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Recap: Maple Leafs give their fans a game to remember against the Rangers

Kyle Dubas is now accepting resumes from anyone who has ever even imagined playing goal. Unlike last summer when he didn’t quite get to that on the to-do list.

NHL: FEB 05 Maple Leafs at Rangers Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time to play the Rangers, and the only news is Chris Kreider is in for the bad guys. Can’t wait to hear how many scouts are in the rink.

Opening panel on Sportsnet would have you believe that goalies are all about confidence and one-game performance, and good god, I find that tiresome. If you don’t know before this game is played if Micheal Hutchinson is enough backup, you have no business opining on hockey. Or being a GM.

My Opining is this: Hutchinson is not the horrible, no good, bad goalie you think he is. He’s also not a suitable backup on a team that frequently plays horrendous defence, can be lazy in the neutral zone and likes to give out turnovers like they really are in the bakery business. He needs a nice, low-event, mature team. And that was obvious last summer.

First Period

Oh, dear.

No, the game hasn’t gone wrong, already, realx, it’s just the way Millen is trying to say Sherterkin (Shest-yor-kin) is painful.

Hyman takes a hooking penalty for... hooking because Trouba grabbed Hyman’s stick to basically make the ref have to see what was kind of a slash/hook. It’s not exactly a weak call, it is annoying though.

The Leafs PK keeps it all wide open, and Hutchinson has no trouble with the one meaningful save he needs to make.

Andreas Johnsson gets a late PK shift, which... is that new? Have I managed to never notice that before?

Ooooh, lovely cross-ice pass from Sandin to Matthews, but no goal. I like Rasmus Sandin, by the way, don’t know if I’ve mentioned that.

I’m also in favour of Auston Matthews shooting most of the shots.

Scorrrrrres. JT!!! Tell me how he’s bad, now, everyone!!

1-0 Leafs.

Okay, grumble, grumble. It’s an Activated D play with Holl pretending to be a forward. But if this stuff ends with real forwards with the most skill shooting, it’s good. Otherwise it’s crap.

Also, Mr Nylander is in the building, and that play on the Tavares goal was very casual, yet cool. Unlike this:

Yeah, okay. It’s gonna be this way, the Leafs (Andreas Johnsson) will turn it over, and the Rangers will get a cycle going. Chytil gets it past the baffled, puck-watching Leafs forwards, and it’s a tie game:

Leafs are trying to play a very open game against a Rangers squad that wants to forecheck hard. Who will win this contest of styles?

Um, Mika Zibanejad with a blink and you miss it goal off a faceoff loss by Matthews.

2-1 Rangers.

Okay, and now the wheels are off, and I have fear! Fear, I tell you, that Sheldon Keefe might put Kaskisuo in this game. The Leafs just give it up off the centre-ice faceoff. Holl does not look so very top-four on this play:

3-1 Rangers.

The Leafs limp out of this period without any more faceoff mishaps, but they do give up a rush right at the horn.

Thoughts

  • I noticed Dmytro Timashov 1000% more in this game than in any other, so I’m guessing the Rangers depth is really bad.
  • Millen questioned the wisdom of the Rangers trading one of their young goalies, and I’m all conflicted now that he agrees with me. (Yes, it’s still the wrong play.)
  • Whenever I watch the Rangers, I’m a bit confused as to why they have so few points. Glances at the coach. I think they should have been a real challenger this year.
  • Wow, that period was okay until it wasn’t. Please shout about how the goalie is to blame because sure, your backup should pick up after you like that.

Heatmap don’t lie, baby, that is some seriously quality stuff the Leafs let Hutchinson face unaided.

Second Period

Can this be a better period? Well, it can’t get much worse, can it?

The Leafs get a power play, and need to make some noise here.

So, Shesty, eh? Not a bad goalie and he just makes a series of moves that make you realize why the Rangers are happy to have a goalie controversy.

Oh, wow. Beautiful cross-crease pass from Nylander to Matthews, but no sale.

Sandin just carrying the puck up ice makes me happy. And the second PP unit gets some chances too. This recap is now just about Sandin, which is absolutely me giving up on this team.

Sandin is on the ice with Tyson Barrie, which has been happening a little bit as he gets more offence-focused issue, and Barrie takes a high-sticking penalty while that’s going on, so that’s not great.

In times of trouble, yell at the ref.

Maybe they’ll be some Sandin PK.

There is not, but the Leafs PK is good. Which is a consolation prize I’m tired of awarding to myself.

Sandin dances around defensively, dodging some checks, and Filip Chytil, and he dishes it up to Johnsson, who... just loses it. Jonsson is not my favourite player lately, dating back to last playoffs, honestly.

Sandin already knows exactly how to hold the puck, circle back, wait for the Leafs forwards to fix their gap — a thing they are struggling with in this game — and pass it up when it’s safe.

The entire rest of the period looks to be a Shesterkin highlight reel.

Sandin with a nice cross-ice pass to Engvall, but he can’t control it. He stays out as Kapanen gets some more chances, and the cycle is on the other foot as the Leafs pin the Rangers.

And then, and then... The big boys come out...

3-2 Rangers.

Seriously, though, watching Sandin play the blueline offensively is like seeing a young Morgan Rielly. I like him, don’t know if I mentioned.

I got nothing at all to say about this one. This is so bad by Hutchinson, I might start believing in confidence as a thing. 4-2 Rangers.

Like, holy hell, that’s like bad Freddie times 100 with vodka in the water bottle.

And then he makes a good save. I don’t know. Goalies. Why do we need them again?

This period ends before I can book a flight to Toronto to yell at Hutchinson (and Dubas) myself.

Thoughts

  • Did the Leafs play better? I don’t know, I’m mad at them, so everything they do annoys me.
  • I’m agreeing with Millen again. The Leafs are not shooting enough even when they gain the zone. They’re trying to thread the needle to fool Shesterkin. Whose name I can say, unlike Millen.
  • If you need a (bitter) laugh, Arvind made this during the second period of this game from hell:
  • How much does Georgiev cost now, eh?

Third Period

Can the Leafs make me dislike Rasmus Sandin? Let’s watch...

In honour of a certain person, I am turning off the sound for fear I start agreeing with Millen more and playing the collected works of INXS.

Sandin again, moving the play up ice after Dermott and Ceci made me watch Hutchinson make a save.

Sandin on the bench looking at a replay is better than whoever is playing right now.

LOL Tyson Barrie breaks his stick on a big ole slapper from the point. I’m calling that my free square and the upper left both.

I see a great pass up from the blueline, and who is it? Muzzin? nope Dermott? nope Sandin? nope. It’s Mitch Marner stuck at the blueline, but at least he knows what he’s doing.

Bloody hell, there goes another big bomb. Calm down, Tyson.

As of now, which is deep into the shit of the third period, the Leafs are actually owning over 50% of the Expected Goals in a game where they have actually drawn arrows on the ice to show the Rangers the way to their own slot. They are actually that good offensively. Barrie and his bombs aside. This is what’s so freaking frustrating about the endless backup goalie/defence argument. They all suck! Together! At the same time! In a feedback loop, even!

Okay, wait, Cody Ceci is hurt? He’s limping off out the Zamboni door.

I’ll be honest, I’m too sick of everyone but Sandin to care right now what happened.

Leafs on a power play, so we have one last hope with four minutes to go. Will there be a Tyson bomb?

Oh, there is not, there is something so much sweeter:

4-3 Rangers.

That was lovely. Can we have some more? You can’t win in front of Hutchinson with less than five goals, we already empirically proved this.

Some people call this interference, I call it a Chara homage:

Rangers cap this hellscape of a game off right with an ENG from Gregg McKegg, and then Hyman fights Trouba just as this starts playing:

5-3 Rangers

Keefe puts Sandin out on the last shift because he likes him best too.

Thoughts

The Leafs got outplayed by a legit mediocre team (particularly in the first) in front of their shaky backup who could not be pulled no matter what. And then, for fun, he redefined bad in the process. He redefined that hard.

The Leafs offence is actually so good, as proven in the last two games, that they can almost overcome both a bad goalie performance and the team defending. Which is why this is so frustrating.

I still like Sandin, though.