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Maple Leafs set up camp in the offensive zone and dominate the Wild

A great win on the front end of a back to back for the Leafs

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

  • [19:42] Tyson Barrie makes a pretty awful pass to the middle of his own defensive zone that Marcus Foligno thankfully doesn’t do anything with.
  • [19:25] Not to be outdone, Ryan Suter barfs the puck up to John Tavares, who passes to a streaking (just-got-on-the-ice) Nylander who is stopped on a breakaway. The Leafs do get a power play out of it, as Suter goes to the box.
  • [18:37] The Leafs top unit power play has a solid minute of zone pressure thanks to some puck recoveries and won faceoffs. After the Wild do clear, the Leafs struggle mightily to enter the zone.
  • [14:31] I was about to say it was a good start for the Leafs, but then they go and concede a goal! The Wild establish a cycle against the Leafs, and some puck movement leads to a Luke Kunin point shot with a strong screen in front. Frederik Andersen is unable to keep it out, and the Leafs trail 1-0.
  • [13:51] The Matthews line responds with a shift that has some zone time, but no dangerous chances.
  • [12:19] Being behind against the Wild is not a fun spot to be, because they give up almost nothing defensively.
  • [8:53] Nothing much is really happening.
  • [8:29] As I say that, the Matthews line gets a couple decent chances. Nylander streaks in on the left side and rifles a backhand high. This is followed up by a shot from the top of the circles from Matthews, which is saved by Devan Dubnyk.
  • [5:36] Morgan Rielly with a spectacular end-to-end rush that unfortunately doesn’t really amount to much. Ray Ferraro makes a great point that the Leafs forwards didn’t move without the puck to give Rielly an easy pass, which led to the attack petering out.
  • [4:21] Kerfoot makes a nifty zone entry, but the shot that results is tame and easily saved (and from above the circles.
  • [3:42] The Leafs have a 4-on-1 and Johnsson somehow finds the one Minnesota defender (Suter)
  • [3:18] Later on the shift, Nylander gets a good chance off a rebound, but Dubnyk saves.
  • [1:59] Trevor Moore is given an opportunity on the Tavares line off an offensive zone draw.
  • [1:33] Morgan Rielly holds Jason Zucker and gets called for it. I don’t think that was interference, but them’s the breaks. Wild to the power play.
  • [0:00] No further damage on the power play.
  • [0:00] I’m intentionally not looking at in-game stats like shots and xG (which as we learned last night, have been systemically incorrect over this season). Based on my eye test, the Leafs have looked reasonably good, but almost all the dangerous offense has come from the Matthews line. Tavares’ group has been impotent (lots of zone time, no actual chances), and the bottom two lines have had some territorial advantage, but no great chances. On the defence side, I’ve thought Marincin has looked pretty solid, and Barrie has surprised me with his rigidity in the offensive zone (not a good thing).

Second Period

  • [19:33] The rest of the Wild power play occurs without incident, and we’re back to 5v5.
  • [18:02] Tavares scores! He unleashes a wicked blast from REALLY far wide, and he goes post-and-in to tie the game at one. Frankly, that was kind of a bad goal for Dubnyk to allow, but we’ll take those. 1-1 tie. Ceci and Rielly with the assists.
  • [16:45] The Tavares line gets more zone time on their next shift. Good to see from them!. Marner makes a really nice play at the offensive blue line to force a turnover and create a chance for Moore as well.
  • [16:08] Matthews pokes the puck off a draw to Johnsson, who fires it hard at Dubnyk. Good save from him.
  • [14:20] Kapanen has a nice zone entry on the right side (using his speed), resulting in Mikheyev shooting. Hopefully, he can build some positive momentum.
  • [13:31] Tavares continues his torrid period by drawing a tripping penalty on Jared Spurgeon. Leafs to the PP.
  • [12:42] Leafs score! Looks like Marner got it, on a shot from the left circle that somehow sneaks by Dubnyk. I gotta be honest, I don’t think that was a particularly dangerous shot - Dubnyk should make that save. 2-1 Leafs.
  • [11:41] Ryan Hartman takes a stupid penalty while Ryan Donato had a clearcut breakaway. Leafs back to the power play.
  • [11:31] And the Leafs score again! Marner takes a shot that takes a weird hop off the end boards that Andreas Johnsson bunts in. 3-1 Leafs.
  • [11:14] Aside from the power plays, the Leafs have lived in the offensive zone during this period. Great work from them.
  • [10:46] I said in the first that the Wild aren’t a team that is easy to come back on, and you really dont want to fall behind against them. Well, conversely, they’re a team that won’t often come back on you. They’re just not offensively talented enough.
  • [8:21] I’ve liked the fourth line tonight too. They haven’t done a ton, but they’ve gotten a handful of defensive zone draws and seem to consistently move the play up the ice in the right direction.
  • [6:55] Another Leafs goal! Auston Matthews changes early and we get a glimpse of a Matthews - Tavares - Marner line. Matthews gains the zone and plays give and go with Marner, poking the puck home after a couple of attempts. 4-1 Leafs.
  • [6:52] Nice to see Marner get off the mark at 5v5.
  • [5:45] The Wild very much look like the team on the second half of a road back to back.
  • [2:54] I know Johnsson has scored, but he’s been the turd in the punchbowl that is the Matthews line. He’s fumbled a handful of opportunities. By nature of having two linemates who are unequivocally better than him, Johnsson will never look amazing. However, I’d like to see him step it up a little bit.
  • [0:47] Andersen makes a nice save to stone Marcus Foligno on a breakaway and deny the Wild any momentum heading into the third.
  • [0:00] Overall, it’s hard to complain about that period for the Leafs. Everyone looked solid or better, with the possible exception of Marincin-Holl, who were victimised for that breakaway. The Tavares line really came alive, which is a great thing to see, and means we likely see Moore there for a little bit. Moore himself wasn’t too active, but his forechecking skill is useful and he had a couple nice zone entries to help that group out.

Third Period

  • [18:51] Nylander has an absolutely sublime neutral zone sequence that results in a zone entry and dish to Rielly. Rielly circles the net and fires from in tight - that’s the Mo we’ve seen tonight, and it’s a great sign for Toronto.
  • [15:06] Some fire-wagon hockey sees the teams trade odd-man rushes. The sequence culminates with a great save by Frederik Andersen to keep it 4-1.
  • [14:14] I’m not sure if its just because of the score, but Babcock is giving the fourth line a monstrous amount of defensive zone starts in this game, particularly in the third period. As mentioned earlier, they’re mostly doing well with that usage.
  • [12:53] The Matthews line has been ALL around the net and has been unfortunate to not have one go in with them together (Matthews’ earlier goal was with Tavares/Marner). Another couple strong chances for Johnsson, set up by Nylander and then Matthews.
  • [12:05] Kerfoot gets the gate for hooking Jason Zucker. Wild to the PP.
  • [10:05] It’s Minnesota, so nothing happened on that power play.
  • [9:23] As good as the Matthews line has been, that trio of forwards is not at all eager to backcheck.
  • [7:56] Tavares creates a chance off the rush for Trevor Moore. That line has looked better with Moore on it than Kapanen, and the Leafs third line hasn’t really skipped a beat with Kapanen on it.
  • [4:34] Kerfoot goes to the box again, this time for interference.
  • [2:34] Once again, nothing of consequence occurs.
  • [1:02] Well, the Wild get a consolation goal, through Gerald Mayhew, who gets his first NHL goal. Barrie tries to go off the boards and out, but it’s stopped at the blueline. A point shot results in a rebound that Mayhew pokes home. 4-2 Leafs.
  • [0:00] Late goal aside, the Leafs were quite strong on the whole in this game. They had a weakened opponent; a mediocre (at best) Wild team on the second half of a road back to back should be a sitting duck. But you have to beat the teams in front of you, and that’s exactly what Toronto did. They face Washington tomorrow. Go Leafs Go!