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Recap: Toronto Maple Leafs dominant in 4-0 win over Pittsburgh Penguins

The Leafs were as good tonight as they were bad on Tuesday

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins two days after being humiliated by them. The Penguins did it without Evgeni Malkin, who will return to the lineup tonight. The Leafs will counter with their big acquisition yesterday... Denis Malgin!

Please god just don’t get blown out again... if they do I see that Nick Robertson is playing tonight so if it gets to 5-0 again this is becoming a Peterborough Petes recap.

PERIOD ONE

The game starts pretty tight from both teams for the first 5 minutes. The Leafs generated the first dangerous looking chance thanks to... the fourth line? Just as we all predicted! But Matt Murray made the save on Jason Spezza, who has looked like one of our better players of late.

The defense to start is much more in control for the Leafs, it took almost 5 minutes for the Penguins to get their first shot on net. It’s been kinda boring to watch but I’ll take that over what happened on Tuesday.

Kasperi Kapanen has upped the pest game so far.

Tyson Barrie with a #GoodStick to break up a chance by Rust off the rush.

We have our first Reffing controversy (not really) as Kyle Clifford got tripped up in the Penguins’ end but no call, the puck went the other way and the fourth line got hemmed in for a good long while.

Been a very even and also uneventful period through the first 17 and change minutes, until Malgin sticks his leg out and got called for tripping. Leafs will try to not give up a powerplay goal against the Penguins for the first time in 5 tries. I say they do it!

The Leafs do kill it off mostly thank to Andersen, who made some big saves. Frederik Gauthier took a faceoff that he lost and he proceeded to look even more decisively lost while the Penguins opened up a firing squad on net.

The period ends, and the game is tied at nil each.

First Period Thoughts

  • Offense: The Leafs had a very slight edge in shot attempts and expected goals, but not a large difference and with very little in the way of quality scoring chances. We’ll take it, though.
  • Defense: Muuuuuuuuuch better. They gave up 17 shot attempts but only about one-third of a goal in expected goals, and the heat map will show why.
  • Special teams: It was looking fine until the Gauthier shift, and then it was ugly for the final 30 seconds or so. But it worked, and that’s a step up from before so we’ll that too.
  • Lines: The Barrie pairing with Rasmus Sandin had a sub-40% number in both shot attempts and expected goals, they were the weak link. The Travis Dermott-Martin Marincin pairing with the John Tavares, William Nylander and Denis Malgin line carried the torch with very strong shots and chances.
  • Heat map:

PERIOD TWO

Second verse, same as the first please!

Alexander Kerfoot pulled the intentional-icing-pass with the speedy Kapanen, and it sort of worked but didn’t lead to a goal. That’s the kind of stuff you like to see them try to use their speed and skill.

The Auston Matthews line has been playing head to head against the Crosby line most of the game so far, and they’ve done a good job against them. Had a few chances, hemmed them in on long shifts twice as well.

Leafs are playing a lot faster and more physical — I don’t mean just hitting, but being constantly on the Penguins to fight for pucks. Although I don’t NOT mean hitting either.

Leafs having a great start to the second period through 7 minutes, with some very long cycling shifts in the Penguins end. They don’t have much to show for it even in quality chances, but they are dominating the possession game so far and giving up nothing the other way.

MUZZIN SMASH! Leafs have their good play this game rewarded, 1-0 Leafs

Denis Malgin might not get a point on that play but he had a pretty great screen in front of Murray.

WEE WILLY NYLANDER! Leafs inflict some powerplay pain of their own, 2-0 Leafs.

Right after the Leafs keep up the pressure and draw a penalty. The Penguins took a delay of game penalty for the puck over the glass right after it starts, and they got a loooooong 5 on 3. Nylander scored off the draw and so they still have a powerplay for over a minute with a chance to really break the game open.

KASPERI BREAKAWAY! Sweet pass by Kerfoot, 3-0 Leafs

This has been an utterly dominant period by the Leafs. At even strength, they have more than 92% in expected goals. They’re not letting up even with a 3-0 lead.

Kasperi the Enforcer, defending Rasmus Sandin from Hornqvist, taking a crosscheck for good measure, and dropping the gloves with McCann.

Game’s turning chippy, with Hornqvist at the centre again... slashing/crosschecking Sandin, “accidentally” falling on Freddie when he covered the puck. No penalties called after that on either side, somehow.

Leafs close the period with another very good chance by Kerfoot off a sweet pass by Engvall.

Second Period Thoughts

  • Offense: D-O-M-I-N-A-N-T. Leafs completely controlled that period. They controlled 63% of the shot attempts and 72% of the expected goals. They were creating rush chances, hemming Pittsburgh in their own zone, hitting their man with crisp passes, everything you’d want to see them do. The Penguins might have more shots on goal, but that’s not a mark of who has been controlling this game.
  • Defense: Just as impressive was their defense, which sagged a bit towards the end of the second period but they didn’t give up a goal or completely take their foot off the gas. They only gave up 13 shot attempts and 1 quality scoring chance against.
  • Special teams: They got their goal on their powerplay when they didn’t give up a goal on their penalty kill in the first. A+ overall so far this game.
  • Lines: There are only two players on the Leafs below 50% in expected goals: Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman, and not by much. The 2nd and 3rd lines have been great, with the Engvall-Kerfoot-Kapanen line causing havoc against the Penguins on the rush. I want to give a shout out to the Matthews line though. They’ve gone against the Crosby line and played them more or less even while shutting them out (so far), and hemming them in their own end a lot.
  • Heat map: You can see the Leafs ACTUALLY keeping the Penguins shots to the outside, while the blob of death on offense has returned!

PERIOD THREE

We’ve had Steady Freddie back in net tonight.

More offensive zone dominance leads to a Hyman goal, 4-0 Leafs.

Real nifty deflection and rebound control by Zachary.

6 minutes into the third period and the Leafs haven’t let up. They’re even at 5 shot attempts each, but four of the Leafs’ are high danger chances compared to 0 for the Penguins. And after THAT, they had a few great shifts in a row from their top 2 lines.

Final Thoughts

  • Offense: Somehow the Leafs had an even MORE offensively dominant period in the third by generating an absurd amount of dangerous scoring chances. In fact, more than half of their attempts were of the high danger variety.
  • Defense: Take the offense and flip it — they gave up more shot attempts but the scoring chance quality for Pittsburgh was even worse in the third. The Leafs did not let up for one second, the Leafs just overwhelmed them. Penguins pushed late, but it didn’t matter.
  • Special teams: They had one powerplay they didn’t score on, but they put the second unit on pretty quickly with a 4-0 lead.
  • Lines: All of the top three lines were rolling, but in the third it was the top two that just ran over Pittsburgh. Kept them constantly hemmed in, generating tons of great chances. They put on a clinic.
  • Heat map: