The Leafs continue their western travels tonight in Calgary, a place where all things Toronto are beloved.
Tyson Barrie puts a low percentage shot on David Rittich, and we have a whistle. After a bit of trouble in their own zone, the Matthews line breaks out and Kasperi Kapanen almost hits in a dangerous lateral pass from William Nylander off the rush.
Jason Spezza takes a seemingly accidental spinning punch in the face behind the Flames’ net from Michael Stone. Some good back and forth, though no really great chances; the Matthews line has some good pressure. Travis Dermott breaks up a rush in nice fashion.
You're allowed to aggressively take chances when you can skate like Travis Dermott. pic.twitter.com/ryH8M7H6Bh— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) December 13, 2019
The fourth line of Spezza, Pontus Aberg and Nic Petan has its second energetic shift of the night, although it doesn’t amount to more than o-zone time.
The Leafs get a good chance off a Justin Holl point shot that causes a scramble. John Tavares can’t quite stuff in a wraparound...but that’s not the end of the shift. Barrie works the puck to Mitch Marner behind the net, who makes a gorgeous quick reverse to Tavares at the side of the slot. Tavares one-times it in. Great goal and it’s 1-0.
The Flames fourth line—which, it has to be said, has a couple of decent players on it—gives their Leaf counterparts a long shift in the Toronto zone. It leads to point shots and not much more, though.
The Leafs have a remarkable extended o-zone shift with the Tavares line and actually switch over to the Matthews line while sustaining a cycle. Justin Holl makes a nice pinch and pass; he’s really coming into his own of late it feels like. I definitely think he appreciates the new coach.
A bit of a close call as TJ Brodie pops up in the Leafs’ zone but can’t finish. After a bit more back and forth, Freddie Andersen makes his first truly great stop of the game, sliding to stop Andrew Mangiapane from getting his bread.
Freddie with his first big stop of the game#Leafs x #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/i9yzg859W4— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 13, 2019
Mitch Marner is feeling good tonight, he shows off a wild loose puck deke. Unfortunately, the good times do not keep rolling. The Leafs get scrambled mid-change and nobody takes Travis Hamonic; Sean Monahan hits him with a pass and Hamonic snipes one home. Nylander is trying to get to his normal position, which is generally not a bad instinct, but as Ray Ferraro points out he ought to stay in the middle there. 1-1.
Holl, after a good start, has hit a bump late in the first here and takes a tripping penalty. The Leafs do a decent job on the kill and get several clears, though fifteen seconds remain on the penalty for the start of the second.
Up and down period. There was a lot of back and forth zone time that mostly led to shots from defenders for both teams (in fairness, though, one of Calgary’s went in.) The Leafs seemed to have slightly more dangerous chances and, encouragingly, the Hyman-Tavares-Marner line looks to be in excellent offensive form. Muzzin-Holl looks like a pretty decent pairing. On the whole, not a bad 20 minutes for Toronto.
The Flames look like a team with a lot of strength on defence and a lot of technically sound forwards. They do rely on a couple of specific guys to bring the offensive flash.
I don’t mean to start another period by criticizing Tyson Barrie, but after a bit of limited back and forth, he gets bowled over by Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk only narrowly misses a dangerous chance. Barrie is not great in his own zone, if you hadn’t heard.
Flames are coming on a bit here, getting some good pressure and a near miss when Sean Monahan can’t force a pass through to Johnny Gaudreau. The Tavares line comes back the other way and forces a good save by Dave Rittich. Gaudreau gets some space rushing in one-on-one and Andersen robs him with a glove. After a period where they allowed only a couple of dangerous chances against the Leafs are giving away more here.
Morgan Rielly makes a heroic dash back to his own zone and obstructs Andrew Mangiapane on a partial break without taking a penalty. I am assuming Tyson Barrie thought he had support from a high forward here because otherwise this is a very reckless pinch to make on purpose.
Morgan Rielly gets all the way back on this #Leafs x #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/BPj7aG4Upz— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 13, 2019
Jake Muzzin makes a great pass to Zach Hyman in the slot, who is robbed by Dave Rittich. The Leafs’ third line has their first memorable offensive shift of the night started by a rush from Ilya Mikheyev. It ends when Pierre Engvall draws a penalty. Leafs to their first power play.
The power play does not achieve much of anything, though. The only thing even approximating a chance is a rush by Jason Spezza late. Bleh.
But good news. The line that’s been flying cashes in once again on a 3-on-2. Hyman goes to the net, Tavares sits back and hits Marner on the pass, and Marner smokes the puck past Rittich. 2-1 Leafs!
The momentum seems to stick for a bit; the Kerfoot line sustains a terrific possession shift off an Energizer Bunny effort from Mikheyev. No goals, and obviously the hardest thing is to break into the slot, but still, good work.
The seemingly omnipresent Andrew Mangiapane pounces on a turnover and the Flames get some pressure lately, but Toronto survives with a late zone exit. 2-1 at the end of two.
The Leafs are definitely being led by the Tavares line tonight, who have looked terrific. My eye test thought the Flames were more dangerous in the second than they were in the first; apparently this was true, but not much more than Toronto (Toronto dominated in scoring chances but was narrowly edged in expected goals.) Pretty good, all considered. I do not think Kapanen works on the Matthews line, though, and I think Sheldon Keefe is having similar thoughts; he was trying Pontus Aberg there again late in the second.
Freddie Andersen is looking very solid once again. As seems to be the way on this road trip, he got a crowd chant of his name later in the period. Hold that thought.
Things do not start well. Mikael Backlund knocks down an attempted clear by Freddie Andersen and throws it to Johnny Gaudreau at the top of the circles, who fires it top corner. 2-2.
Worse: Tobias Rider and Michael Frolik streak in; Rieder throws it to Frolik, and he beats Freddie glove hand. Now it’s 3-2, less than two minutes into the third. Welp!
But wait, there’s more! Johnny Gaudreau tips a Rasmus Andersson shot and now it’s 4-2, still less than three minutes into the third. Absolutely brutal collapse by the Leafs here in a game they had played pretty well for two periods. Keefe takes a timeout to rally the troops, naturally enough.
Elias Lindholm takes a penalty; after twenty-five seconds of not much, Travis Hamonic shoots it over the glass and now it’s a 5-on-3. If you want a chance to get back in this game, this is it.
The Leafs mostly waste the time trying to set up one-timers that miss; Auston Matthews rings the iron on one late shot, and while it makes a loud and impressive noise, that’s as close as they come. Flames kill it.
Tobias Rieder gets a partial break, but Auston Matthews does a decent job defending him. The Leafs are not pressing to the extent you would hope here; it’s not like they’re generating nothing but to salvage this game they need to own the last eight minutes or they need to get very lucky. I don’t feel very lucky, to be honest with you.
My pessimism is justified, as it turns out, because the Leafs don’t do much. Tyson Barrie makes a ludicrously bad giveaway that almost gets us to 5-2.
John Tavares does get loose on a breakaway and it goes through Rittich, but is diverted enough to miss the net.
Leafs pull the goalie relatively early, just after the four minutes remaining mark. All they really achieve is that they narrowly avoid giving up an empty-netter. 4-2 is your final.
- Freddie didn’t quite have his best stuff for a couple of minutes in the third, and that was unfortunate for us. Lots of good work on the whole marred there. But...
- The whole team had a shell-shocked and ineffective third period that destroyed what had been a decent effort up to then. They fell apart and wound up with another regulation loss. Lots of bad teams are good except for their worst moments.
- Tyson Barrie is making me crazy, y’all. I’m trying to see him with fairness and balance and all that, but I see a player with certain skills that do not add up to him helping his team very much. He forces shots in the offensive zone that are generally not high percentage and he is an absolute disaster defensively.
- Cody Ceci did not do anything noticeably bad to my eye, but he did not do well in shots. Nor did our whole third line despite a few good shifts.
- Please don’t put Kasperi Kapanen with Auston Matthews again. It does not work.
- Pretty brutal night for the power play. They did come very close to scoring near the end of the 5-on-3, but they’re gang of forwards making a billion dollars combined, that’s kind of a basic expectation on a 95-second two-man advantage. We seemed to spend a lot of time setting up one-timers slowly, which kinda defeats the point of a one-timer.
- The Tavares line looked good at least.
- The Flames got good goaltending from Dave Rittich and Andrew Mangiapane was everywhere; he was unlucky not to score. Gaudreau is obviously a great talent and the Flames have a strong defence group.
- It’s the points you leave on the table that kill you, you know.