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Recap: The Maple Keefes make their fantastic debut

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Sheldon Keefe’s Maple Leafs get a much needed 3-1 win over the Coyotes.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This was supposed to be a routine game.

Sure, it is on a somewhat long roadtrip to the other Conference where the Maple Leafs visit each team only once per season, and it’s the Coyotes, who have a player on their roster you may have heard of called Phil Kessel. But, still, it’s a game which if you checked the calendar at the start of the season you would expect the Leafs to fly in, play, and fly out to the next stop on the road trip quite uneventfully. Perhaps two beat reporters—the ones who would tack on some vacation days for golfing afterwards—would show up in person to cover a game likely to blend into all the others by the end of the season.

So none of that happened!

Here’s my running commentary on the game.

Pre-game

Keefe walks out looking calm cool and collected. He’s absolutely terrified inside of course, but on the outside, he’s fist bumping his guys.

The Sportsnet people still have hideous moustaches.

I am briefly visible in one of the photos of the Marlies Calder Cup on ice celebration they show. Visible meaning I am a blurry out-of-focus blob in the background.

That’s cool.

First period

18:47 The Leafs get their first chance and it’s Tavares getting off the shot right in front of the net. That’s good! Can only get better from here, right?

16:00 this is a really long time without a stoppage in play. The Leafs have rolled through three different lines here.

15:09 Oh, the Coyotes have a Schmaltz too. He’s the brother of the Schmaltz who plays on the Marlies. Keefe may be confused at one point tonight.

14:40 Ceci does a good job breaking up a play with his feet! It’s the most useful thing his feet have done this season.

13:40 Matthews doing some creative spin play

11:00 What’s happening in our chat?

Hardev: “are we winning yet?
Fulemin “we are not”

9:44 LOL. Why would they have a shutout streak counter?

7:31 Freddie! Andersen is having a great game. I feel a shutout coming.

So Matthews gets a great chance but then the puck goes into this black hole along the boards where Rielly Matthews and Nylander pass it back and forth and nothing is really being accomplished. They get the faceoff in the OZ because the Yotes ice the puck. The Spezza line comes out but then it’s the exact same thing.

5:15 Holl does his job breaking up Crouse and that’s good because if he passed it back to Phil it could have been a disaster.

4:20 The Leafs have a clumsy and stumbling breakout attempt by Nylander here. Like he was off in a haze at this very particular time.

1:50 Conor Garland has some really bad defensive play in the Coyotes zone allowing the Leafs to keep possession and get off multiple shots on Darcy Kuemper. None make it in though. Lots of shots from the defenders.

1:20 Kasperi Kapanen gets a last scoring chance for the night! I like those.

45.8 Tyson Barrie scores his first goal as a Maple Leaf. Somewhere Mike Babcock is wondering why he couldn’t do that last week.

First intermission

We learn that there’s a thing called swarming the puck, and Keefe intends the Leafs to do this after they will collapse to the net.

There is someone in the stands behind the Leafs net with a sign which says “FREE...” but the second row is illegible on my TV. Apparently it says “Free Babsocks” according to Mirtle.

Sportsnet is copying the TSN panel question format. Friedman does not seem impressed.

I ate a whole baguette during the first period. One of those $0.89 ones from No Frills. I do not feel weird now and I am surprised by that. I feel satisfied, though.

They are going on and on in the broadcast about how Tyson Barrie must feel great too, which, you know, I’m sure he does, but let’s not go nuts here. That’s not enough. Let’s see what happens against his old team on Saturday

Second Period

19:30 Stretch passes are back!

19:20 Offsides because of stretch passes are back!

16:50 So much movement. Everyone is skating around and continuously changing positions. Except Justin Holl.

13:30 This game has remarkably few stoppages in play.

12:30 Someone is going after Jason Spezza? Then there’s a scrum but they cut to a commercial right when it’s getting good.

12:20 We are informed that Kerfoot ate a cheesesteak after it had a trip through a blender. Seriously. He was so desperate to eat real food but can’t with his broken jaw that he actually did something that disgusting.

7:44 Holl shoots and it is blocked as it was obviously going to be
7:44 Holl shoots and it is blocked as it was obviously going to be
7:44 Holl shoots and it is blocked as it was obviously going to be

4:50 Keefe looks up and has an expression of amazement like he can’t believe they actually have good replays of all the action at each stoppage of play on the big screen. You’re not at the Coliseum anymore, Sheldon! Welcome to the Show.

Then Willy takes a Penalty! We get to see the first special teams lines of the Keefe era and Pierre Engvall is the star attraction.

0:15 A last minute scoring chance by Ilya Mikheyev doesn’t go in. He really deserves a goal. He’s had a good game tonight in a new situation.

Second Intermission

Arvind: Have we looked any different systemically?

Fulemin: I would say yes. I’m trying not to get too swayed by Greg Millen who wants Sheldon Keefe to have invented a new sport and taught it to the team in one day.

Katya: I was looking at All-situations on all sites. And, really, with this massive Corsi, I’m not calling that better. Very different systematically, results: heaps of D shots. Playing Holl more means more D shots. Good system things: east-west passing, ending often in a shot from the worst forward, but they’ll work that out.

Tavares did the hallway interview and he looks terrible. Like he hasn’t slept in 48 hours. I may not have paid enough attention but that’s the first time in memory he has clearly not shaved for several days. He spent most of the interview with his head down talking to the floor.

Third Period

Yup.

Matthews gets a big cheer for being a good California Arizona boy.

13:33 Richardson has a scoring chance and I take a moment to think. “Wait, that’s not Brad Richardson, is it?” It is. He’s still farting around the league as a full time NHLer in Glendale. And he had 19 goals in 66 games last season(!) but he has yet to score one this season.

11:45 [coyote noises] and it’s another PK because Vinnie Hinostroza’s stick slaps him in the face.

5:35 Absolutely nothing happened for eight minutes and the Holl knocked the net off. Thanks, Justin.

5:34 Oh right, the Leafs are on the PK now but the Coyotes power play is terrible. We won’t get to see any of it but I would love to see a full shift of Kappy and Engvall together.

3:32 Holl shoots and it is stopped as it was obviously going to be.

1:00 Dermott hits the post!

1:00 Garland sums up the Coyotes in this game by comically hoping his way off the ice because his skate blade broke.

0:16 And that’s it! Leafs win and it’s a shutout for Anders.....

Oh, come on!

Post-game Thoughts

In the second period the broadcast team posed the question “can you sustain this speed over 60 minutes?” Since it’s topical, I have to ask “can you sustain this speed in a segababa?” I guess we will know soon enough. Well, not that soon. The next one is November 30.

The Leafs next game is Saturday against the Avalanche in Denver, but it’s back to normal time for us, airing on Hockey Night in Canada at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Poll

After watching this game my snap judgement of Keefe is:

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    He could be actually good.
    (493 votes)
  • 11%
    FIRE KEEFE.
    (85 votes)
  • 6%
    Wait. The Leafs had a new coach? Didn’t notice.
    (48 votes)
  • 17%
    Species, stop trying to be Mirtle.
    (133 votes)
759 votes total Vote Now