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Recap: Maple Leafs win a Wild New Year’s Eve game

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Okay, it wasn’t really very wild, but it was a win.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

One more shot at Leafs hockey in 2019. Let’s get to it.

First Period

First excitement of the game is Kasperi Kapanen on fire on a rush, but Devan Dubnyk successfully poke checks to stop the scoring chance.

Whooo. Alexander Kerfoot gets point number 100 because he’s on a line with John Tavares. Watch:

1-0 Leafs

Adam Brooks and Dmytro Timashov get a shot at Dubnyk largely due to defensive indifference from the Wild depth. Brooks cuts through the Wild like a knife through butter.

Oh, that’s fun. Zach Hyman takes an offensive zone penalty for interference when the Wild player got the jump on him and was taking off with the puck. Minnesota’s power play is not very dangerous-looking.

Brooks and friends get another shift and look active. The Minnesota depth really suits them.

Pierre Engvall bails out Tyson Barrie on a simple zone exit pass when he simply cannot stand Ryan “does he know he’s traded” Hartman pressuring him.

The same man ends up in the box, so the Leafs get a power play. Which is not very good because they keep failing to keep the puck in the zone.

So much for the fourth line looking good. Timashov takes a high-sticking call. This Wild power play looks a lot trickier, but Andersen saves the day, then it turns into the Marner show for an incredible period of time. Engvall and Kapanen take over, and they burn fully half the penalty. Wildly bad power play.

Oh, wow. Matthews gets the puck near the net, and really, any NHL goaltender should have that puck locked down or his leg locked to the post before Nylander punches it in.

2-0 Leafs

Thoughts

The broadcast theme tonight is turnovers, and how the Leafs just need to tighten up. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a thought like that before. I’ve been hearing it since before Auston Matthews was drafted, and it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe just embrace it.

Apple turnovers in Denver, Colorado USA Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

This recipe for blueberry turnovers looks good.

Numbers

No real data tonight, instead the things I learned from the broadcast:

  • Christmas makes goalies bad
  • Martin Marincin is flaky sometimes
  • Technology is really something (after the Wild use their iPad to show the Leafs signature power play move)

Heatmap

Okay, the Wild had offensive indifference too.

Wait! Gotta show you two. The Wild are almost even in shotshare in all-situations because of their 2-1 PP advantage:

LOL

But wait, there’s more. I can’t help taking this boring game seriously. Gaithier played half the 5on5 minutes to Brooks and Timashov, and last hit the ice midway through the Wild’s first PP. He might be benched again?

Second Period

The Leafs get a long, long, long series of offensive cycles. The Wild break it up for short periods, but the Leafs just change lines and come back. Now, the Wild, who are generally good defensively, are keeping the Leafs to the outside more than is usual. But it just goes on forever, so this is a game where quality of shooting stops mattering, as the relentless round and round keeps going round and round.

Something happened. John Tavares has a knee problem off the faceoff, and Martin Marincin, somehow, drew a penalty at the same time. Who trips Marincin? Why?

Tavares stays out for the power play which looks static and ineffective. And who cares tonight? The Leafs are feasting at five-on-five.

The Leafs get another power play! This time former Bruin Ryan Donato goes off.

Oh, lovely. This power play rocked. Bing, bang, boom it’s in.

3-0 Leafs.

I have a theory that because the Leafs power play is more puck movement than player movement, which is the opposite of the five-on-five play, it looks more static than it is.

Wild are a little awake:

Every time a Leafs player takes a bump, the broadcast freaks out, but Engvall is actually going to the dressing room. He was hit, not very hard, into the boards, but I think his arm/wrist was bent at a weird angle.

Dermott takes a penalty for sending Jordan Greenway flying. Jordan is our J.D’s brother, and if we all gang up and bug seldo, he might give us a prospect report soon.

Booooooo. Wild get a goal with Koivu providing a perfect screen.

3-1 Leafs.

Good Lord. “Ryan Suter, with his first goal on home ice in 56 games.” The Leafs are so good at slump busting.

Something funny is going on, and Dermott has left the bench, the refs are forth and back to the benches, and Keefe calls a timeout. (Keefe isn’t super clever in using timeouts, he’s just recognizing that with the new challenge rules, you might as well use it.)

Dermott seems to be off for concussion protocol long, long after he was hit and served a penalty.

You know when the Wild make a little effort, they’re quite good.

Oh, wait, now Dubnyk is hurt. I think the Wild’s backup is very bad but I’m drawing a blank on who it is....

Dubnyk stays in the game, and he’s obviously got an issue, but the Wild don’t seem interested in his petty concerns.

The Wild are back to being good at hockey, and Ceci gets bowled over in the crease, and then blocks a shot. This is his most active game in ages.

Nylander with a shot from LW reminds me he’s playing LW. Looks pretty seamless. He needed about one game at Worlds last spring to get it down, and he could play there full time, but his shooting percentage might suffer.

Engvall is back, and is fine, by the way. Hardev has been informed and is also fine.

Holl gets roughed up by half the Wild, and that’s the end of that period.

Short, green, toothless Lions, perhaps.

Thoughts

As you may know, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Justin Holl. So how about some things I like about him?

  • He’s one of those “always on” players. He might get outplayed, and he will, defensively, but he won’t be lazy.
  • He passes nice and sensibly. No big heat, no pass just to get it off his stick that leaves the forward hung out to dry.
  • He’s a decent enough skater, which is actually not a default setting on defenders.
  • He is not an egomaniac. He knows who to defer to, and he rarely tries things he can’t do.

Heatmap

Now that there’s more shots, you can see that the Wild defence is effective:

Their offence is LOL still.

Gauthier is not quite benched, but considering the minutes he’s playing — 4:12 all-situations — it’s fair to ask why he’s even on the team. He’s being outplayed pretty handily by Adam Brooks, who is the size of his left leg.

I don’t think Keefe likes his current fourth liners he’s been saddled with, and this is the one area where I agree with him. Get this sorted out, Dubas. Give the coach players he will play.

Third Period

Let’s close this out! 20 minutes, no whistle, 2 points.

Your Activated D moment: Barrie to Rielly, who goes on a tour around the net, and... passes it out the Barrie at the point who slaps it in harmlessly. But it’s 3-1, so who cares.

Dermott is on the ice and looks fine, so no one was ever hurt-hurt.

The fourth line (with Gauthier) and Holl and Marincin get hemmed in and just look sort of pathetic. It’s a nice reminder that the Leafs depth is actually pretty mediocre under any kind of pressure.

Leafs get an offensive cycle and are never not an arms-length from the boards.

You know, the alternate reality where Boudreau coaches the Leafs must be really strange.

Good heavens. I just saw a nice defensive play from Morgan Rielly. That’s Ceci and Rielly both now. Surely Barrie has one in him tonight?

Broadcast just showed some Matthews highlights. The only Leafs worse in Individual Expected Goals at five-on-five are Holl, Marincin and Spezza (and four guys with no shots, including Marner who is often the high forward). Matthews has three Individual Corsi For. He gets shots on the power play, he converts at such a high rate, he has goals. He plays so much, he has a lot of goals. But his five-on-five shooting dominance has vanished in a cloud of possession smoke.

There have been many injury scares:

And Rielly left the ice for a minute, and Kapanen blocked a shot, and everyone needs to just calm down. There is no curse.

Wild try to pull Dubnyk at 2:35, but have to regroup for a stoppage.

The Wild are not good with a six-on-five. If the Leafs had their regular PK guys out here, they’d have had a shorty by now.

JT gets the ENG, and this game is over. 4-1 Leafs.

Thoughts

Leafs got really meh in the third period, and the Wild, at their best, are sort of similarly meh. The Expected Goals for All-Situations (Natural Stat Trick) were 2.4 to 1.4 for the Leafs, and considering they ended the game even on power play opportunities, that’s a good game from the good guys. Andersen was also absolutely on fire. They Leafs could have dogged it a lot more in the third, and been fine.

Leafs: Mediocre quality, but heaps of it. Wild: better at defending, can’t buy a goal.

Happy New Year, Everyone!