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Recap: Maple Leafs stage a comeback, but can’t stick the landing, fall 3-2 to Red Wings

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This game was a lesson in how not to execute a power play.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Hockey is back! And the New Guy is on the ice for his first game, and I am so sure there won’t be too much talk about how if Jake Muzzin has to play left, then who is left to play right, because the right way for Morgan Rielly to play is to play left. Right?

The ceremony for Red Kelly’s jersey retirement was very bittersweet. I think everyone in Detroit knows they should have done this a long time ago. But he was a great player for the Leafs and for the Wings, and he was an original too. He won the cup as a defender and as a centre. He had 823 points in 1,316 games. He won the Hart in 1967 (his seventh time), and one of these days we’ll celebrate that win. His name is on the Norris multiple times because without Red Kelly there would be no Bobby Orr, and without Bobby Orr there would be no ... well, you know the story, and it ends at Jake Gardiner (who started as a forward) and Morgan Rielly and continues with Rasmus Sandin and many more to come.

Onto the game.

Period One

It’s always weird for me to see Nick Kronwall on a day that starts seeing Staffan Kronwall play. Now there’s a defenceman, if only he’d had it at NHL speed.

Muzzin and Rielly start the game with some simple chip-ins as they figure out who is doing what.

In between meetings, I always forget that the Red Wings are fairly fast, decently young in places, and like a stretch pass as much as the Leafs do. This can lead to a lot of circle to circle play and dueling icings. Like the start of this first period.

In the first half of the period, the Tavares line are the only offensive line that looks at all on their game. Just past the halfway mark, this is what a snoozefest looks like:

Toronto with the early penalty, which bodes well for them ever getting a power play of their own. Will we see New Guy on the PK?

No New Guy at first, the usual guys were pretty bad. Frederik Andersen did the bulk of the work with one emergency puck removal by Ron Hainsey.

Muzzin and Rielly come out as a sort of second unit with about 40 seconds left. And, I don’t like this, but I’m not the coach. They don’t stay out long which makes it less clear what that was about.

Holy super line. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares post-PK are hot like burning and they draw a penalty. Pretty cheap penalty call, but we aren’t sending it back!

The power play stinks at first.

The second unit comes out, and it stinks too. No Muzzin on the second unit, by the way, that was a one-day wonder that got everyone ruffled.

The first unit comes back and stinks.

Stinks = can’t get setup or control the puck once they do, which before you start worrying that the power play is a particular disaster, that’s how they’re playing the whole game. So it’s all one issue.

Jake De La Rose bowls over Andersen, and Andersen will totally go for him. Leafs to the power play again. And I’m not a “send a message” person. I hate when every clean hit has to have a scrum or a fight after (the AHL), but I’da done that guy. Leafs don’t go near him.

The power play stinks much less, and Jimmy Howard steals one from Marner. Howard was a legit All-Star so that’s quality vs quality there.

The power play shall continue in the second period, but this one has no scoring, but a lot of just-off-the-bye-week play.

Muzzin Report

I thought he looked totally baffled by this weird team he’s now on, and confused about where he should be on the ice with respect to Rielly. That will sort itself out. But he played markedly less minutes than Rielly, who made up the time with Zaitsev for the most part. There was also over one minute of Gardiner with Dermott, but I didn’t notice the circumstances.

Period Two

Great start, the shard of the power play is nothing, and then Par Lindholm takes a fairly dumb penalty after he loses his stick.

Muzzin on the PK off the drop with Hainsey, and Muzzin skates the puck up ice, so good for him. Dramatically improved PK there from the Leafs, as the Wings do nothing with their two minutes.

Detroit is now taking a dumb penalty for slashing on John Tavares. The Leafs are now on power play three!

Not a bad power play with lots of zone time, and one good tip shot from Tavares that doesn’t go in.

Gardiner and Muzzin out together post power play.

The Tavares line with Dermott and Zaitsev get caught in the defensive zone, and after one failed clearing try, Andersen makes a stop, Tavares bats the puck up to Hyman, and at this point, the Leafs should be away. They aren’t away because Dylan Larkin just stands up Hyman.

The Red Wings move the puck nice and easy, the Leafs chase them, and when Dermott falls on his man way out in the slot, there is no left defender and the goal goes in on a clear path from a pass. Lots of failures to clear the zone and then to disrupt the Detroit offence there from everyone on the ice (well, not Andersen).

1-0 Red Wings

The Larkin line get a scrum against the Matthews line and the third pair, and Andersen has to make some stellar saves. Every Detroit scrum looks very dangerous right now. But that was just a horribly disadvantageous matchup for the Leafs.

A broken play gives Patrick Marleau the puck, and he takes a shot any goalie will save. First I’ve noticed him this game, but Andreas Johnsson is even less visible, if that’s possible.

No idea what that’s about.

Yeah! The reverse jinx is working!

After a nice bit of business from Marleau to Matthews, they come back and double down, turning some work from Marleau into a goal for Matthews. That’s what Marleau can do just often enough to keep me hoping he’ll deliver in the playoffs.

Tie Game

Lovely (really) fourth line offensive shift. And the Leafs finish out the period looking like they might have remembered how to hockey.

Muzzin Report

He got a lesson he needed in how short the shifts have to be on a team that isn’t lazy and slow like the Kings have become. He looked horrible, gassed and stuck in the defensive zone. I saw some glimmers of very nice passing, and some defensive miscues that were kind of alarming, but he’s climbing the learning curve very fast, and seems to be much more at ease.

As far as ice time goes, Muzzin is now up to second in five-on-five minutes, and he’s playing well enough to have a positive shot share in a game where that’s not all that easy to come by.

Period Three

Oh, nasty start to the third as Muzzin goes down hard on a trip from Athanasiou. And it’s the fourth power play! Has that ever happened?

This one was a stinky one, though with nothing at all happening.

Holy backcheck by Marner as he knocks Athanasiou off the puck, but no one can get to the puck, and the Red Wings get a chance, but Marner with the defensive play of the game. He gets a tripping call, but that’s one of those good penalties to take.

The Detroit power play is really terrible.

Marner gets a chance right out of the box courtesy of Kapanen! But he can’t quite get control of the puck in time to make a good play. Still, the Leafs-fan-heavy crowd is awake now.

The crowd is doing the dueling chants and I love this, makes the game more entertaining. There should be more of this, not less in the NHL.

I have to say, I like all of the Leafs much better now than I did in the first period.

Muzzin pinching on the left side, which is not the defender on that pair I want to see doing that, but sometimes you follow the play where it leads you.

Okay. I just saw the Toronto Maple Leafs exit the zone, move through the neutral zone with possession and spring a forward to shoot from a rush chance. It was Zach Hyman, but points for execution of an actual string of hockey plays.

All of that drew a penalty, and the Leafs are going on their fifth power play. Will it be stinky? Or kinda good? That might be up to the Red Wings PK.

The only interesting thing is a switch of Nylander to the first unit and Kadri to the second.

The Leafs take a penalty right after the power play is over, and we get to see Detroit be bad for two minutes now.

Detroit think they’ve scored on a deflection, but Andersen pounces on the puck.

The Leafs fail to clear the puck along the boards on a really bad attempt by Hyman. Some good passing from the cream of Detroit’s crop, and Larkin makes it 2-1 Detroit.

There’s four minutes left, and I don’t have much hope the Leafs will pull out a come from behind road win here.

Athanasiou with a rush chance, Andersen saves.

Andersen is out with less than two and a half minutes.

Well. Don’t listen to me, eh?

Marleau with a great second half of the game ties it up on a passing play that looked for a second like he kicked it in. But no, it’s a good goal. That’s Marleau’s office, and where he needs to be to score.

Tied at 2.

Massive save by Andersen when he fails at playing the puck like it’s 2017.

And the official save by Andersen on old pal Frans Nielsen keeps the game tied.

And we’re going to OT!

Muzzin Report

Who cares, Andersen was the best defender in the game. But Muzzin will be fine with about five more games played.

Overtime

Whoa! Marner with an amazing rush chance, and Larkin is hurt trying to catch Marner, and now Larkin is stuck on the ice.

He can’t be hurt that bad because he gets a shot off, but he’s not right, and he goes off.

Bold Babcock has Muzzin out on three-on-three defensively, and he eventually helps turn the play and goes off.

Geez, Athanasiou with a rush chance and Andersen with a great save.

But Gustav Nyquist sends it to Danny DeKeyser who has been left alone by the side of the net. Not the best overtime performance I’ve ever seen from the Leafs, but then the whole game was like that on balance. It’s one point in the standings though, and we aren’t giving it back.

3-2 Red Wings.

Thoughts

Bottom line for me in this game is that the Leafs failed utterly to move their feet and the puck like they can, and they could not contain the small number of skilled Detroit players. It’s facile to say the Leafs should overwhelmingly beat Detroit because they’re a “bad” team. The Wings lack scoring skill, but they have a really good goalie and a few players that can put the puck in the net, and they played at their best.

The Leafs were their own worst opponent tonight, though, with so many power play chances and so much trouble getting set up while looking pretty tepid the rest of the time. I thought the Matthews line was frankly really dreadful, and yet, two goals. The Kadri line was just invisible, and the Tavares line looked poised to score in every shift. Funny how a game turns out.

That one’s over, forget it. The Leafs were better at the end than the start, so the next game in 20 hours or so had better start out strong.