The Toronto Maple Leafs journey to Detroit tonight for Game #3 of the Sheldon Keefe era. Jonathan Bernier was originally stated to start in net, but he is feeling sick, so Jimmy Howard is playing instead. Bernier is still at the arena, though. Am I mentioning this for a reason? Perhaps!
The Leafs strike fast! After strong possession shifts from the Matthews and Tavares lines, Travis Dermott fires a nice shot off Jimmy Howard’s pads. The rebound hits Frans Nielsen’s skates and bounces in. 1-0!
Nic Petan gets absolutely leveled along the boards by Dylan McIlrath and Justin Holl gives him a hit. Petan seems to be okay. The Leafs head back to the Red Wings zone...
And score again! Tyson Barrie fires a goal off Christopher Ehn and in, and it’s 2-0 lickety-split. I barely have time to recap this stuff due to the lack of whistles other than goals.
The Red Wings come on a little bit around the six minute mark after a frankly miserable breakout attempt by the normally solid Jake Muzzin. The Red Wings cycle and the Leafs take a long time recovering from some dangerous-looking pressure.
Some back and forth; the Red Wings get a couple of good shifts but they don’t end with great chances. The Leafs charge back and have some excellent zone time led by the Tavares line; Jimmy Howard looks to hurt himself and then is shortly thereafter scored on by John Tavares for 3-0. It’s not clear what caused the injury since Howard wasn’t really hit or anything; he might have just overextended trying to stop a goal mouth scramble. You feel for him because he didn’t really look like he was up to making a save there.
Jonathan Bernier, who was supposed to start, was feeling ill and wound up not getting the start tonight. Now, with Howard’s injury, Detroit has no choice. In he goes. Oof.
The Leafs run some decent offensive zone possession with the Matthews line but the Red Wings do a good job keeping them to the outside; Toronto settles for a fairly weak Morgan Rielly shot, which Bernier handles.
As lopsided as this game currently looks, I should emphasize, the Wings are still getting a few chances; there’s one long rebound chance for Patrick Nemeth that was a decent enough threat to go in. The Leafs are definitely getting the better of the play, but it’s not through lockdown defence or anything. Just lots of o-zone chances. Leopards don’t change their spots, after all.
That said, the DET chances, such as they are, are still generally further out, and the Leafs are at least sometimes getting to the slot. William Nylander does that now, as a matter of fact, but can’t push it past Bernier. He also takes a late hit into the boards that ought to have been called.
Andreas Athanasiou does actually get close, but can’t finish in the final minute of the period. We go into the first intermission with the Leafs up 3-0.
The Leafs, even missing Mitch Marner and Alexander Kerfoot, should clearly outclass the Red Wings (who are also missing Anthony Mantha.) They more or less did, though they unsurprisingly took their foot off the gas as the period went on. The goals against for the Red Wings reminded me a bit of the kind of goals the Leafs would get against them in the Carlyle era; individually they’re all unlucky—two deflections and a hurt goalie—but in the aggregate, if you get run around your zone enough, bad things happen to you.
Something that stands out to me: the Leafs seem to extend offensive zone possessions more. To my eye, this seems to come from having the third forward in the zone come back high to give the defence more passing options. It’s a trade off since the forward is obviously not in a dangerous area when they’re doing this, but they do also enable you to sustain pressure without having to leave the zone.
Tyson Barrie sure seems to be having fun these days, eh?
Andreas Johnsson gets off on a 2-on-1 with Nylander, but is well-defended and settles for a shot that Bernier stops. That’s not all she wrote, though, because the Leafs keep the puck after and go to work cycling. It goes around and around and eventually Nylander, gets a puck bouncing to him near the bottom of the circle. In an impressive show of hand-eye, he bats the puck once to himself and then again past Bernier. 4-0.
The Leafs score on an insane scramble where Andreas Johnsson is quite literally in the net. To my absolute astonishment, they count it because Nylander pushes Johnsson’s skate in with the puck. Okay! 5-0 Leafs.
Johnsson gets in on a breakway and Bernier makes a solid save to keep the Wings within five goals. The Wings take a slashing penalty, though, and the Leafs go to their first power play of the evening.
The Leafs take a while to get going on the power play but eventually they do. Jason Spezza finds Andreas Johnsson cutting across the bottom of the circle; Johnsson corrals the puck nicely and puts it past Bernier on the far side as he blazes through the slot. 6-0. Oof.
The Red Wings actually get a nice o-zone shift. After a wild Leafs scramble, Freddie Andersen appears down and out, giving Detroit winger Robby Fabbri most of the net to shoot at. But Andersen gets his glove up in time to save what looked like a sure goal.
Fabbri gets another good chance after a TV timeout, but he fans on a one-timer. Beyond that the Leafs are mostly just toying with Detroit. Bernier is honestly putting in a valiant effort here just by making some decent saves. Good effort, Jonathan.
I really expected score effects to kick in by now, but the fourth line and then the Tavares line cycle for nearly a minute and a half while Pierre Engvall peppers the end boards and occasionally Bernier. Andreas Athanasiou, who is legit good, gets a partial break in on Andersen for the Wings’ only real chance in a while. Freddie has the save.
The period ends 6-0. The Red Wings look as if they basically all want to die. It will likely be forgotten, but Bernier has actually made multiple good saves late in the period. Shots on goal in that period—and remember, Toronto had an enormous lead the whole time—were 24-5 for the Leafs. Wow.
The game continues to occur. I may not be quite as detailed as usual with this period.
Bernier makes a quality save on a shot from Pierre Engvall. Good one Bernier. Fittingly, it was the Leafs’ 47th shot on goal of the night. Gauthier, while moving through the neutral zone, flicks a puck into Filip Hronek’s face.
Bernier makes a truly terrific last-gasp save on Kasperi Kapanen to knock the puck into the crossbar and out. The light actually goes on, but no goal. Pierre Engvall sure has the puck a lot tonight! Of course, a blowout is a good time for him to get a lot of ice.
The crowd is very excited to sing Sweet Caroline. It is the only time tonight they have seemed excited. Can you blame them, really?
Nylander feeds Johnsson for the hat trick on a two-on-one, but Johnsson can’t settle the puck down for the shot. The Tavares line is still relentlessly cycling on the Red Wings. They don’t even seem like they’re trying that hard, but the Red Wings are barely trying at all, and so here we are.
That said, the Red Wings do cycle on the Leafs’ fourth line for a bit, so there’s that. Nothing comes of it. 6-0 final.
- Look, we have to get this out of the way. The Red Wings are really bad. Given Ottawa’s surprising feistiness, Detroit may be the worst team in the NHL. After the first period in this one, they turned in one of the most defeated-looking performances I’ve ever seen from a team this early in the year. On top of that, they had their goalie get hurt right before the third goal and then had to play a goalie who was sick and apparently on an IV drip at intermissions. This was a mismatch.
- But you can only play the team in front of you, and the Leafs annihilated them. They did it with relentless offence; maybe more strikingly, they did it off the cycle. We’ll see how this persists against tougher competition, but the hyper-offensive Leafs of the past seemed more like a rush team to me. This team just sustained attack after attack. It was merciless. Toronto actually outchanced and outshot the Wings even worse in the third period en route to dominating in every category.
- Honestly, not too many Leafs had bad nights. Andreas Johnsson was driving to the net with abandon and was rewarded for it. The whole Tavares line was borderline cruel in what it did to its opposition. Jason Spezza’s line is not actually one I want to trust at five-on-five, but he had a lovely power play assist and hopefully soon we can slide him back to the fourth-line rule that more suits him.
- Freddie Andersen had to make a few decent saves and one really terrific one, on Fabbri. But this was one of the easier shutouts of his career.
- Andreas Athanasiou is about the only Red Wings skater who I can remember achieving very much, aside from the one excellent Fabbri chance. Dylan Larkin was wrapped up in a black bag and thrown into Lake Michigan.
- I genuinely have to salute Jonathan Bernier. He was apparently very ill and he came in to make multiple good saves and put up a .925 on 40 shots against. He also did this behind a team that looked like it had been sedated for most of the night.
- One slightly less positive note—Jake Muzzin was the Leafs’ best defensive defenceman all year. He seems, though, a little less comfortable with the new systems than some of the other players, like the reinvigorated Tyson Barrie. Maybe this’ll just take some time. Something to watch.
- Isn’t it fun to win the games you should win, emphatically? I missed scoring six goals. Let’s do more of that. Onto the next one!