Two years ago the Leafs lost to the Devils on the last day and secured last place. Last year, in their big push to make the playoffs via the last wild card spot, the Leafs beat the Devils near the end of the season. Now here we are with the skate on the other foot, and the Devils are right where the Leafs were last year. They want to win this game to secure a playoff spot. The Leafs want to win because they always do.
So Connor Carrick is playing 3LD with Roman Polak on the right. I hate it right away. Carrick lets a guy flee the zone with the puck, and he looks out of sorts trying to defend.
Dermott skated today, by the way.
Leafs are really not starting on time, and the game is all New Jersey in Frederik Andersen’s face.
At six minutes in, the Leafs have one Corsi For, but they also have a power play on a tripping call just as they seemed to start moving.
OMG! Auston Matthews got another power play point! He passes it over to William Nylander, mostly by accident, and Nylander spins and puts it in. That’s 20. And he just earned a $212,000 bonus. Nice goal, Willie. (Sorry, New Jersey, that they sucked so much and are now winning. They do that.)
Just caught Ron Hainsey giving himself the head shake of a deeply disappointed dad. Andersen is getting a workout.
Matthews does his puck control act after Hyman digs it out for him, and he draws a tripping penalty.
Power play number two. I’d say Freddie will get a rest, but Michael Grabner is out there.
The Leafs passing is as crisp as a head of iceberg lettuce in the July sunshine, and their second power play is Buffalo-esque.
Kappy tripped over a stick on the ice, then the ref’s feet. And yet, he still looks pretty good out there. Relatively.
It would be 4-1 New Jersey if McElhinney was in net.
The game is now so open, that it looks like the first period of the Buffalo-Ottawa game. That was an incredible riot of a track meet. They calmed down later, it will be interesting to see if these teams do, now that they’ve started.
Will the Leafs shoot the puck more than the 10 times they did in the first? Will the Devils figure out where the net is?
Zaitsev with a brainfart worthy of Gardiner; he just gives the puck to Hischier.
Kappy set up a nice scoring chance from the point on a Polak shot — yes this is how this game is playing out.
Nylander takes a tripping call, and we get to see the Devils power play.
Taylor Hall is the Devils PP setup. Taylor Hall is the Devils PP passing structure. Taylor Hall is the Devils PP shooter. Will Butcher is the quarterback, however. They pin the Leafs for nearly the full two minutes, and Andersen saves both shots the Devils get off. They clearly don’t shoot enough.
There was a brief moment of Nylander and Marner together on a rush post PP. They almost fused into one super winger as they both tried to go up the right side.
Carrick with a rocket that just goes wide. The play goes up the other way, as it does in this game, and Pavel Zacha digs the puck out in the neutral zone, takes it in on a give-and-go with Patrick Maroon, and Zacha fires it by Andersen.
Softy from Andersen, as his positioning at the post is terrible. Sure did wake the crowd up though.
Andersen comes back with a good save on Grabner a few minutes later. I’d love him to come back for another year.
This is starting to look like a hockey game at last, and a fast one.
Zaitsev starts a chain reaction of ineptitude as he tries to scoot the puck up the boards to a winger. He does this a lot, as do some other defenders, and the wingers then fail utterly to control the puck under pressure. It reminds me of the first year of Andersen trying to play the puck up to the same area, and the forwards turning it over. I’m not sure if the blame for this doesn’t start behind the bench, or what, but it’s the root of many of the zone exit troubles the Leafs have.
I remember this Miles Wood guy. He tuned up the Leafs in an earlier game, which I have vague recollection of (October 11, he got two goals). He gets a parking space right by the net, and no one wants to tell him to move, so when the pass comes, Wood is there to make it 2-1 Devils.
I sort of feel like someone should have asked politely that he move there.
The period ends and the Leafs have shot the puck 23 times to the Devils 13! Clearly they should go back to the never shooting that worked so well in the first period. The Devils are shooting from very slightly better places, with Wood’s goal being the best, of course.
The Leafs are not doing much beyond skating towards the puck at speed.
The broadcast said that Mitch Marner hasn’t had much puck possession. Of course, he leads the team in CF%. He just hasn’t done much fun.
The fourth line stinks tonight by the percentages, but they’re barely playing, so it’s not a big deal.
If the Leafs were protecting a lead, this even period they’re laying down would be awesome.
Oh, wow, a real flurry at the Devils net. That was exciting.
Sami Vatanen gets a post off of his old teammate Andersen.
The Devils are trying to press hard now.
Kappy gets two shots on net because I said they stink. Sorry, Kappy.
Hischier picks off a lazy pass and he and Wood get a breakaway. Andersen is on the case. That crappy positioning on that one goal is the only serious flaw in Andersen’s game tonight. Leafs have to know they can’t win with only one goal scored, no matter who is in net.
Matthews line tests Keith Kinkaid, but with some help from Zacha, nothing goes in.
Heavy pressure on the Devils and they are up to it.
Brian Boyle hammers Zaitsev behind the Leafs net. That’ll teach you to take your time, Z.
This game is suddenly shaping up for a violent interlude with a whole series of battles. James van Riemsdyk and Mirco Muller (!!) almost have a two fights, but nothing is called.
New Jersey is down to under three minutes, and Andersen is on the bench.
Hischier successfully harries Marner away from making a good play. They’ve been paired up all game, and Hischier is doing well.
Hyman bodies the puck to the net, but Kinkaid has closed the door.
The Devils are hanging on here against heavy Leafs pressure. One minute. The crowd is incredible, on their feet, full voice. Six years since the playoffs.
It’s all on the Devils to win now, they have a power play to finish the game on a bad tripping call from Marner.
New Jersey wins! Congratulations, guys, you earned it. Taylor Hall is going to the post-season for the first time. Remember how many Leafs were in that position last year? Had any waited nearly 600 games?