The Maple Leafs host our dear friends the Boo Jackets again, today in an afternoon game. The only roster change for the Leafs is Pierre Engvall is in, and Frederik Gauthier is out.
Mitch Marner was with Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman, and William Nylander was on John Tavares’s left with Ilya Mikheyev on his right in warmup. No changes that I noticed for Columbus, but I can’t tell their depth D apart.
Matthews opens the game facing off against Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Toronto controls the puck for most of the early going.
The fourth line gets a shift, and you watch this while I look up the definition of charging...
Massive hit by Clifford on Kukan pic.twitter.com/sNJzWh8ATA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Somewhere Nazem Kadri is mad, and he doesn’t even know why.
Engvall looks like a hockey player on his shift.
The Leafs are using nice, short passes that connect, and they’re moving up the centre of the ice. So far so good, and Kasperi Kapanen draws a penalty by outworking his man:
Keys to the game:— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) August 4, 2020
-Stretch out Columbus' defence.
-Draw penalties through puck protection and hard work.
-Have a quicker and more organized breakout.
-Score at least one goal.
The power play funnels the puck to Marner, who has to shoot. Then again, and at least there’s a Tavares tip.
Columbus get their first shot (of any kind) on a shorty rush, and then they get another. Someone should write about how they only take risks on the PK.
First big stop by Andersen as the Blue Jackets get a chance shorthanded pic.twitter.com/buk5MdKhS3— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
The Leafs get nowhere, despite a decent enough second unit effort.
There are 8 min gone, and Columbus gets their first five-on-five shot, it goes way over the net.
The Leafs fail to take advantage of a loose puck in the offensive zone, but Nick Foligno takes a really foolish penalty, not that I’m complaining. (Go read Kevin’s tweet again.)
Marner is going to take some abuse for the ensuing power play, but the passing with no shooting is not all on him. Now read this Kevin’s tweet:
Toronto is inherently disadvantaged by low penalty games, I say, as Tyson Barrie winds up a point shot and Mitch Marner (?) loads up a one-timer.— Kevin (@ntrider825) August 4, 2020
Muzzin takes a penalty when Columbus gets what, I think, is their first legitimate offensive cycle. with 3:30 left.
Leafs control the puck most of the time, Columbus can’t get set up, and they should be embarrassed to put that power play on the ice.
Muzzin has to be a forward after as he gets stuck on the ice. He’s not bad.
RW Jake Muzzin pic.twitter.com/yIBQTb9rVe— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
The clock winds down on a period dominated by the Leafs, and zeros on the scoreboard.
So how good was all that Leafs offence? It was at least a good way to defend, since Columbus never had zone time.
Ehhh. It’s not horrible, and the power play actually adds to the net-front attempts, but I still see the Columbus bubble defence. All situations Expected Goals were 1.04 to 0.74, so that’s good, too.
Leafs pick up where they left off with a good cycle and a chance from Matthews.
Nick Robertson draws a penalty with his speedy feet, and it’s power play number three.
The puck goes to Marner and he shoots it in one of his shot-passes that sometimes create chances. No one can get that puck over to Matthews though.
The second unit get shot after shot after shot, and they don’t score, and then Robertson takes a slashing call as time runs out on this power play. Not smart, kid.
Roberston gets a pair of shots off from the left circle but then takes a slashing penalty pic.twitter.com/z2kG8zUgHT— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Columbus gets buzzing around the net, and Andersen has to be on his game. This is 1000% a scarier power play than their first one, but still no goals at either end.
Wow! Boone Jenner gets called for interference. What is it, 100 times it’s free, but then you have to pay?
Marner is suddenly playing the right side on the power play. And yet, the puck stays with him and not Matthews on the left. This didn’t last the whole shift, but it looked intentional.
Another good power play doesn’t produce a goal.
William Nylander came so close to scoring here pic.twitter.com/zdMPRccyyV— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
The Leafs are now just shooting, shooting, shooting. They might not be getting great quality, but the quantity and pace is there.
For those who read lips— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Tavares: You kidding me? pic.twitter.com/yVWpP1Diuk
On the very rare occasions Columbus gets in the offensive zone, the Leafs are checking them hard.
The shots are 25-8.— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
TWENTY-FIVE TO EIGHT!
Who cares who it is, it’s a goal, dammit.
The dam breaks!— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Auston Matthews scores his first! pic.twitter.com/wbn2xk1Snh
Okay, I care a little because the end to end part was fabulous.
Leafs get a little loose and let the Boo Jackets play with the puck some. Andersen has to do a little work.
Andersen with two strong saves on Werenski and Atkinson pic.twitter.com/RZ5k8dRn9R— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Man, he must be saying: Is this how Tuukka feels every night?
So how good was that period, you ask?
Columbus had 12 Corsi For, of which nine were unblocked, of which one got marked as a Shot on Goal at five-on-five, and six in the entire period. The Leafs Expected Goals % was 70%, 76% at five-on-five. Overall the shot locations were better, but the power play is still driving that more than five-on-five. Here’s both team’s five-on-four efforts:
Blue Jackets have 0.27 xGF on their PP, and 0.26 on their PK.
John Tavares is leading the team in individual Expected Goals, of course, and he is so due.
The score is only 1-0, I feel compelled to mention. I’d be happy with about six insurance goals.
Nick Foligno takes another dumb penalty in the first minute of the period.
Matthews is playing the role of Marner here, losing the puck, turning it over, and not doing what he means to do at all. The second unit is bad, and this was just a waste of two minutes.
Andersen has to make a save right away.
Some chaos in the crease as Rielly slides in behind Andersen pic.twitter.com/7HT1IBlg4T— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Leafs look a bit unfocused and aren’t connecting with the pu— and never mind. Just never you mind about any of that crap. JT is on a breakaway:
John Tavares walked through the Bruins while they were doing their pregame handshakes... pic.twitter.com/8bVBGnrlRC— juno (@junotheleafs) August 4, 2020
Wait, that’s not it, this is it:
Hmm. Are goals like chips? Don’t you just want another one?
What I want now (chips, yes) is some concentrated Leafs zone time. I watched Carolina run out a lead by never not having control, and I want that.
Andersen is on his game, here, and he knows he’s not Tuukka Rask, he has to work it to hold a lead. But he’s getting some help, so I’m happy:
Matthews on the 2-on-1 with Marner tries to go five-hole pic.twitter.com/Ci4XejmHqJ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Is Nylander’s traditional playing style more suited to Tavares than Marner? My column... Seriously though, flip those guys around all you like, I think we’ve seen it doesn’t matter, so go with what’s working.
Andersen with a huge save on Wennberg pic.twitter.com/CBdwyD0c4K— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
Spezza takes a foolish penalty late in the third, so I guess we owed Foligno one back.
The Leafs kill the penalty in the usual way, and now they have just under four minutes on the clock. Except the Leafs take another penalty, this time it’s Kapanen, and this might be a softer call than the Spezza one.
Columbus pulls Korpisalo, so it’s six-on-four. The Leafs clear the puck a couple of times, but aren’t quite on the empty net.
No. No. Muzzin is down. Tell me it’s a stinger. Lie to me if you have to.
He did take a puck, but then he seems to fall and go face-first in to Bjorkstrand’s leg.
[silent screaming painting]
They seem to be concerned about his neck, and are taking a long time, here and are stretchering him off.
Muzzin goes down. His head clips Bjorkstrand's knee pic.twitter.com/1uimOKF4Qc— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
It’s not clear exactly how much of this is an excess of caution, but Muzzin isn’t unconscious or unable to move, so we’ll update his status when we have it, and I swear to god, if all we get is “unfit to play” I’ll go for someone.
Dubas and Shanahan looking on pic.twitter.com/13KJUtCnip— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
The process to get the medical staff gowned up, the stretcher and backboard assembled, etc. all takes well over 10 minutes. It’s deeply eerily quiet, and extremely upsetting. And yet, he didn’t look very hurt.
My heart goes out to his wife and family watching this on TV and maybe not able to see him right away even if he is badly hurt.
The game resumes with 1:52 remaining.
Marner misses an open net while still shorthanded.
Morgan Rielly fills the empty net, and then they play out the last few seconds.
Final score: 3-0 Leafs. Andersen with the shutout in difficult circumstances at the end.
So what worked in this game?
The breakouts were, grading on a Leafs scale, outstanding. The movement up ice in the neutral zone was better, and the forechecking was very good. Columbus is really had to get chances against, and that didn’t actually change, the Leafs just had all game to do it in.
Now they just have to do it twice more.
We’ll update you on Muzzin as soon as we get anything.
Sheldon Keefe says Jake Muzzin was taken to a local hospital here in Toronto after being stretchered off.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) August 4, 2020
Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin was transported to hospital following an on-ice collision in the third period tonight. He is alert and able to move all limbs. Further updates will be provided once available.— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) August 4, 2020