Tonight’s game against Nashville was a harder fought game than Saturday’s against the Canucks. Hutchinson still doesn’t have any blue and white pads, which I”m sure will arrive just in time to be waived to the Marlies.
The first minute of the game is spent in the Maple Leafs zone, the next is a passing game down across the ice. The pace tonight is already higher than it was against Vancouver. More quick movements, more passing, more board work. A lot more is happening in a smaller amount of time. This game is a hard one to keep up with after just three minutes. For instance, I looked down for a second and missed this great chance:
Auston Matthews tries to get a slap shot off from the top of the circle, and it does get past Rinne, but it rings off the post and out.
Five minutes into the game before Nashville gets their first recorded shot, but after that the Leafs bring it back down to the Predators end. As the teams go to change lines, the Predators hold the puck behind the net to calm things down and let them regroup.
The change of pace doesn’t last long and soon the Leafs are swarming the Predators end and trying for more chances; eventually Pekka Rinne gets caught behind the net and has to scramble back into position. Luckily for him the Leafs weren’t in a scoring position.
Halfway through the period Nashville is finding their feet and we’re spending less time in their end and there’s more of a challenge for Hutchinson than there was on Saturday night. Ryan Johanson has an excellent chance to open the scoring, but can’t close the deal, making the crowd “ohhhh” with relief.
The line of Nazem Kadri, Kasperi Kapanen, and Connor Brown are still trying to get their combo scoring, but seem to be as snake bit as they were on the weekend. They’re getting time in the offensive zone, and and some great chances and set ups but nothing is going in.
Filip Forsberg is back after missing 17 games with an injury, and he’s determined to make up for lost time. He’s helping lead the Predators into the Leafs zone, and help his team lead the game in shots on net. The period ends with a tripping penalty for the Predators, Ryan Johansen trips up John Tavares like the monster he is.
Even though the Predators lead in shots, it feels more like the game is in the Leafs hands, which if you look at the shot attempts, the feelings are correct.
The second period begins with the Maple Leafs on the power play, so naturally we spend most of the first two minutes in the Predators zone. The power play however, doesn’t end with a goal, but with a...nothing.
The Predators get a power play of their own after Nikita Zaitsev gets called for interference against Ryan Hartman. The Maple Leafs penalty kill got a good workout against the Canucks, but it won’t be perfect tonight as Matthias Ekholm will blast the puck in from the blue line to make it 1-0 Nashville
Minutes later, Andreas Johnsson is doing a perfect impression of a brick wall in front of Pekka Rinne, allowing Auston Matthews to put the puck into the net
However, the Predators challenge this goal as they think the play is offside. Which, the NHL agrees with, so Auston Matthews loses his 21st goal of the season. The video shows William Nylander is one inch off side leading up to the goal, so it doesn’t count.
After some time away, the Matthews line comes back into the Predators zone hard, and tries to get the goal back but Rinne won’t let anything else by him. The puck just gets out so it’s another off side call against the Maple Leafs.
The Predators attempt to get into the Leafs zone, but they just dump it in and give it up to the Leafs, who come into the Predators zone and Matt Irwin is called for holding, giving the Maple Leafs another chance to tie the game (again).
The Predators prove a harder opponent to power play against, and they keep getting the puck out of their end. The Leafs do get some good shots and chances with the man advantage, but once again fail to take advantage of their advantage,
The Predators put more pressure on Hutchinson, but he won’t give up another goal, making save after save to keep the game at 1-0. I should stop saying things like this, because he makes the close saves, but once again a PK Subban slap shot from the blue line gets past him.
Nazem Kadri forces a turnover at the Predators blue line but can’t keep control of the puck afterwards to once again be denied that 10th goal of the season. John Tavares and Mitch Marner come into the Predators zone ready to put one on the board, but Marner loses the puck in his feet and doesn’t score on the glove side of Rinne.
The period settles into a cycle of the Leafs bringing the puck into the Predators zone, not getting the goal, the Predators then taking their turn, and so on. It’s a very nice and kind way to share possession time and make sure each team gets a chance at scoring. The period ends with the Predators up 2-0 on the Maple Leafs.
The third period opens with the Predators prowling the Maple Leafs zone for two minutes, playing keep away from the Leafs and trying to find a way to get a puck past Hutchinson close up. Finally the Leafs get it out but they’re denied entry to the Predators zone. They regroup and try again, but Rinne is on top of his game and won’t let anything past him.
The Maple Leafs are getting a little more desperate, a little more rough in their play as they try to break the shutout. Post whistle shenanigans are more common, more hits and rough stuff. Par Lindholm trips up Mattias Ekholm, but it’s Trevor Moore that is sent to the box at first before the confusing fog lifts. The Predators get another power play as they have a 2-0 lead.
The Leafs free the puck from their end and Frederik Gauthier comes into the Predators zone fast, bouncing around the defenders but can’t get the goal off. He gets another try but the Predators get the puck out. That little bit of play got the crowd on their feet. The penalty kill was excellent this time around, and the Leafs got some of their best chances of the game in that few minutes.
[Recap break as I hear the sound of my plumbing bursting below me and I panic for about 10 minutes]
The Predators have taken hold of this game by the time the Maple Leafs get another power play opportunity. Roman Josi gets called for hooking William Nylander, and the Maple Leafs try, try again to get on the scoreboard but they’re unable to capitalize.
The Predators toy with the Maple Leafs, treating them like they treated the Canucks on Saturday.
The Predators take a 3-0 lead, and then shortly after that...
The Predators end up winning this game 4-0, after they build up their game against the Maple Leafs over 60 minutes, slowly taking over play until it’s a one sided affair.
Right now my mood is firmly “cat trapped in a flooded basement”
The Maple Leafs had this game in their hand as it began, and gave it all away. They’ll have another chance at a victory Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Thank you for reading. I’m going to go kick some pipes until they stop exploding now.