The Leafs journeyed to Boston tonight to play the loathsome, vile Bruins, having lost in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before. This meant the game was what basketball people call SEGABABA (SEcond GAme of A BAck to BAck.) I am making a personal effort to spread this phrase into hockey. Tell your friends.
There were a few lineup changes that we found out about shortly before puck drop:
Based on warm-up, Leafs line-up changes in Boston:— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 22, 2019
* Kevin Gravel in for Marincin ... makes his Leafs debut on third pair with Holl
* Nic Petan in for Spezza ... lining up as 4th line RW
* moves up to third-line centre
Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner start the game against the Patrice Bergeron line, but Mike Babcock does not like that matchup and switches Marner for Nylander quickly after puck drop. After a whistle in the Leafs’ zone, Nylander does something useful with the shift; he picks Torey Krug’s pocket at the line and zooms off to put a shot on Tuukka Rask, who gloves it.
Large defenceman Kevin Gravel has a decent first shift, taking the puck in the corner and making a sensible short breakout pass to Frederik Gauthier, who gets the zone exit. Not much to write home about, but if he does that consistently, that is a perfectly nice thing to get from your third pairing guys.
Matthews and Marner get out together again and put a SOG. Torey Krug puts his stick out and trips Frederik Gauthier, then gets mad at Gauthier for being tripped and shoves him a bunch. The ensuing non-fight involves a truly hilarious height disparity. Leafs to the power play.
The Leafs’ first unit gets basically one useful chance when Nylander rifles one from the high slot, but (sigh) misses. The end of the powerplay is frightening as the Bruins get a two-on-one which becomes a three-on-one as Krug joins it out of the box. Luckily for the Leafs Krug can’t finish a nice passing play. The Leafs storm back and get a chance for Nic Petan, who misses the net. There’s a bit more action before the game settles down again after the TV timeout.
Frederik Gauthier races into the Bruins’ zone and goes around the net before passing back to Tyson Barrie at the point. Nothing all that exciting comes out of it, but this is not a play Gauthier would have been capable of a couple of years back. Cheers, Goat.
The Leafs end what had been a sequence of perfectly passable hockey by getting run by the Bergeron line in their own zone and screwing up repeatedly. Michael Hutchinson is unable to freeze the puck a couple of times and the Matthews line and the Rielly-Ceci pairing do a deeply unimpressive job stopping the best line in hockey. The scramble ends with Pastrnak scoring on a perfect shot.
Toronto, though, gets a wholly undeserved reprieve because it turns out Patrice Bergeron was offside at the line, and the goal is called back. Look, I don’t like the Bruins or the Bruins scoring on us, and it does look like an offside to me. But the offside review is rubbish and it was a nice goal. Just saying.
The Leafs celebrate their stay of execution by getting spun around like a carousel for a couple of minutes, but they survive. The Leafs’ third line (Moore - Gauthier - Kapanen—good lord) puts in a good shift. The Bergeron line, as so often, looks unstoppable. I miss John Tavares.
Matthews cannot, and I really can’t overstate this, play against the Bergeron line in his own zone. He is not a good player there, the Bergeron line makes people look like clowns, and it’s all very ugly.
Andreas Johnsson takes a hooking penalty. He has been too much villain and not enough super lately. Stop taking dumb penalties. The Leafs pay for it, too; David Pastrnak strikes again on just a gorgeous goal. This one is going to stand and it should. 1-0 Bruins.
And Johnsson, the absolute goon, takes another penalty (this one for roughing) literally three seconds after the goal. Jesus Christ! The Leafs survive this one without further damage, by the skin of their teeth, and the period ends 1-0.
That was a miserable period. The Leafs looked fine enough for the first ten minutes and then things abruptly went to shit. Credit has to be given where it’s due: David Pastrnak is on another planet right now and he’s probably Boston’s best offensive player. He deserves to have two goals. The way he’s going, he may well get them in the second.
I know this is basically a schedule loss, but this has not been a creditable performance so far. The most impressive Leaf forward in that period was Freddie Gauthier by my eye. The best defenceman was Martin Marincin. “But Marincin isn’t even play—” Yeah.
Mike Babcock should yell at Andreas Johnsson for 17 uninterrupted minutes this intermission.
Jake Muzzin takes a tripping penalty. This is good. This is what I want to see. At least the Leafs do a decent job killing this one off. I hope someone tells Michael Hutchinson he can smother the puck and the refs will blow a whistle.
Anders Bjork zooms in on Hutch and rings a post on a nice move. Just went I’m about to jump off my balcony, though, the Leafs...score...a goal?
The Leafs take advantage of Brandon Carlo having a broken stick for a quasi-odd-man-rush. Justin Holl makes a smart opportunistic pass to hit Alex Kerfoot and he absolutely dances Zdeno Chara, putting a pass through his legs and hitting Kasperi Kapanen flying towards the slot, who blasts it. 1-1.
Good job, and it’s too bad it doesn’t last. Hutchinson and Barrie have a miscommunication and give the puck up to the Bergeron line, and guess how that works out? Does it help if I mention Matthews and Marner were the defending forwards? Eventually David Pastrnak makes a terrific seeing-eye pass to the high slot, and Brad Marchand fires it home 2-1.
I hate to say it but Michael Hutchinson is struggling, especially at playing the puck. He makes a save on a rush from Pastrnak by coming about five miles out of his net though, so good work on that I guess.
The Leafs get run in their own zone by the Charlie Coyle line, and Jake Muzzin narrowly saves the situation with a desperation pokecheck on Brett Ritchie.
Gentle giant Freddie Gauthier draws his second (!) penalty of the night to put the Leafs on the power play. Noted asshole Brad Marchand cross-checks him after.
And, miracle of miracles, the second unit scores!
Nylander goes Royal Road to Kapanen, Kapanen shows terrific patience and then hits Kerfoot in the high slot, and Kerfoot fires it for the 2-2 goal. Beautiful.
The Bergeron line continues to terrify me in the offensive zone, and they nearly score except Cody Ceci ties up Patrice Bergeron in the slot. [checks notes] Really? Wow.
The Bruins’ fourth line comes in and Morgan Rielly takes a tripping call on Sean Kuraly. The Bruins’ power play buzzes and Hutch actually makes a nice glove save to stop Bergeron. That’s more like it. The Leafs get the kill, and Mitch Marner also makes a nice little SH rush and forces Tuukka Rask to make a good glove save.
Supported by Tyson Barrie and Rielly, the Marner/Matthews combo has its best shift of the game so far in the last minutes, getting some honest-to-God sustained pressure. The period ends without further incident.
Well, there was nowhere to go but up after that first period. The Bergeron line is still on an absolute rampage and to be honest at this point holding them to two counted goals and one uncounted one would feel like an achievement, but the Leafs are getting some quality showings from their lower lines, including very solid games from Kasperi Kapanen and Alexander Kerfoot (and Justin Holl has probably solidified his hold on the 6D job once Travis Dermott gets back.) Being tied 2-2 is frankly more than I dared to hope for by now; the expected goals numbers are frankly terrible.
Auston Matthews is really due to do something other than stand around in his own zone looking confused. There was a glimpse at the end of the period there; hopefully it’s the start of something positive for him.
Johnsson, perhaps realizing that I am mad at him, makes a nice little drop pass to Matthews on the rush, but Bergeron has Matthews tied up in ribbons so he can’t get a shot off. (Could have made a case for a trip there.)
Pastrnak gets a quick up to Marchand and Marchand fires a good high shot on a 1-on-1 rush. Hutch handles it.
The fourth line has a bit of zone time and there’s a nice cycle ending in a Timashov shot. Rask with the save. Bergeron’s line whirls for a bit, Nylander plays keep away in the o-zone, and then unfortunately things fall apart. The Gauthier line fails to get a clear against the Coyle line off an unfortunate bounce, and Brett Ritchie gets a goal off a pretty ordinary move and high slot shot. 3-2 Bruins.
Johnsson gets in on a break off a Rielly pass and rings the post. Good effort Johnny on a nice move.
Hutchinson makes a good save on Patrice Bergeron, who has a quick slot shot at the end of a cycle. After the next whistle Marchand gets a close chance and Hutchinson waits him out. Good work there.
Kerfoot makes a good defensive play (he’s made a couple tonight) but the Leafs have six minutes to tie the game and they’re playing an awful lot in their own zone (as per usual.) The Bergeron line gets out on a slick change against the Leafs’ fourth line and Hutch has to glove a Pastrnak shot to keep the deficit to one.
Andreas Johnsson takes a high stick and draws a penalty instead of taking one for a change. This comes at the end of a stretch of ten minutes (!) without a Leaf SOG, so it’s high time to do something. It’s not totally shocking for the road team to fade in a SEGABABA situation, but oof.
Nothing comes of it. The Leafs are pretty useless on the power play. Kerfoot, who has been quite good most of the night, tries to go back to the point where Sean Kuraly is waiting. Kuraly shoots it at Hutchinson’s glove, he fails to close it and Par Lindholm whacks it in the open net, fulfilling the obligatory ex-Leaf goal for the evening. 4-2 Bruins.
Marchand takes a penalty and the Leafs have an extended 6-on-4 with the goalie pulled. It doesn’t avail them much. 4-2 Bruins final.
- I wrote an article on expressing optimism in the big picture and I tried to be clear: you can still be mad when a game sucks. This game sucked. It was SEGABABA, on the road, against a great team, and we’re missing arguably our best player, so we were set up to lose. But it still sucked and it is right and just to say so.
- Michael Hutchinson made some big saves in the third period, but I think the Leafs seriously need to look at replacing their backup goaltender. I do not think we are getting an adequate performance here and that does matter.
- The Leafs’ strategy last year against Boston was to have John Tavares handle the Bergeron line, and he did this relatively well. Without him, Mike Babcock tried matching the Matthews line and the Rielly-Ceci pairing, and they got killed. They achieved little-to-nothing offensively most of the night and they got absolutely ran defensively (much worse than the numbers make it look.) Auston Matthews is a brilliant goal scorer and that is great. He cannot outplay Bergeron currently, and while that’s a big lift for anyone, it’s a limitation for a franchise C.
- I get Mike Babcock trying to match Matthews since he’s still the team’s best centre with Johnny T out, but I don’t think the Ceci experiment can go on much longer once Dermott returns. One good stickcheck (and it was good) doesn’t make this successful.
- Good night for Kasperi Kapanen and Gauthier, I thought.
- This was not a fun game, as expected.