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Recap: Chicago won it in the first, and held on against Leafs relentless pressure

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Toronto had one disastrous period, and the game was done.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Leafs venture a little bit west tonight, as they go to Chicago and face a Western Conference team in their own rink.

First Period

Hit a guy, another guy fights you. The dumbest thing about modern hockey. Jake Muzzin hits Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews goes for Muzzin. Toews takes the extra, so it’s a power play for the Leafs.

I hate this PP. It’s not just the zone entry that’s wrong here.

Post power play, the Leafs have the puck a lot, but can’t penetrate the Chicago zone.

Chicago looks like they have a PP but don’t. Ceci should get an assist.

1-0 Chicago

Matthews line hemmed in for two minutes or something obscene like that. Brutal.

Hutch with a save to give these bozos a change.

The 4th line shift is, frankly, a relief.

Ilya Mikheyev makes Lehner work. Is that number two? Looks like it was number four.

Kirby Dach sends it in, and interrupted a “give up the first goal discussion”.

2-0 Chicago

We were due for a blowout. The next goal is 10 seconds later.

3-0 Chicago

Justin Holl, who has been busy, if not always completely effective, takes a penalty for being nearby when Drake Caggiula was hit with a puck.

Seconds later Dylan Strome takes a mostly legit slashing call for a four-on-four.

SCOOOORES

William Nylander with a goal right off a faceoff win. Take that Alex.

3-1 Chicago

Muzzin takes a penalty stopping a breakaway, so it’s four-on-three.

Tic Tac Toews. Hutch not great on this one, but he hasn’t been on the PK.

4-1 Chicago

Four-on-four still and then a little bit of Chicago on the power play takes us to inside the last minute.

Thoughts

  • Not one player on the Leafs other than William Nylander is capable of moving with the puck.
  • Leafs are just slower, dumber and have no plan at all to gain the offensive zone or do anything when they get there.
  • Matthews was hemmed in there like it was 2014.
  • Alexander Kerfoot’s line had a couple of almost offensive cycles.
  • Yuck (This is what 53% pointless Corsi looks like.)
  • I polled the masthead to see if I was allowed to just publish now and go to bed, and they said no. Meanies.

Second Period

Kerfoot begins the period on Tavares’s wing.

Jason Spezza centres the third line which is effective early.

The lineblender is working. And so is Lehner suddenly.

Morgan Rielly takes another of those, “only way I can defend this” penalties.

Chicago played like a team up by three, and it’s back to five-on-five.

Leafs take another penalty rushing to defend.

Good PK. Nice and focused.

Leafs get a power play on a super, duper, extra-large cheeseball of a call. Can we get one of those in a close game?

It’s actually not a bad job. Good passing, a few shots. It looks weak without Mitch Marner, of course.

Thoughts

  • You cannot do the 50/50 battles, tough on the puck, hard on the boards song and dance for this game because the Leafs, despite what Jim Hughson kept saying, have the puck a lot.
  • They did better things with it in the second period, but I am 1000% saying this offence problem is not about a focus on defensive or low-risk tactics. I don’t buy it. At all.
  • Their penalty taking might be from too much worry about allowing any shots on the goalie, however. At least tonight.
  • That was a long time without a goal.

Third Period

Okay, good start: Nylander (the right one) opens the period’s fun with a goal.

4-2 Chicago

Alex Nylander takes a high-sticking call.

And now Matthews takes a lazy and bad control of the stick high-sticking call to kill the power play and it’s four-on-four followed by some Chicago power play.

There’s 13 minutes left, and the Leafs need to press hard.

Instead, they’re getting hemmed in a bit. They look gassed. They’ve worked very, very hard for two periods.

Chicago take a penalty, and they run them a bit on the delayed call, and now it’s power play time. Please be the good version, please be good, please be good.

Goooooooooooooooal

4-3 Chicago

And yikes, Lehner seems to be hurt off a shot that preceded Tavares’s goal. Lehner stays in.

Leafs play hard, constantly with the puck for cycle after cycle, but they can’t get the puck on the net, and then the dagger. Saad scores.

5-3 Chicago

Chicago takes a penalty, but this game seems well out of reach. Leafs pull Hutchinson with only a minute and a half left.

Leafs make it a one goal game with 42 seconds left:

5-4 Chicago

Bloody Hell, what a finish. This team poured it all out there on the ice tonight. Hell of a performance by Robin Lehner.

Thoughts

  • If you watch this game as dispassionately as you can, you’ll see a lot of point shots, yes, but still the forwards are at the net-front, they are in the “dirty areas”, and they are working for the high-danger shots.
  • And yet... they never come.
  • Can’t call this a good game exactly to play in front of the backup, not with all those penalties, but he was as good as you can expect.
  • John Tavares needs a winger.
  • Somehow, what looked like a blowout became a one-goal game, and I don’t know what that means, but it means something.