It’s game time! First a list of the Leafs trades so far this weekend:
The only real news of note is that Kasperi Kapanen has killed the flow:
He sounds like he has a cold, so he should watch out he doesn’t infect the team. On the other side of the ice, Jonathan Drouin is out sick, and the goon-ish Nicolas Deslauriers draws in. He used to be a Sabre, so he really hates the Leafs twice over.
Jake Gardiner is in, Nazem Kadri, of course, is not, so we’ll have another Will Ny the Centre Guy game.
Nice start from the Leafs as they win the opening faceoff, maintain possession, and John Tavares gets a good shot off in the ensuing fun.
Arvind, in the preview, wasn’t optimistic about William Nylander vs the Suomi line centred by Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The first matchup was a little ragged from both sides.
The Leafs are picking up the pace and getting their odd-man rushes. Tyler Ennis, Mitch Marner and Andreas Johnsson all get chances.
Aw, Jake! Nice one. Gardiner that is, he just slammed Deslauriers into the boards.
The Habs get the puck away from the Matthews line and take off for their own zone. Jake Muzzin gets the puck back, and seems to have no play but to bat it at the boards. The Habs ride the cycle and Andrew Shaw scores.
The Leafs challenged this one for interference, which was the right call (it’s always the right call) but there wasn’t enough interference, seems to be the opinion, and the goal stands.
Wow. Gauthier just bunts the puck up the dead centre of the neutral zone on an lazy move up the ice that was supposed to be a line change. Montreal gets the puck, and Tomas Tatar ends up with a wide open net. The TV view isn’t clear, but I think Gauthier changed with that rush going up the other way. I am so mad right now, no lie.
Travis Dermott immediately takes a penalty while defending, as he does, and the Habs are on the power play.
And now this game is in the toilet. Frederik Andersen, one-on-one with Jeff Petry!!!! And the puck goes in. Bad, bad goal against there from a team with a garbage power play.
Muzzin gives the Habs terrible power play another try, and Andersen is not looking great out there.
The Leafs take yet another penalty, this time Andersen for tripping, which is epic stupidity, and I guess they just want to throw this one all the way away. The broadcast thinks that was an accidental trip, but I call bullshit. Andersen turned his stick and yanked him down.
Luckily the Habs power play is actually terrible, and that’s all she wrote for this stinker of a period of hockey.
- The Leafs mostly outplayed Montreal until the first goal, and then they just flatlined and got no scoring chances at all, even while the Habs were doing nothing.
Here, have a look:
- Under pressure, no one on the Leafs made excellent decisions even during periods when their offence was clicking
- Frederik Gauthier is not an NHL player
- No, that first goal should not have been called back, sorry
- This period sucked
So...this will be a better period, right?
Leafs to the power play in the first minute when Victor Mete gets a little too aggressive with his stick..
Wow. Matthews just floats that under Carey Price. That’s pretty.
Nikita Zaitsev stripping the puck right off Max Domi’s stick is a fun sight.
Morgan Rielly icing the puck on a failed stretch pass is not.
Nylander’s line gets out against the Hab’s fourth line, and Brown can’t finish.
Andersen is scrambling like he’s a diner cook on Sunday morning, and he makes all the saves. Wow. Montreal with an excellent flurry there, and a goal would have nailed the coffin shut on this game.
Andersen again, when Matthews can’t exit the zone and the Canadiens get another chance.
Leafs get a cycle with crisp passes, and it ends up with no shots getting through. Story of this game.
Montreal takes another penalty with under four minutes left, and the Leafs get another power play chance which they really need.
And the Habs get the first shot on goal and the second, and oh, the Leafs have the puck finally. John Tavares just misses.
Matthews tried a cute pass and the puck just didn’t move. This is Toronto, so the ice is terrible.
Oh, baby. That was one red hot goal!!! Tyyyyyyyyyyler Ennnis!
The second unit, in the dying seconds of the power play, get some gorgeous cross-ice passes going, and Ennis puts it in. He’s been hot all game.
And Rielly ices the puck again! He’s just snakebit on the up-ice passes tonight.
Whoa. Matthews with a chance just before the horn goes. Next one will go in. There’s time to salvage this game.
- Montreal successfully kept the Leafs from shooting from dangerous areas in this period, this is not a typical Leafs offensive pattern:
I’ll caveat that by saying that I think the scorer is consistently off in his distances on the Leafs end. It’s hard to eye-test that, but I’m not quite buying the distances.
- This was not shot blocking by the Habs; in fact, the Leafs blocked eight shots to Montreal’s four in the second
- Tyler Ennis could be a genuine contributor with literally any player better than Gauthier and Lindholm, who seem to be in a duel to the death to be the biggest non-factors
- A check on Nylander shows he’s holding about even with a Corsi differential of 6-7 and it’s the Matthews line that is giving up all of the shots against with the Tavares line the exact opposite (from Natural Stat Trick’s new forward lines data in their gamesheets)
Matthews opens the period with an attempt to drag the puck across in front of Price, but Price has it.
Matthews knocks down Shea Weber, and the crowd goes wild.
Now. I want to tell you something, if you go through weeks and weeks of crappy shooting percentage, regression will come for you, and it will look like this:
Is anyone else having deja vu right now?
Johnsson gets dumped on his butt by Domi, and I want someone to discuss that with Mr Domi.
Zach Hyman rides Danault like he’s a sled right into the boards.
Andersen with a perfect pokecheck to preserve the tie, but Johnsson is off for hooking. Please, Habs, use your terrible power play this time, okay?
Dammit. Kappy with a hell of a chance that goes off the post, and yes the Habs power play was terrible.
Five minutes to go to win this game and not let the Habs have a point.
Nylander bulls the puck out of the zone, but Marleau can’t take the pass through the Canadiens defenders.
The Leafs are struggling to get out of the neutral zone, that’s how good the Canadiens are at disruptive play.
They do it, they make the zone, and Marner gets off a great shot/pass and Zach Hyman puts it in the net. I said, ZACH HYMAN PUTS IT IN THE NET.
Oh, Kappy! He has the empty net, and he gives the goal to Andreas Johnsson to put it in.
Hyman is driving the empty net, and Weber hauls him down so they award the goal to Hyman.
The Canadiens are all mad and yelling, and they feel bad. As god and nature intended!
There were a host of pre-game interviews about William Nylander where various people talked about his zone exit ability. It is very obvious that the place for him is with Auston Matthews, the man who gets hemmed in.
A stint at centre where Nylander has to work even harder at the defensive zone work is going to only make him better. And maybe when Nazem Kadri comes back, he’ll stay on that pseudo-checking line, because the better Nylander gets now at non-offensive play, the better he will always be.
There was talk about Kasperi Kapanen as the model of development. He’s paid his dues in the AHL and on the lower lines in the NHL, and he’s not showing any reason why he should not be on a top line. Taking him off of Matthews wing for Nylander right now is not the right message to send when that development path is supposed to be, in some way, fair and equitable and based on merit.
This is no different from the trade deadline decisions Kyle Dubas has to make. It’s the balance between win now and keep on winning for years. Mike Babcock’s balancing act is between “just playing the best players together” which is often a wrong choice anyway, and creating the best future players out of all of his young stars.
Sometimes, you know, I feel like people think that Matthews, Marner and Nylander have peaked. They haven’t. They have much, much more to learn and things to improve on. Why would anyone want to settle for really good at the easy stuff when you can be great all the time?
Are the Leafs a finished, polished product? No, of course not, and they won’t always play like they are even when the goals pour in the opposing net like water over Niagara Falls.
There was also talk from Babcock this morning about post-trade-deadline play and how that’s the time when players stop thinking too much, and just play. This game was not that; in fact, it was a mess some of the time. But they never quit.
In this game, and over and over again this season, the lesson is there for anyone who cares to see it: When it all goes to shit, put your head down and work. /extreme Babcock voice
See you all tomorrow and Monday for trade deadline action.