Putting it lightly, the stars failed to show up until the game was all but done, as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 6-4 to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. Skaters who played games for the Toronto Marlies combined for two goals and five points in the loss.
Frederik Andersen got pulled after giving up three goals on 19 shots in just over a period of work. Michael Hutchinson also gave up three goals, but on 16 shots in recovery. I don’t want to blame the goalies in this game because the Leafs gave up 4.22 expected goals in all situations, owning only 38% of the share. At 5v5, they also had only 42% of the possession.
Simply put: the skaters weren’t good enough.
The first big chance of this game came from the stick of Auston Matthews. Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner pulled the Oilers towards the top of the zone on the left side while Matthews snuck in from the bottom on the weak side. His quick shot was on target, but Mike Smith was just barely able to get an elbow on it, deflecting the puck away.
This goal came from the defense (and the forwards) being unable to clear the puck from their own zone. It started with Justin Holl and Martin Marincin, as they got stuck out on a long shift. Marincin was able to get off for Morgan Rielly at some point, but the Oilers had hemmed the Leafs with the John Tavares line out on the ice in their own zone. Oscar Klefbom took a shot from the point and it found a corner in the net for the game’s opening goal.
Hyman nearly scored on a rebound in front of the net a few minutes later, but roofed his shot over the net. This chance came from a great shift by the fourth line plus Marincin and Holl. Talk about the Marlies getting things done. Adam Brooks had an especially nice pass here.
Strong shift from Adam Brooks nearly ends with a Zach Hyman goal pic.twitter.com/0lJhBBjOey— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 7, 2020
The Leafs got into a bit of penalty trouble in the second half of the period when both Holl and Travis Dermott got called for infractions. Both were really weak calls, to be honest. First, Holl got called for pushing Ethan Bear into the corner. Bear fell down because he’s still not old enough to drink. It should not have been Holl’s fault.
Between the two penalties, Rielly got shot in the face by Zack Kassian with a point shot. He left for some stitches but would be okay to continue.
Rielly to the room after getting a puck in the chin, but didn't look too serious.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) January 7, 2020
It was not a good period for the Leafs. They were on the kill twice (whether they deserved it was another question) and got out-shot in all categories at 5v5. They were behind in shot attempts (15-24), shots (11-16), and scoring chances (9-13). Expected goals was 51% in Toronto’s favour, however, as the Oilers took a lot of shots from the point. This was a result of their tactic of shooting from the perimeter and hoping for rebounds in front of the net.
Darnell Nurse scored on the first shift of the second period after a complete breakdown in the defensive one by the Leafs. The Leafs didn’t have three players behind the puck — Alex Kerfoot was chasing the whole time and even thought he could get away with drifting — and then Holl screened his own goalie as the shot was coming. The Leafs just weren’t tight enough on their checks.
This goal from Kailer Yamamoto kicked Andersen out of the game. I have no idea what Tyson Barrie was doing on this play and I don’t think he knew either. I honestly think Barrie does more damage to the Leafs than Cody Ceci.
Michael Hutchinson came into the game and looked pretty strong coming in cold. He had this save and another slick (right-handed) glove save within a few minutes of each other.
Michael Hutchinson getting his feet wet pic.twitter.com/kdrL3RbVb2— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 7, 2020
The pulling seemed to give the Leafs a bit of life and a kick in the pants to boot. The third line combined for a great goal off the rush, starting with Kasperi Kapanen shooting up the wing with Pierre Engvall in the middle and Jason Spezza keeping up. the puck was moved right to left as the Oilers flailed around them on the ice. Great play from all three players.
Then the Leafs got a power play. And another. Suddenly the referees had given the Leafs a 5v3 power play for the better part of two minute. Matthews had a shot from the left faceoff dot that got pretty close. Marner and Tavares combined for a nifty tip in front of the net later in the advantage. Unfortunately, the Leafs had the movement but weren’t surprising the Oilers enough and the two penalties were killed.
The failure to score on the power play would end up being costly as the Alex Chiasson walked in and sniped a surprisingly hard shot past Hutchinson, putting the Leafs down four to one. Ugh.
After this goal, Sheldon Keefe tried some new lines. Particularly switching Kerfoot and Spezza from the second and third lines. Kerfoot was back at centre with Engvall and Kapanen, while Spezza skated on the right wing with Tavares and William Nylander on his off-side.
Freddy Gauthier you beautiful fridge on skates. Mason Marchment earned his first career NHL point when his pass into space found the Goat hustling down the ice while battling an Oiler behind him. Mike Smith tried to play goalie like they did in the ‘80s as Gauthier corralled the puck and roofed it, sparking some life in the game. Adam Brooks got his second assist of the season on this goal, as well.
Maple Leafs forward Mason Marchment has registered his first NHL point with an assist on Frederik Gauthier’s second period goal. #LeafsForever— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) January 7, 2020
Pierre Engvall! The depth was doing all the work in this game as Engvall tipped home a point shot from Holl. I was hyping up Engvall all game because I could see him skating just a little bit faster and fighting a little bit harder. He was so good on the forecheck and on the penalty kill, this goal was fully deserved, even if the puck bounced off his hoof and in.
The Leafs had a much better second period than their first. They owned the majority of the shot attempts (21-13) and shots (12-9), but lost out on the quality of chance metrics. Nevertheless, they got some puck luck, maintaining a one-goal game, despite their tough start to the period.
Kerfoot took a penalty, but the Leafs were able to kill it off, However, Holl got called for high-sticking and the Oilers did convert on the man advantage. Leon Draisaitl sniped from the wing after skating into the offensive zone himself. He found an massive space in the slot and finished the play quite easily. I thought Marner was quite useless here. I know he’s supposed to cover the point, but if there are four Oilers and only two Leafs in front of you, you’re in trouble and should probably do something.
McDavid walked around Rielly and scored his first NHL goal in Toronto. Took him long enough. By the way, the two sides were playing 4v4 because Dermott and Jujhar Khaira got in a shoving match and earned a couple of roughing penalties.
One question I always have for Matthews is why he always has to wait for another star to score before he decides to wake up and do something about it. Show off by showing up first, please!
Auston Matthews scores his 29th on the PP pic.twitter.com/FPLOYrrlLJ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 7, 2020
As the clock ticked down the Oilers got called for too many men on the ice, sending the Leafs to the power play with 1:35 left in the game. However, the Leafs couldn’t get anything done. They gave up as many shot attempts on their empty net (two) as towards Mike Smith.
- Positives from this game, I’m glad the Leafs have competent depth on offense to make up for quiet nights from the rest of the roster. However, there are too many stars on this team for them all to go quiet on the same night. Tavares and Nylander had 32% of the shot share mostly against the McDavid line. I know the competition is enormous, but so is the talent on that line.
- Jesus, Justin Holl and Martin Marincin looked like crap against McDavid in the first half of the game. They may not have given up a goal against to him (that was Rielly), but they were well on their way to. They did their best, but couldn’t contain him.
- Get well soon, Jake Muzzin.