It’s time to play the Canucks for the last time this year. These are your Leafs lines tonight:
#Leafs lines in warmup (vs. Vancouver):— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 29, 2020
I hate that third line, but Spezza and Clifford play well together, so it might not be a total disaster. Kerfoot on Tavares’s wing is a really poor use of his skills, though, I think. Have to wonder if Kapanen and he flip at some point.
The Panthers are playing Chicago and they started early, so as this game beings, Chicago leads 2-1.
Leafs trade zone time with the Canucks, and I feel like the Leafs are more dangerous, but the Canucks defend well.
HOLY COW. I mean. HOLY FREAKING COW. Not only did Freddie Gauthier score, it’s a hell of a shot. A fine shot. A fine play after a fine shift, too. Beautiful, even. Watch this twice:
Leafs follow up with some heavy pressure, and Zach Hyman looks like he’s feeling it tonight.
Yeah, okay. Do the Canucks score on their first shot on goal? Yes, they do.
Nice little bing, bang boom goal from the Canucks fourth line. You may laugh about Jay Beagle, but he made that happen by out-manning Rasmus Sandin.
Yes!!! Matthews scores on an in-and-out while Demko is in a terrible position and never moves. That positioning form from him there is as bad as Andersen in the last game.
Wow, Sandin leveled a guy.
Rasmus Sandin lines up his man and gets the big hit pic.twitter.com/dtlbYYF0L2— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
You know, call me optimistic, but good heavens are the Leafs ever into this game. They’re pulling pucks off of sticks, forechecking, skating hard, and just, you know, playing the game all the time.
Travis Dermott and Justin Holl both catch Tyler Toffoli on a mini-break, and ... he still gets the shot off. Okay, they’re still the Leafs.
The Leafs don’t clear the zone, and the puck bounces off of Barrie’s stick and/or Sandin’s skate right to Tanner Pearson and boom it’s tied:
This game is only 12 minutes in, when was the last time a Leafs game had so many goals in the first period?
Canucks high-stick Kapanen, so it’s to the power play we go.
Leafs blow a couple of passes, and then Matthews comes within an inch of another goal on a lovely Nylander pass.
Matthews sure seems like he’s due about six goals just off the chances that didn’t payout in that one power play. Nylander set up one from behind the net, and yes, do that more.
Matthews gets another feed from behind the net pic.twitter.com/t17ca1IpVi— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
Rosen has a fun shift: a rush chance, a turnover and a stick-block to get it back and send his team back up ice. He’s fast enough to be a Leafs player, that’s for sure.
The last play of the period begins as Dermott roars up ice with the puck, and then the Leafs struggle to get off any shots and eventually, Dermott, Holl and Marincin all try on the flurry. Raises brow.
- Still 2-1 Chicago over Florida in the second intermission
- Now the Heatmap:
It felt like the Leafs had a lot of zone time, but while the five-on-five Corsi was close to even, you need to add in the power play to get the Leafs to 50/50 in Expected Goals. Why? Because the Leaf shot from the left point and the left “defender steps in” spot. And that’s nearly it.
- Leafs defended not bad and played the neutral zone excellently in this period, which is why we’re tied.
So, here’s an issue. The pass-first Kasperi Kapanen has a cross-crease pass open, and it’s Kyle Clifford on the receiving end. Why? This is a nice scrappy line that’s going to look busy, but can they score?
Kapanen charges on with speed getting the puck to Clifford who gets a rebound-triggering shot on net pic.twitter.com/kgcJ01D8IR— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
Denis Malgin plays with four recent Marlies, and they all do well in the offensive zone.
Dermott takes a penalty trying to keep up with Elias Pettersson. PK time for the good guys.
Canucks take a penalty after the Leafs PK nearly has the job done, so it’s a minute and a half for the power play.
Deeply weird, total standstill setup where Barrie has the puck and no one else moved. That’s not gonna work, guys.
The world’s longest stretch pass from Freddie Andersen to Nylander, but he can’t convert.
Not a good PP, though.
Someone faked out EP with a call for a pass here:
I'm going to assume the Vancouver Canucks signed Casper to a PTO and that's who Pettersson was passing to pic.twitter.com/iq63YL0lmg— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
This is the point at which the Panthers have tied their game, and now I really want a Leafs goal or six.
Nylander races with Quinn Hughes for the puck and goes blasting through the net.
Nylander takes off down the wing but Hughes gets the last push sending him into the net pic.twitter.com/BcJrGNdTos— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
Panthers have one point, are in OT.
The broadcast flashed up a graphic of “O-Zone Time” and the Leafs are well ahead, but let’s wait a few minutes for this period to end and see what quality of time that was.
Florida - Chicago to a shootout. Imagine how thrilled I am that this matters for a playoff race.
The last part of the second belonged to the defending teams, both of them, who prevented almost all the real scoring chances except one Virtanen blast off the crossbar.
- PANTHERS LOSE!
- Leafs owned the Corsi battle as well as the time in the offensive zone, and they were better at shot quality. This is how confirmation bias works. I was annoyed about their perimeter shooting in the first, so I looked for it, and thought this period was worse. It wasn’t.
This is still not great, however, but a lot of credit to the Canucks who defend their zone well.
No more Omar gifs for this game, sorry all. Apparently he has a social life.
We just need one Leafs goal, and that’s highlight enough.
LOL Here you go the highlight of the night:
Not a Nylander goal because Tavares stole the puck and game it to Martin Marincin.
Hell of a first goal, MarMar. Also Demko has been icky on all three Leafs goals, and you know....
WE DESERVE THIS
Problem is there’s almost a whole period to play, and the Canucks test Andersen right away, who holds the line.
No turtling, guys. That is the one rule.
Nylander takes a cheesy, cheesy, cheesy holding call. Send them both if you like, but that was bullshit.
Leafs fourth line, which is beefed up with Malgin and Engvall, to be sure, are owning the Canucks on a long shift. The Tavares line comes out and the $11 million centre spends this gift of an offensive shift at the blue line as the guy who is high. I don’t, genuinely, get this. Why wasn’t that Kerfoot doing that?
Leafs are doing whatever the opposite of turtling is, though. Haring?
The Canucks take a penalty on a knee-on-knee trip, and the Leafs get another chance to try that first power play system, rather than the second one.
This power play cannot get setup at all, and that’s partly because Mitch Marner is just sort of off. He’s not bad, he’s just never quite in the right spot, his passes miss, he fans on shots, passes to him don’t make it, he falls down. Off.
The second unit is as bad, so credit the Canucks on disrupting the entry really well.
Vancouver gets some chances, and Andersen holds the line again.
Four minutes left now, and one time, could we have a two-goal lead?
Andersen survives a flurry at his crease.
Zach Hyman, who I have not talked about much, but who has been fabulous all over the ice, does the thing:
Canucks take a desperation penalty, and this game is almost over.
- 5 Point Lead, that is my only thought right now.
See you next week for the late-night California games, everyone.