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Recap: Zach is back, Zach is back, Zach is back

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John Tavares celebrated his 300th goal by scoring a better goal for his 301st.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Devils! I always end up doing Devils games for some reason. Tonight is our best AHL goalie against theirs, as Michael Hutchinson and Keith Kindaid face off.

The teams in front of these guys are very different, with the Leafs almost at full strength and the Devils missing the guy who matters most in Taylor Hall. The Devils are not a bad team; they are a team whose offence is a bit weaker in quantity and quality to the Leafs (most teams not Tampa are in this boat), but with a defence that’s not a lot different aside from the sheer pace of shots against the Leafs allow.

But in terms of shot share, one team is rising as the other is falling after the first third of the season spent mostly tied in the 50 per cent range.

Tonight, since the Leafs have new power play units to try out, we should assume they will draw zero penalties tonight.

Also, I so enjoy talking probabilities with fans here, that I thought I’d do some of that tonight. Moneypuck.com has winning probabilities that change as the game progresses based on their model and the game results at that point.

Going into tonight’s game, even though the Leafs are on the road, the probability the Leafs win is 54.3 per cent. Now have a calm and reasoned response to that number, as per.

First Period

Wheeeee goes Hutchinson in the first two minutes as he has to make a huge sliding save.

And then Travis Dermott get drilled by a guy who I shall just refer to as a, well, a very reckless person. The hit is, as Ray Ferraro says, almost identical the Hampus Lindholm on Connor McDavid hit. This is not how I wanted to see the Leafs new power play units.

The Rielly unit starts, and they can’t get setup. The Gardiner unit comes out, and they gain the zone, but Brian Boyle gets a shorthanded breakaway.

Ugh, they showed the hit again. Ugh, Ugh, Ugh. He cannot fall anyway BUT face first into the boards. This is exactly why the IIHF made boarding an automatic 10-minute major.

Ugh also applies to the power play which gets a couple of shots at the end and that is it.

John Tavares gets tied up with Lovejoy at the very end of the power play, and now it’s four-on-four.

And then the Leafs get their first goal exactly how you expect on the wide-open four-on-four ice. Ray is saying this in the same tone I’m thinking it right as I am.

Hyman to Hainsey and it is 1-0 Leafs. I can say nothing about that but LOL.

Okay, but all you complainers about there about Mike Babcock, OMG, putting out those guys, OMG. The power play just ended, that’s how it is sometimes.

The next goal is started by a totally different guy to the first. Okay, it isn’t. It’s Zach Hyman again, digging out the puck, tying a bow on it and handing it off in such a way as to not get an assist on John Tavares’s goal 300 of his career.

2-0 Leafs.

The fourth line led by Gauthier, spend a long, long time defending fairly ineffectually.

Kinkaid came way out of his net to make a save. Maybe he thought he’d been traded to Philly and was heading there. I like our AHL goalie better right now.

Dermott is back on the ice for the first time with four minutes to go.

Devils get another chance, but it’s Boyle again. They should try getting offence from their top line.

Whoa! Hutchinson makes a great save as the Devils look to bowl the goalie. Well, Hainsey didn’t really stop the guy from targeting the net there.

Oh my god. The passing. The patience. This play was everything that is the Leafs. Holy cow.

Marner cross-ice to Rielly and then he waits, waits, and back it goes to John Tavares for his 301st NHL goal. Frame that one and hang it on the wall.

3-0 Leafs.

Numbers

For the numbers tonight, I have something different. This is an article by By: Adam Sigesmund (@Ziggy_14) for Queen’s Sports Analytics Organization. It takes a fun look at the concept of what happens to your chances of winning if you win a given period of hockey. So the Leafs lead after one period as the road team, and his calculations show that means that the road team who wins the first period earns on average 1.53 standings points that way. This means that the Leafs are much, much closer to a two-point win just by this most basic measure.

Moneypuck.com, which uses a more complex version of the kind of analysis linked above has the Leafs at 88.8 per cent chance to win now.

If you find analytics articles a bit intimidating, give that one a try, since it’s a fun topic approached and presented in an accessible way both numerically and visually. If you can follow it, you can read most of what Hockey Graphs produces too.

Thoughts

  • Leafs are running the Devils ragged.
  • This likely won’t last all game, as the Devils found some speed late in the first.

Second Period

Nylander, Rielly and Marleau try to restage the passing play, and sort of succeed, but Marleau’s shot is not much.

The Kadri line get a heavy run of pressure against the Devils that begins when Kadri subs in for Gauthier (someone needs to). His real wingers show up and they keep it up and it ends in Kindaid making a great save.

Kinkaid is now in the zone, he makes a save on Marner and then Tavares.

Ozzie takes a hooking call, and interestingly I see Dermott on the PK which will help keep the D pairs straight after. He seems to be playing his regular number of shifts today.

Hutchinson is quietly making a lot of saves in this period as the pace of play has picked up a little. Oh, and the guys on the broadcast are bored too, they’re talking about Hutch catching right.

Booo! Devils score:

The Devils put the Leafs through the spin cycle defensively and it’s 3-1 Leafs.

Oh, now that’s really frickin’ annoying. Blake Pietila comes roaring right down the slot and Zaitsev flicks the puck right off his stick at the blueline, candy from a baby. One slight problem. It lands right on Boyle’s stick, and Gardiner, well, Gardiner doesn’t really do much there. So okay, the Devils don’t need to get offence anywhere else.

3-2 Leafs.

I’m not sure Brian Boyle is that hard to stop, but Hutchinson did not have that one.

This is all a disaster, except Moneypuck’s win probability is now at 75 per cent for the Leafs. Why? Because scoring two goals for the Devils is a lot harder than the Leafs just holding the line for 20 minutes, even if it doesn’t feel that way. It’s not impossible, of course.

The broadcast just gave the Leafs record when leading after one period! Just what prompted the article linked above.

The refs found some offsetting minors at the very end of the period, so the third will open with four-on-four.

Numbers

Shot share looks even until you score adjust it and then, noooo.

Thoughts

  • The over-analysis of Nylander risks creating patterns out of nothing because you’re looking for them, so I’m opting out. But I thought he looked too muscled up and not fast enough before he ever hit North America. I remember the season Nate MacKinnon made that exact mistake, and it took some time to correct.
  • Every 80s song they’re playing for 80s night is bad. They should play the good 80s music.
  • The fourth line is spectacularly bad in this game.
  • Nikita Zaitsev leads with a score-adjusted Corsi of 68 per cent. I’m sure that’s all over twitter.

Third Period

The four-on-four brings no change to the score, and I assume we won’t see that fourth line to speak of now that we’re back at regular strength.

Leafs are spending a lot of time in the offensive zone.

And now, the Zajac line just spin the Leafs around again with Zaitsev and Gardiner dying by inches in the corners. The Leafs defend, but they don’t gain ground.

Sami Vatanen knocks Gauthier (who got another shift) off the puck like he isn’t 6’5” during this part of the game.

The probability is back up to 80 per cent now.

Nice stick check by Zaitsev that doesn’t go horribly wrong this time.

82.8 per cent.

Zaitsev with a rush to the net, as he’s know for.

83.7 per cent.

I believe you can now bet on games from within the Devils’ arena. They have a partnership with some gambling company. Would you have bet Leafs to win in the second intermission?

Uh oh. Hyman seems to have hurt his ankle a little. But he stays on the ice. I remember Jack Eichel going through this after his ankle sprain. Suddenly it hurt again. Then he’d be fine.

85.5 per cent.

Having said all this about probabilities, the Leafs are approaching danger time, and they crawl towards when the Devils might pull the goalie.

Whoa. The Leafs nearly get a bouncer in along the post, but Kinkaid makes the save with a good seal of the skate to the post.

Matthews pops one hard right at the net off the faceoff, but Kinkaid has that too.

Fourth line is out, but in the offensive zone, where they’re safe.

89.4 per cent.

Now the broadcast is talking faceoffs. Kinkaid should come out in the next minute or so.

Oh, hey, let’s have 50 million freaking icings and whistles in the last four minutes.

94.1 per cent.

Devils can’t get Kindkaid out. Devils have been shite for most of this period, to be honest.

Brown is in for Nylander as the game turns nominally defensive, but to be honest, it’s mostly just Leafs offence.

Kinkaid off with one minute to go.

99.1 per cent.

ENG! But it was not quite Hyman, and he let Marner’s pass sail into the net.

4-2 Leafs.

Numbers

100 per cent.

Thoughts

Not an 80s song, but for Mo:

For all you guys who just hit Z to get to the comments, here’s that JT goal again: