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Recap: Maple Leafs bottom six get the win against the scrappy Red Wings

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Nick Shore, Frederik Gauthier and Dmytro Timashov with a statement game.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Time for a redemption story, Leafs. Beat this team, that’s the job.

First Period

On the one hand, William Nylander just skated the puck up the ice totally unopposed, and the Leafs had an okay offensive cycle. On the other hand, I just looked up all the teams the Leafs beat in the tank year, so bad teams aren’t bad all the time.

Dmytro Timashov looks like he’s going to try to try harder than any player has ever tried to try hard before. I hope he succeeds, but I’m skeptical.

Un huh.

Auston Matthews and Rasmus Sandin team up with some not horrible, yet not great defending and it’s 1-0 Detroit. But in addition to that, Frederik Andersen reached and tried to throw his body out on the puck on the first shot. He did that on Thursday and was caught swimming there too.

1-0 Red Wings

The Leafs respond with something akin to the frantic trying that Timashov was doing, and that works about how you’d expect. Shots from bad locations, passes that bounce over sticks, and no structure.

HA! That paragraph above is fully legit, I promise I wrote that before what came next. My reverse jinx is working.

Timashov tries damn had on the forecheck and that’s a ShoreLine goal!

1-1 Tie

You kids out there, keep trying as hard as you can, even if you look a little silly doing it.

Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen on a two-on-one, and I swear, I now expect the Marner shot.

Red Wings are getting Dylan Larkin’s line against the ShoreLine, and that’s not actually ideal. I want to blather about that, though, and I will in a bit (you’ve been warned).

Timashov scoring chance. He is on fire, baby.

(The Nick Shore goal had the highest Expected Goals rating, everything else was a junk shot.)

Leafs get a second chance on the power play late in the period after their first try was, er, not so hot. The second power play is hideous, can’t get setup, and no one seems to know what the other guy is doing. I’m done being patient — I don’t like much about the new power play at all and I fear the problems with the offence might be coming from the same source. The Red Wings kill really well too, and that’s a null event just like the first one.

Great save on a cross-crease passing play by Andersen coming off the expiry of the power play. And then Andersen makes another.

The period ends tied at one.

Thoughts

  • Auston Mattews is going to make defensive mistakes. So is Rasmus Sandin. How many are too many from Sandin? Ask me after game nine.
  • Someone on Twitter said something about how much worse would some random Marlies line be than the Leafs current fourth lines. And my answer to that, after some thought and a break watching the Marlies, is that what matters isn’t the fourth line’s average performance. It’s not their potential or their skill or any of that. It’s how bad do they get caved when the other coach gets his top line out there against them? If we judge them that way... okay, to some extent, I’m trying to talk myself into Gauthier, because I feel like I’m the only person left who can see he’s not really good at much beyond FOGO plays. But he doesn’t get too caved in, it seems. I realize this is a very unsatisfying idea to the only play skill guys crowd.
  • That was a terrible period of hockey for the Leafs. They had a 60-something % Corsi, but this is where they shot from and were almost doubled in Expected Goals. It’s the offence that’s failing. I feel like someone should write about that. (This happened at the start of last year too.)

Second Period

This period begins with a good carry-in by Tyson Barrie that results in a weak shot right at Jimmy Howard by Andreas Johnsson.

Barrie quickly takes a penalty on a hit that wasn’t hard, but was just about 3” too close to the boards.

The Red Wings keep their power play set up easily, but it’s actually very bad, and nothing comes of it but a couple of easy Andersen saves.

I don’t hate the Leafs efforts early in this period. It’s obvious they’re the better team, but well, I watched the Marlies today, and it’s a lot easier to get to the net in the AHL and shoot from there. This game is frustrating.

The Kerfoot line was left out of the rotation (so was the fourth line), and they come out hard when they do get a shift.

The ShoreLine follows with more of the same.

This was an interesting choice to flip out Tavares and Matthews before and after the Red Wings power play with no other lines getting a look.

The tide might be turning. Matthews gets a chance, then the Kerfoot line get something to almost click.

Mitch Marner is in this game, that’s for sure, he’s more engaged than I’ve seen him all season.

Wow. That was 33 that just carried the puck in and got a shot on net, and then kept the cycle going. 33 not 88. And that’s against the Larkin line. What is even going on? I’ll admit that was doing something beyond faceoffs. He’s never played a shift that aggressive in his life.

MICKEY!!!!

Damn that was awesome. Ilya Mikheyev re-enacts his entire KHL highlight reel for us.

2-1 Maple Leafs

The clock runs out with the Leafs in the lead. Maybe this game is back on track?

Thoughts

  • Andersen had a very good period.
  • The fourth line should not be your best line, but they sure have been good tonight.
  • The Leafs are still dominating in Corsi, but have surpassed the Red Wings now in Expected Goals at least at five-on-five. That period didn’t just look good.

Third Period

Morgan Rielly starts off the fun in this period with a nice little dance in to the net. That’s the Mo we know.

The Red Wings are doing a great job of holding the lead. Seriously, if they were up 2-1, their tactics would be excellent, as it is, they’re holding the line, not risking anything.

Matthews takes a hard hit, and then Sandin as well. But this is in the Red Wings zone, they aren’t generating anything from this.

Suddenly the Red Wings look like they’re on the power play against the Matthews line. He’s done this less this season so far, but he still can get hemmed in.

Ker--Fooooooot! Yes, that’s what we like to see. Trevor Moore playing the netfront really well on this one. He’s been iffy in a few games, but this level of competition is well within his ability.

3-1 Maple Leafs

Booooooooooo! (But thanks for the insurance, Kerfoot.)

The Red Wings come right back on some iffy defending and, er, maybe don’t have Sandin and Cody Ceci on the ice together, just a theory.

3-2 Maple Leafs

Okay, the Red Wings are flying. They get a post, and the Leafs need to cool them down right away. Play some dull stuff with frozen pucks and faceoffs.

The ShoreLine disagrees with me. They go on an exciting rush and nearly get a goal. Great game for Nick Shore here, a statement game.

YES!! FOURTH LINE FOR THE WIN!!!

Muzzin with the goal, but this was all Shore and Timashov.

4-2 Bottom Six over the Red Wings

Mickey draws a penalty, and the power play irritates me. I refuse to discuss it at this time.

Detroit pulls Howard, and in a fitting cap on the night, Trevor Moore gets the ENG, so make that 5-2 Bottom Six over the Red Wings. Those millionaires better buy some really expensive steak dinners for a few guys.

Thoughts

  • The Kerfoot line were excellent tonight. Kerfoot himself is not a flashy guy, but he’s really growing on me. Also, the entire cadre of “he’s not really a centre, he should be a top-six winger” people can report in and explain themselves.
  • This game was a good scrappy battle for a team that is still not quite right. They weren’t hot like they were against St. Louis, but they were worlds better than they were against Tampa.
  • For a team whose depth should be their weakness, it wasn’t tonight. Now do it against a good team, Leafs.