HOCKEY’S BACK BABY!
In these troubled, unsettled and unprecedented times, I’m looking forward to the Leafs disappointing me this season as a reminder of more pleasant, stable times.
New Leaf Zach Bogosian endearing himself to me early by breaking up a pretty hapless 2 on 1 by the Habs:
Zach Bogosian helps break up this 2-on-1 pic.twitter.com/VqiJCcwjbc— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
The Leafs get their first chance of the game on a 2 on 1 of their own, with Auston Matthews feeding Mitch Marner:
Matthews and Marner stopped on the 2-on-1 pic.twitter.com/1pfpsiRQ9u— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
The Leafs get the bulk of what scoring chances were to be had in the first seven minutes, but Zach Bogosian puts them on the PK after tripping up Kotkaniemi in his own end.
We got to see our first Matthews’ FOGO PK strategy, which... happened is the most I can say about it. Frederik Andersen was only tested once off a rush, and stood tall on the shot and subsequent rebounds.
The Habs strategy for the rest of the PK seemed to be to pass around the perimeter then fire a slap shot from the point. Shockingly, it didn’t work and the Leafs killed it off with some ease.
After the Leafs killed the penalty, they came back with a line of Nylander-Tavares-Mikheyev and generated a good chance that Mikheyev couldn’t put home:
Nylander to Mo to Mikheyev nearly works pic.twitter.com/S1wAXqvdC8— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
Leafs have some good shifts, but Hyman touches the puck as he’s changing and drew a too many men penalty... not the smartest decision Zachary. And the Leafs pay for it, a slap pass by Petry bounced off the post, and Nick Suzuki was in the right place to put home the rebound in the open net.
Nick Suzuki scores the first goal of the North Division pic.twitter.com/zdDX8qginn— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
You know, when the Leafs are at even strength they’ve been pretty dominant. They’ve given Montreal NOTHING, and even if they haven’t generated any goals are great scoring chances they’re doing much better than Montreal, and controlling play.
I was mid-sentence writing that last thought when WILLIAM BILLIAM NYLANDER TIES THE GAME! Great point shot.
After the goal the Canadiens got their first good shift at evens. The Leafs got caught scrambling, especially Freddie, he got knocked out of his net and knocked his stick away. They got out of it unscathed.
Collision with Brodie costs Andersen his stick pic.twitter.com/LX4LE54U37— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
They didn’t get out of the period unscathed, as Josh Anderson ripped a wrister past Freddie off the faceoff. 2-1 Habs. A characteristic Leafs lapse after a good period the rest of the way (at even strength), in the final minute of the period.
First Period Thoughts:
- Offense: the offense was... okay. They had some goodish chances that led to one goal, and they did control play at even strength until pretty much the last minute of the period. They had the Habs doubled up in scoring chances and expected goals until that point.
- Defense: the defense was actually very good, until the final minute of the last period. They finished up 20-15 in shot attempts and 0.31 to 0.18 xGF (via NST)... until that last minute when it swing to 0.45 to 0.31 for the Habs. Not a high octane period.
- Lines: The fourth line got murdered in shot attempts and scoring chances. The Matthews line with the Muzzin-Holl pair were under water as they were who was on the ice for that final minute and got scored on. But they also had the most offensive chances driven. The Tavares-Nylander line with the Rielly-Brodie pair did some good things. Keefe started with the lines as advertised, but when they were down a goal the line blender came out. We saw Simmonds up with Tavares, and Hyman up with Matthews.
- Special Teams: the first PK looked good, if only because the Habs powerplay looked awful. The second PK they got picked apart on the goal against, albeit with a bit of an unlucky bounce.
The second period is starting like the bulk of the first period went. The Leafs are controlling play, but not getting a lot of quality. Simmonds had the best chance so far after a Spezza pass from behind the net:
Wayne Simmonds hunting for his first pic.twitter.com/eFykUR8V5b— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
And just like the first period started, Bogosian put the Leafs onto the PK.
Unlike the first period, the Leafs don’t kill off the Bogosian penalty. They did a mostly good job right up until the last 10 seconds, when a bad change led to a breakaway — if not a 2 on 0 — and Tatar put the Habs up 3-1. Bit of a weak one for Andersen to give up, but it’s also a breakaway oh my god this is last season all over again.
Tatar strikes. Nice feed from Romanov pic.twitter.com/ogysAva6JM— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
The Leafs respond to the goal against by looking like they were still killing a penalty. By the time they start getting some offensive zone time, Simmonds gets into a fight with Chiarot and the fight was as exciting as the game has been. Oh, but the Leafs get a PP from it? I won’t complain! SIMMONDS THE MVP!
wayne simmonds fisticuffs pic.twitter.com/zy7oDarE0n— Jacqueline Taylor (@jxcquelineoh) January 14, 2021
Leafs get some okay-ish chances, but no goals from it. The next several minutes are pretty uneventful. Leafs are getting more zone time, but Montreal is shutting the Leafs out of any dangerous areas. Finally the Leafs get a bit of a break with Vesey drawing a penalty. WILLIAM BILLIAM NYLANDER! Waits patiently, edges into the middle of the ice and flicks a wrist shot top shelf. Good work in front by Hyman. Leafs cut it to 3-2 Habs. Spezza got an assist for his 600th career apple.
Right after the goal the third line drew another penalty, putting the Leafs back on the PP for a chance to tie it. And right after THAT Weber put the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, Leafs get a 5 on 3 PP for 1:57. Leafs put out their Unit of Death with Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares and Rielly and Tavares gets a goal with a sweet little deflection off a Marner feed. We’re all tied up!
Leafs end the period with a regular 5 on 4 powerplay, and do get one chance they can’t capitalize on. The period ends tied at three.
Second Period Thoughts:
- Offense: Was more of the same from the first period, but the Leafs avoided having a big lapse like they did in the final minute. Shot attempts were 10 to 9 for the Habs, expected goals were basically tied 0.33 for the Leafs and 0.30 for the Habs.
- Defense: Basically what I said above. They had a better period over all in shutting down any Habs offense, mostly due to not having one disastrous stretch.
- Lines: Things largely seemed to go back to the pre-game plan for the top two lines. The Matthews line dominated, pulling way ahead in shot attempts and scoring chances. They’re also playing a LOT of minutes. The Tavares-Nylander line continued to be strong. The third and fourth lines continue to get killed, though they’re not playing a lot either. On defense, the Brodie-Rielly pair is doing very well, and Dermott is somehow well ahead of all the other three defensemen on his own.
- Special Teams: Funny how the Leafs looked bad when they were down 0-3 in penalties, and then that evened up suddenly they looked better and the game is now tied. The game is tied 1-1 at even strength, and now 2-2 on special teams.
- Heatmap: It’s been a very tight game overall. Leafs have a slight edge in shot attempts, Habs have a slight edge on expected goals. This is true both at even strength and on special teams.
Just over a minute into the game, and the Leafs turn an offensive zone faceoff into a Josh Anderson goal the other way, after he blew by Tavares. Andersen should have had that, and the Leafs are now down 4-3.
Freddie redeems himself a few minutes later when Suzuki undressed Rielly and got in alone on net. Brodie had a stretch pass in the air batted down by Suzuki, who I’m afraid to report looks really good. Anderson had a shot on the rebound that Freddie managed to stop as well.
We’re five minutes into the period and the Leafs have gotten nothing going. Montreal has slowly been taking over the game.
BUT WHO CARES WHEN WE HAVE JIMMY BIMMY VESEY! He’s making a better impression than other first time Leafs. The Leafs catch a break as the Habs defenseman tried to pass the puck behind the net and hit the ref. Willy picked it up, fed Vesey, and he made no mistake. Tie game 4-4.
Jimmy Vesey ties it!— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
1st Leaf goal! pic.twitter.com/pnST3cif97
The game has started opening up more. Both teams have almost matched the last two periods in expected goals through just over half the third period. Shots are tied, game is tied, expected goals might as well be tied. It’s as close a game as I can remember seeing. Habs are getting chances, but the Leafs are getting theirs too:
Auston Matthews going for the split pic.twitter.com/MexNJGGZgR— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 14, 2021
Mikheyev got a breakaway that Price stopped, and it was a bit end to end without great scoring chances for either side. A close game, of course, goes to overtime. Here’s hoping the Leafs’ skill heavy, top-heavy forwards and defense give them an edge.
We get some end to end action, with Rielly almost sneaking one through Price. Both teams look gassed. Except Kerfoot and Mikheyev who have barely played lol. AND TAVARES LEADS A 2 ON 1 AND FEEDS RIELLY FOR THE WINNER! LEAFS COME BACK AND WIN 5-4!!!
It was a very evenly played game. It was high scoring because of the powerplays, but there wasn’t a lot of chances — or good chances — until the third period. The top lines carried the team, as you would want and expect. The bottom two lines and pretty much every defenseman but the Rielly-Brodie pairing got tanked pretty hard.
I saw two big red flags from the game. One, Freddie let in two softies. I hope that goes away fast, it looked an awful lot like last season. For what it’s worth, he made some good saves after the fourth goal. Second, I have some questions for the decisions that Keefe made in terms of who played with who, and who played how long. A mild red flag is how the bottom 6 performed (not great). I honestly don’t expect them to do great against a team as deep as Montreal’s — that’s THEIR strength — but they got murdered to an extent you don’t want to see.