Who is even in is the game?
Out: Jake Muzzin, Ilya Mikheyev, Trevor Moore, Andreas Johnsson
In: Martin Marincin, Adam Brooks
Watching: Timothy Liljegren, Kenny Agostino
I don’t take the lines seriously at all these days. Maybe Alexander Kerfoot will play top-line wing, maybe Pierre Engvall and Adam Brooks will be the third- and fourth-line centres, and maybe... well, let’s see.
The first line gets hemmed in. The second line gets hemmed in except for the one brief moment when William Nylander creates a second of zone time. The next line is trying to come out (to be hemmed in, one supposes), when....
The third line with Dmytro Timashov on it, draws a penalty with a weak bit of offensive pressure, the Rangers should not be taking penalties in that situation.
The Leafs power play gets setup, gets a couple of shots off, seem to keep going back to the Barrie one-timer, which is suboptimal, but then they switch it up to the Nylander one-timer, and on the second try with that...
The second unit might not have even seen the ice there.
Things look much better post-power play with some dangerous pressure.
Well, I mean, the did look better, until Artemi Panarin takes on the third line plus Cocy Ceci and Travis Dermott. It’s not a fair fight even before Panarin dishes the puck to Ryan Strome.
And the fourth line gets their first shift post-goal-against. It lasts about 12 seconds, and Jason Spezza manages to move the puck up ice to allow a change.
The top two lines take over, and it’s the Leafs in charge again for a while.
Oops, he did it again. Tyson Barrie gets caught too deep, and hauls down Pavel Buchnevich on the backcheck. Morgan Rielly goes in hard to the post on the play too.
Frederik Andersen takes Buchnevich on the penalty shot, no problem.
#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/D742zNYNAF— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 29, 2019
Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s them, but everyone seems to have lost the plot for a while. The clock runs out on the Leafs looking like they should be the team winning this game, but also like a team with only three lines. Timashov, Brooks and Gauthier are not seeing any ice late in the period.
- The gap, no chasm, between the top six and the rest of this team in this game is incredible to watch. Even against a weak team (in some ways) like the Rangers.
- Mr William Nylander Esquire is having a hell of a game. (The other top four Leafs forwards are also exciting.)
Nylander almost gets his 2nd goal of the night.. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/JsDQes77MW— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) December 29, 2019
- I’d put Kapanen and Spezza on one line with some guy, likely Engvall and bench the rest of the depth. <—- I wrote that a minute before they did it, so I’m leaving this in.
I’m not sure if this means much if you don’t look at this shift chart all the time (I confess, I do). But that is really, really long shifts for the Leafs. There’s a real risk to playing long shifts and not freely cycling in your fourth line unless the situation is just right. Fatigue, and particularly on a team that likes to get hemmed in, causes mistakes and mistakes lead to goals against.
The Rangers have the same problem. They don’t want to play Gregg McKegg much or Michael Haley, who is... a very old school fourth liner is the polite term. Panarin is playing Marner-length shifts.
What brings me up short is, injuries notwithstanding, the Rangers and the Leafs are supposed to be at very different points in rebuilding. So it’s interesting that they look so alike in so many ways.
The Leafs hold a very small edge in Expected Goals at five-on-five, and a much bigger one at all-situations. Drawing penalties is a really good plan for the rest of the game considering the chances they routinely give up at even strength.
Matthews’ first shift ends with him doing a Barrie slapper from the blueline. That and a buck-fifty will get you a cup of coffee. The broadcast notes that “teams just don’t seem to know what to do with the high F3”. They don’t need to do anything most of the time; it’s often not an arrangement you want to disrupt. As a defending team, I’ll let Auston Matthews wail from the blueline all night long and call it a good deal.
Oops, they did it again. Strome is on the ice versus the third line/pair again, and....
And the Rangers take a penalty dealing with the Matthews line. This seems almost necessary in this game: the Leafs must rely on their power play to come back.
Alexandar Georgiev is fantastic tonight at lateral puck tracking and movement, and the Leafs power play can’t beat him. He keeps on keeping the Rangers in the lead.
Whooo. Matthews with a beauty off the faceoff:
Whoa, Panarin steals the puck and starts a rush that just doesn’t end in a goal ... somehow. Leafs get one going back the other way, and suddenly it’s a wild game.
And their penalty discipline/luck runs out and the Leafs are on the PK with an offensive zone call on Engvall.
Gauthier, who hasn’t played since one tiny shift before the Leafs last power play, loses the faceoff, and the Rangers get to work.
Zibanejad gets two looks at an open net and misses on both, and finally, Marner clears the puck. Leafs escape unscathed.
And, like he felt he was owed it by the hockey gods, Zibanejad gets the Rangers another one. Or maybe it was the Activated D with no one covering, not imaginary deities.
Okay, I don’t understand why Marincin and Strome are stand-up wrestling, but they both seem mad.
They each get a double minor, so it stays five-on-five as this all carries into the third period.
- The second period was more Matthews than Nylander, and that’s fun too.
- Managing to draw two penalties while trailing is difficult, and yet, they need to keep that up to have a good chance to get back in this.
- The Rangers are the only team in the NHL, other than the Red Wings, that are comprehensively worse defensively than the Leafs. But they are very good offensively.
- I don’t feel like the Leafs sustained the kind of possession they are capable of in this period, and their pinching and total hockey system cost them a goal while also generating not a lot of really good offence.
- I haven’t minded Marincin and Holl together. Travis Dermott likely wants 2019 to just be over.
Matthews and Marner are averaging over one minute per shift.
The stats match the eye test. The second period was heavily tilted to the Rangers. They now lead in Expected Goals at five-on-five, but the Leafs with the extra power play still hold the lead overall. In real goals, the Rangers have a lead they could just ride out if they were at all capable of that. Georgiev is, the rest of them....?
We open with a big Rangers transition against, and then Marner tries to race for a puck on his first shift, but the Rangers defender beats him. Marner is at the end of a one-minute shift.
JT damn near makes it a game off a feed from Nylander, but it goes high.
Brett Howden (I have no idea who that is) nearly gets one for the Rangers.
Timashov is pretty much boarded, but that doesn’t draw a penalty, so I guess the Leafs have had their quota. Also Brady Skjei hurt himself doing it.
Spezza makes a great play from behind the goal, and Kappy doesn’t put it away, but then after Kapanen makes a couple of good moves to keep the play alive, Tyson Barrie rolls in off the bench and floats it in, for Engvall to deflect.
Marner takes a puck on the ear, which should put him in concussion protocol with 10 minutes left.
The requirement to at least think about covering defencemen in deep is now gone, and — glances at scoreboard — fair enough.
There was a Gregg McKegg vs Brooks shift there, and okay, that must have been a treat to the Marlies fans. Brooks and company won it easily.
Marner returns to the bench with four minutes remaining but isn’t playing.
The Leafs are certainly giving it all they’ve got against the Rangers, but the pressure results in no goals and one Panarin rush back the other way. As these things go.
They pull the goalie very, very late, at less than two minutes to go.
A flurry of offence, and it ends with Mathews facing the wide open net with Georgiev down, and it goes off the crossbar and out.
You have got to be kidding me FFS #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/QZzgCXrcK5— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) December 29, 2019
Ha! Second time is the charm.
Marner is on the ice in only his second shift, and this time Matthews doesn’t miss.
We’re going to OT.
- The Leafs certainly controlled the play, and owned the advantage in offence, but it sure took all they had to dig out of the hole they were in after a desultory second period.
Georgiev makes a couple of saves, one great one on Rielly but then Tony DeAngelo (a defenceman) gets it past Andersen on a two-on-one with Barrie back. Barrie neither took away the pass, nor did he take the puck-carrier. This is no the first time I’ve seen him play an odd-man rush like this.
Thoughts and Numbers
- The Leafs should not be scrabbling to play even with the Devils and the Rangers and having to shorten the bench dramatically to do it. And yet here we are.
- Georgiev was the difference maker for the Rangers, but their top line was hot too.
- Adam Brooks played 4:49.
- The third line played 12 minutes.
- And because the gods of irony sometimes pull strings, Jason Spezza led the team in Individual Expected Goals at five-on-five.
- Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie, Martin Marincin and Justin Holl led the team in Individual Corsi For with 34 between them or 51% of all shots taken. And that’s how you have the puck, have 53% Adjusted CF% and lose the game.