0.

Wow. The fourth line comes out flying, digging a puck out when Dermott loses his stick, and Johnsson just roars up the ice. It’s Dermott there on the left wing side to pass to, and he gets the shot off. Spectacular.

To be honest, Polak and Plekanec can’t keep up with that, but they don’t have to. You don’t need all five guys to be speedsters.

The Bozak line lose control, after a good shift, and the puck comes back to Andersen, who has to be a bit bored by now. That should mean fourth line time. It’s not. All of the Bozak line roll into the defensive zone.

Bozak carries the puck up and behind the play Brown swaps out for Kapanen. Van Riemsdyk is still there, and he digs the puck out of the corner bats it back to Kapanen who is in the slot, and he doesn’t see a lane, so he bats it back to Rielly, who shoots, and while van Riemsdyk ties up one guy by the net, he kicks the puck out into space. Bozak sneaks in, takes the puck, punts it to Kapanen who is moving into scoring position and bang! In it goes. .3333 of a fourth line goal.

1-0 Leafs.

The full fourth line get out on the ice after the TV timeout. Plekanec makes sure a faceoff is won, even if he loses it, and the Leafs are hard on the net, Johnsson and Plekanec, in other words. Dermott gets a post, after Polak had a good shot.

Back to the top-nine guys for the rest of the period. They don’t add to the score.

(Detroit is bad. Not Howard, though.)

Second Period

The top nine runs through a set of shifts, and the Bozak line are hot. The fourth line comes out on the fly and Kapanen trips over a Red Wing player, loses his stick goes up ice, and plays footy for a bit, very effectively.

The Red Wings try to move in with the puck, but the Leafs easily take it off. Kadri’s line comes out on a change.

Matthews is out, and a shot from the point is intercepted, and the Red Wings player has an easy pass up to Dylan Larkin who easily breaks right between Dermott and Polak. The pass was just too good and Larkin is faster than Dermott. Larkin scores.

1-1 Score.

Just as the fourth line is coming on, Rielly flubs a play and Frk gets a breakaway again. Andersen stops it. There’s a penalty shot because Ron Hainsey hooked Frk.

Andersen stops it easily, and the first was more dangerous.

The ref kicks Plekanec on the defensive zone faceoff that follows because Glendening fell down. Johnsson takes it, loses, but Detroit can’t control the puck.

Andersen pops a rebound out to Plekanec, who is off as if it’s a stretch pass. Rielly is still on, so he joins the offensive passing play, and Johnsson comes so close to scoring. Howard stole it.

Kadri’s line comes out, and for the next few shifts, Detroit looks very in this game.

Bozak’s line puts on heavy preasure, and the fourth line come out just as a whistle interrupts things.

The Leafs pin the Red Wings and steal the puck back right as soon as the Wings escape. This is a more typical hard forecheck fourth-line shift. Kadri comes out for Plekanec as the Red Wings have sneaked their top line out.

The Wings move the puck towards the Leafs blueline, Rielly chops at it way over on Hainsey’s side, and the puck ends up in the corner, the Wings have it, the Leafs get sorted out into position, this looks okay, but Todd Tyler Bertuzzi scores on a screened shot. No one really did anything about the man with the puck. But that’s the Leafs.

2-1 Red Wings.

Plekanec with a faceoff win on his next go, and his wingers are off and pressuring offensively. They pin the Wings again, but get no really good chances. If this was tougher competition, there would be no fourth-line shifts down a goal.

The Bozak line plays a great shift, control the puck, play their low to high pass, and a superb Dermott shot is deflected by Brown.

2-2 Score.

Fourth line is out again! Offensive zone pressure follows. The shift is short and a whistle takes us to the TV timeout.

Ahhhhhhh Borje Salming is here watching the game!!!

We’re back to the top nine again, but the fourth comes out on cue. Johnsson makes a neat steal right off the stick of the Red Wings at speed, and they pressure, but they aren’t getting very dangerous looking chances.

Red Wings take a penalty, so that shift is done. Johnsson is on the second unit, and he gets another shot.

The period ends with the score tied.

Moneypuck.com tells me that the fourth line has an xGF% of nearly 70 at five-on-five. But their actual Expected Goals is not a high number. They are just not allowing anything against.

Third Period

Kadri starts the period again, and after handing a lot of chances to the Red Wings in the second, the Leafs need a good third.

The fourth-line comes out and there is almost immediately a whistle. A lost faceoff leads to some Detroit pressure.

The Red Wings bring out the first line, trying to catch Babcock sleeping, but it fails and that short shift is done as Kadri comes back out.

The next top-nine rotation didn’t generate anything, and Bozak’s line is on the ice with Polak and Dermott just as the change should happen when the Wings cycle the puck with no effective counter from the Leafs. The Red Wings put the puck in and then there’s a question from the refs about goalie interference before the shot went in. The refs waive the goal off on goalie contact.

The Red Wings, naturally, challenge this call. And since no one knows what interference is, that ruling is overturned and it’s a goal. Whatever.

[Video will be added when available.]

3-2 Red Wings.

The Leafs put on pressure with the top nine.

And the tops of the top nine play bing, bang boom, and Nylander ties the game. Hell of a shift from the men in charge of this team.

3-3 Score.

The Bozak line play a short shift and the fourth line comes out on the fly.

It’s all defender plus Plekanec action in the defensive zone, but no one is taking the puck off of Detroit as their top line has come out again. Kappy gets loose, but he can’t score. He does draw a penalty.

Johnsson plays on the first unit (the usual second unit), which does okay, but the second unit, now featuring Kadri and Matthews gets the dangerous chance.

The Kadri line is out after the power play, and those young Leafs and their speed! Wow, that young Patrick Marleau just roars up the ice, passes it to Kadri and in!

4-3 Leafs.

Will Babcock use the fourth line with a one-goal lead and seven minutes left?

The answer is no, with some of Roman Polak’s shifts getting handed out to others. But those offensive top-nine guys hung on for the win!

So, in a normal game the fourth line would play a little less with the third pair. There were some obvious benefits to the depth in a game against a bad team, but I saw little to complain about with Plekanec. He’s not exciting, but he gets the job done.