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Recap: Toronto Maple Leafs dominate then hang on to win 3-1

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They started boring, got stronger, and turtled for the 3-1 win.

2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Here we go, let’s see if the Toronto Maple Leafs can build on a better showing against the Sens with their quirky 11 forward, 7 defensemen lineup against the Patrik Laine-less Winnipeg Jets.

PERIOD ONE

Matthews is playing hungry early on.

Jets playing with fire, leaving a historic shooter like Joe Thornton open for this opportunity:

Leafs annoyingly wind up taking an even up retaliatory penalty after Kyle Connor crashed into Frederik Andersen, who was sure to display his displeasure as well. Should have been a PP for the Leafs.

Leafs are dominating play in terms of puck possession (70% shot attempts, 93% xG%). Jets haven’t done anything at the halfway point of the period, which is annoying because it’s still scoreless and I assume the Leafs will give up the first goal.

Right after I wrote that, Scheifele had a point blank chance in the slot that Freddie stopped. Stay sharp, Freddie!

Tavares had a nice rush with some nifty mittens, just couldn’t get much on the backhand.

Auston Matthews got robbed right after. Leafs are getting better scoring chances, just can’t bury one yet.

Zach Hyman gets called for the hook (weaaaaaaaaaaak), and with the Leafs dominating play but tied at zero, I can almost guarantee a Jets powerplay goal is coming in the next two minutes. I’ve seen this movie before.

Hey, they didn’t score! In part thanks to Freddie looking steady in the few moments he’s been tested so far.

First Period Thoughts:

  • Offense: the Leafs did a decent job in the first period controlling play by keeping the puck in the Jets end for most of it. That was the good part. The bad part is, as always these days, not generating many quality chances while they’re there. Controlling 64% of shot attempts and 62% of expected goals is good. But 0.43 xGF in one period is not. That’s play-in-series-vs-Columbus-levels of bad offensive threat, and this is against a not at all deep or very good defensive team in the Jets. It was a pretty boring period. The most fun I had was watching the one shift from Bogosian where he was all over the place and almost had a breakaway.
  • Defense: the best part of their defense is they didn’t have to do much of it, but the Jets did have as many dangerous scoring chances as the Leafs did. Freddie also looked very sharp and in control when he was challenged.
  • Lines: the third line of Kerfoot, Hyman and Mikheyev are the only ones below 50% for shot attempts. The Matthews and Tavares lines were the only ones generating many scoring chances.
  • Special Teams: the Leafs only had the one PK, and I didn’t think they looked great. They didn’t give up a goal though, so what do I know!
  • Heatmap:

PERIOD TWO

The Jets defense makes the Leafs defense look like the Columbus defense... as Marner aptly demonstrated.

Leafs are getting better quality chances early in the second, so it would really help if they hit the net when they get open shots like this:

The Leafs’ offensive zone control finally lead to a powerplay after Tavares was hauled down. Please god get a goal and end this nightmare... OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN! A tepid powerplay to start, as soon as the unit of Tavares, Nylander, Hyman, and Vesey started passing all of the place and swarming around Hellebuyck. They got rewarded right at the end of the powerplay with a great pass from Nylander to Tavares wide open in the slot for the goal.

Leafs are dominating play even more than the first period. It took almost 7 minutes for the Jets to even have a shot attempt. So of course after getting a lead and dominating play, Dermott takes a penalty and gives the Jets a chance to tie it up. The Leafs actually got the best chance, with Mikheyev getting sprung on a breakaway by Vesey but Hellebuyck made the save.

Freddie made one nice save on the Jets only good attempt, and the Leafs kill it with their one goal lead still intact.

It’s just over halfway through the period and this may already be one of the more dominating periods I’ve ever seen the Leafs play. I should stop writing stuff like that because right after I did the Jets got two good shifts in the Leafs end.

As the Jets start to make a bit of a push, Freddie has continued to look sharp.

The Leafs weather the storm — such as it was — and get rewarded with another goal. Matthews with a great rush, found Holl sneaking in for a one timer, and Marner was parked in front and tapped in the rebound. 2-0 Leafs!

SO OF COURSE THEY GIVE UP A GOAL RIGHT AFTER GOD DAMMIT! And in the final minute of the period to boot! Still 2-1 Leafs but that’s annoying.

Second Period Thoughts:

  • Offense: Much better overall. They dominated shot attempts even more than they did in the first (71%). What shots they had were much more dangerous, and they more than tripled their xGF at even strength (1.44) and you could tell.
  • Defense: They gave up the same amount of shot attempts and expected goals against. Freddie was sharp when he needed to be. They let in the one goal late, which is annoying since it’s still a one goal game when they are dominating play. This should be a blowout.
  • Lines: The Matthews line are the stars, both in terms of possession and scoring chances. Simmonds, Spezza, Mikheyev and Bogosian are the only Leafs in the red in terms of expected goals.
  • Special Teams: They had one powerplay which looked increasingly dangerous as it went on, and got a goal. Their penalty kill are perfect so far, and looked much better on the Jets’ second powerplay. A good period all around for special teams.
  • Heatmap:

PERIOD THREE

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling nervous about this game even though the Leafs have been absolutely dominant so far, and/or the Jets have looked terrible. Them coming out still getting hemmed in their zone and taking a penalty in the first two minutes is not helping my nerves.

Leafs kill it off, but Freddie had to make a couple of nice saves in the process.

Leafs are starting to turtle and spend more time in their end. They actually still have more expected goals, but are getting outshot and not controlling the game much at all. Freddie still looking good, and not just because he’s making saves. He just looks less frantic than he did in the first two games. What offense the Leafs are getting are coming off rush chances or quick strikes the few times they’ve established offensive possession.

Morgan Rielly didn’t help things by taking a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass with 5 minutes left. I’m as jittery right now as all you heathens who drink coffee.

Leafs pulled off a nice PK though, especially Mikheyev who killed a lot of time on one rush where he fought in the corner against two Jets, and got it back to the defense.

And with the empty net, Mitch Marner sealed the win then talked shit to Pionk, which caused a bit of a ruckus but we’ll take it! LEAFS WIN!

Third Period Thoughts:

  • Offense: They didn’t do much this period, seemingly content with turtling and looking for quick strike chances off the rush. They actually had a better period than the first for generating chances from it. Go figure.
  • Defense: They were turtling but not really giving up many quality chances against, to the point that despite Winnipeg controlling zone time and shot attempts the Leafs had the edge in expected goals. They did give up more chances against, because the Leafs still aren’t THAT good at defensive zone play, but they didn’t look awful against a bad team at least. Freddie was great this game though, and that’s a really nice thing to see.
  • Lines: they all looked defensive, and didn’t give up a goal. I noticed the Tavares line a lot more this period though, they were the ones that seemed to generate the rush chances more.
  • Special Teams: they only had more penalty kills, but once again didn’t give up anything. A good job for the PK teams.
  • Heatmap: