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Blue vs White recap: The Leafs looked great! But the Leafs looked awful!

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A game of contrasts

the Toronto Maple Leafs hold their annual Blue versus White intersquad game Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Welcome to the first recap of the new, very weird, 2020/2021 NHL season. Yes, this is not even on the level of a preseason game, but it’s mid January and it gets dark at approximately 1 pm, so I’m taking any and all small victories. Lets get into it.

First Period

  • [20:00] Team Blue is basically the 1st line / pairing, 4th line / pairing, and two lines / pairings of the interchangeable forwards and defencemen who make up the rest of the Leafs training camp. Team White is the 2nd line / pairing, 3rd line / pairing, and once again, two lines / pairings of interchangeable forwards and defencemen. The goalies will be switching around, and each goalie will play 2 periods. Andersen starts for Blue, Campbell for White.
  • [19:36] First shift for the Blue first line of Joe Thornton - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner and first pair of Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie gets a rough start, as William Nylander forces a turnover off Brodie, resulting in a good chance for Jimmy Vesey.
  • [18:25] Blue comes back with a strong shift from their third line, with Nic Petan firing a shot that leads to a netfront scramble.
  • [16:48] Blue looks sloppy defensively early. Another unforced error leads to a Mikko Lehtonen shot that Andersen anticipates well.
  • [14:25] We get our first matchup of Blue’s top line against White’s second line, which is projected to be the Leafs third line that will be used for tough matchups. Not much happens in that stint. Muzzin/Holl were on the ice for White too, and obviously, they’ll be the Leafs shutdown pairing.
  • [12:15] The Tavares line looks very strong early, as expected. Nylander generates another offensive zone turnover and turns it into a chance, plus extended zone time.
  • [10:50] Rourke Chartier picks Lehtonen’s pocket and gets a partial break, which he sends wide.
  • [9:46] White goal! John Tavares takes a broken play and walks through Thornton and Rielly, before making a nifty move in tight to flip it past Andersen. 1-0 White, and another strong play from Tavares’ line.
  • [9:25] Rielly and Brodie don’t look quite on the same page yet. Nonetheless, the Matthews group gets a nice shift going against Engvall’s group and Muzzin/Holl. No amazing chances, but good zone time and control. Marner got the zone entry there, and he’s gonna have to do a lot of that, because Thornton is no longer a puck carrier in the neutral zone with his loss of foot speed.
  • [5:06] Matthews wins a draw against Engvall in the offensive zone, but fans on a one-timer later in the shift. At the end of his shift, he gains the zone and whips that patented wrister, but it’s deflected out of play.
  • [3:43] Busted change by White gives Travis Boyd a breakaway, but Campbell stymies him twice.
  • [3:07] Kivihalme with a brutal pass in his own zone that Agostino picks off, but once again, Campbell saves White.
  • [3:07] I know it’s a bit of a meme that I’m a Nic Petan simp, but he’s been good! Let my boy play!
  • [2:25] Robertson does a nice job of hunting for a soft spot on a rush to receive a one-timer, but Calle Rosen reads it well and ties him up. Matthews with good back pressure too.
  • [1:07] The Matthews group hasn’t looked great with the puck in the offensive zone, but they’ve been quite good without the puck, and have gotten some free zone time by forcing errors when White tries to break out or move the puck. Granted, they’re facing AHLers a significant portion of the time.
  • [0:17] Zach Bogosian turns like an oil tanker.
  • [0:00] There’s a shootout at the end of the first.
    (W) Tavares: saved
    (B) Matthews: saved
    (W) Vesey: saved
    (B) Marner: saved
    (W) Nylander: saved
    (B) Spezza: saved
    (W) Lehtonen: scores!
    (B) Barabanov: saved

White wins the shootout.

Second Period

  • [20:00] Andersen in net for Blue, Dell in net for White.
  • [19:53] Second period starts like the first. Nylander steals the puck and gets a great chance, but it’s saved by Andersen.
  • [18:02] White goal! Joey Anderson wins a puck battle and fires a shot on net. It falls to Mikheyev, who shovels it to Adam Brooks at the side of the net, and he makes no mistake. 2-0 White.
  • [17:04] Blue goal! Matthews strips the puck off Kivihalme, and there’s no one home to stop Mitch Marner from walking in alone. He buries it, and makes it 2-1 White.
  • [16:04] Matthews with a great pass to a streaking Sandin, who snuck in behind the D. Sandin rings one off the post. Couple great shifts from Matthews.
  • [15:15] Tavares’ and Nylander’s turn to sparkle, as the former wins the puck off Rielly, and the latter spins off a check on the boards and finds Vesey in the slot, whose shot is saved by Andersen.
  • [14:14] Chartier finds a seam and takes a pass from Sandin for a breakaway. Stopped by Aaron Dell.
  • [13:32] Another terrible change by White gives Boyd a big chance on a rush. This time it goes off the bar.
  • [13:08] Hyman takes the first penalty of the game. Blue to the PP.
  • [12:42] Marner takes a slap shot. Goes as you’d expect.
  • [11:48] Engvall and Mikheyev combine for a decent shorthanded chance, but Andersen saves.
  • [11:00] Towards the end of the power play, Petan sets up Spezza for a one-timer, but Dell makes a great save.
  • [11:00] Regarding PP lines / setups
  • [6:20] Another weird White change gives Matthews a free slapper from the top of the zone, which leads to a rebound chance for Marner. He tries to center it for Matthews, but it hits the post. Liljegren made a nice stretch pass to set this up, which is one of his better attributes.
  • [4:42] Team Blue is consistently getting chances by forwards finding seams for stretch passes. Boyd does this again.
  • [2:41] ANOTHER sloppy change from White lets Matthews find Marner for a breakaway. He nearly pulls off the Hertl, but it goes wide.
  • [2:24] Team White goal! Mikko Lehtonen fires an innocuous looking wrister Nylander may have tipped it home. 3-1 White.
  • [0:00] Second period shootout
    (W) Mikheyev: miss
    (B) Spezza: miss
    (W) Robertson: miss
    (B) Rielly: goal!
    (W) Hyman: save
    (B) Matthews: save

Third Period

  • [20:00] Campbell in net for White, Dell for Blue.
  • [18:11] Simmonds pings Barabanov in the head with a puck as the latter falls. Thankfully, he’s not hurt.
  • [16:42] Mikheyev loses the puck behind his own net, but Hollowell bails him out by making a nice defensive play to intercept the ensuing Blue pass.
  • [16:28] Dermott turns the puck over in his own zone, leading to a Mikheyev shot from the right circle. Dell saves well.
  • [15:45] Marner finds Matthews alone in the slot, but Campbell saves well. Best offensive zone play from the Matthews line so far (against the Tavares line too). Pretty big defensive breakdown from White to let Matthews go free. It looked like it was just a total miscommunication; everyone seemed to think he was someone else’s responsibility.
  • [15:38] Vesey finds Nylander for a breakaway, but his backhand goes wide. Later in the shift, Marner gets a breakaway, but he goes wide too.
  • [13:20] Another PP for Blue, as Mikheyev gets the gate.
  • [12:13] Marner takes a penalty, so we get 4v4.
  • [10:12] Just as the power play expires, Nylander rips a one-timer by Dell. 4-1 White.
  • [9:42] Barabanov gets a breakaway out of basically nothing, but is stopped by Campbell. I gotta say, there have been an insane amount of breakaways so far.
  • [9:03] Matthews finds Marner again for a great chance, but it’s off-target.
  • [8:50] Blue goal! Once again, that Blue top line does a great job at OZ puck recovery. Marner robs Engvall and takes it to the net. He doesn’t get the goal, but he passes his rebound to Matthews who pokes it home. 4-2 White.
  • [7:55] Sandin with a nice evasive move to get away from Nylander as Willie forechecked.
  • [5:48] White goal! Aggressive play from Brodie and Rielly in the neutral zone doesn’t pay off, as Hyman is able to poke the puck to Engvall, who has a partial breakaway. He makes a nice move to put it by Dell. 5-2 White.
  • [4:01] Blue goal! Simmonds has a point shot that bounces off the boards right to Spezza, who pots it easily. 5-3 White.
  • [2:28] After a somewhat slow start, Matthews and Marner have been the standouts of today’s game, even better than JT and Nylander. And the latter two have been damn good themselves.
  • [1:30] As if they heard me, JT’s line hems Matthews’ in for some time. We haven’t seen those two lines facing off too much, but it’s been fairly even when they have. Both sides are better offensively than defensively, so they can score on one another.
  • [1:10] White PP. Hyman draws one from Boyd.
  • [1:08] White goal! Well, that was fast. Tavares wins a scramble draw to Robertson who puts every pound of his frame into a slapper that goes post and in. 6-3 White.
  • [1:08] The power play continues because reasons, but not much happens.
  • [0:00] That’s the end of the game. There’s a 3v3 OT session coming up next.

OT

  • [4:02] Mikheyev scores on a breakaway! 7-3 final score!