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Game One Recap: Leafs win the season opener 2-1

The Leafs started real bad but dominated most of the game

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

I was going to write a joke in the intro about trying to book a Canadian band to open our first recap of the season, but the Leafs got to the only one first. Then I saw everyone else already made the same joke. So now you just get this lament instead. Bit of a let down, isn’t it?

Just like the Leafs heyooooooooo!

PERIOD ONE

Leafs start the game giving up two odd man rushes/mini-breakaways in the first couple of minutes. Thankfully, David Savard had the chance on the second one and Campbell made the saves he needed to on the first one.

The Habs, quite frankly, look very good. The Leafs, quite frankly, look like shit outside of Campbell.

The Habs helpfully took a penalty to help us out, somehow, despite dominating play through the first five minutes. We get a look at the Leafs’ new PP system, although without Matthews. And after the two minutes passed, I can confidently say it still looks terrible. No movement. Shots from distance. Passes picked off. No dangerous chances.

Habs immediately get a 2 on 1 after the penalty was over. They get another 2 on 1 a minute later, and this time Drouin scores.

Leafs get a chance to tie the game after Romanov took a monumentally stupid and needless penalty on Bunting. After the first powerplay unit looked just as rusty as the first time, the second unit came on and got some dangerous chances going. And Pierre Engvall tied it up on a seeing-eye puck that beat Allen. A guy can hope this will get the Leafs going instead of looking like a deer in the headlights as they have been the rest of the game so far.

Now that the Leafs stopped looking terrible, I’m finally starting to notice some Leafs in a positive way. Mainly: Kaše. He’s good.

A late flurry by the Leafs led to a prolonged shift in the Habs end, with Nylander on with Tavares and Marner. They came close, with Sandin ringing a shot off the post in the last 10 seconds.

First Period Thoughts

  • Offense: At even strength the Leafs finished the period slightly ahead in shot attempts (55%), but their quality of scoring chances wasn’t great (35%). Even when you go to all situations, where the Leafs had all the powerplays, they still were only at 44% of expected goals.
  • Defense: To be fair to the offense, that bad expected goals is more because they gave up so many good scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of the game.
  • Special Teams:
  • Standouts: Jack Campbell saved their ass early. Once they tied it and stopped looking awful, I finally started to notice some positives. Kaše stood out the most among the new guys. Bunting drew a penalty and Ritchie had a good deflection in front, but it was the Nylander, Bunting and Kerfoot line and the Rielly-Brodie pair who had the only expected goal percentage above 50.
  • Heatmap:

PERIOD TWO

You cannot stop Pierre Engvall, youc an only hope to contain him.

Willy came close off the rush not long after. Leafs are slowly evolving into their final form.

Katya noticed that the Leafs seem to be taking more point shots, possibly with the intention of taking advantage of high deflections. Bunting, Ritchie, Tavares and Willy (off the rush) have all done it already. It seems to both capitalize on Bunting and Ritchie’s skills, but also give them opportunities to get quality scoring chances and scrambles in front without having to make the perfect pass.

The Greasy Rat rides again! You may have three defenders bear hugging his face, crosschecking him in the spine, and trying to shove him away, but he will continue to hack and slash at the puck in the crease and at your goalie trying to cover it until the world is dust.

But despite all those crosschecks, there is no call and the Leafs take a rather softer penalty call right after. The more things change, the more they stay the same! Thankfully, Engvall has proven to be the best two way special teams player in the league in only one game.

As bad as the Leafs looked in the first half of the last period, that’s how good the Leafs have looked through the first half of THIS period. They’ve been dominating play at both ends, with nothing to show for it so far.

Engvall has been playing out of his mind tonight. He’s been great with Kase at even strength.

Second Period Thoughts

  • Offense: It was a pretty great period, despite no goals. They generated more than a full expected goal at even strength, and for the game now control 55% of the shot attempts and the expected goal share.
  • Defense: They had some hiccups, especially in the final two minutes of the period. But it was solid defensively as well, giving up very little in the way of quality shots or chances against.
  • Special Teams: They had only one penalty to kill and they did it, showing a couple of threats the other way too.
  • Standouts: Engvall and Kase, offensively. Bunting is taking a lot of punishment because he seems to be pissing the Habs off a lot. The top guys are getting going now too. Pretty much everyone except the fourth line and the Muzzin-Holl pairing have gotten back into the positives. The Bunting-Kerfoot-Nylander line with the Rielly-Brodie pair are still leading the way.
  • Heatmap:

PERIOD THREE

WEE WILLY NYLANDER STARTS THE PERIOD OFF RIGHT! What a snipe for the goal.

Like father like son... Spezza takes an ill-advised penalty, and Marner follows 16 seconds later with a more accidental but even worse penalty to put the Leafs on a 5 on 3 penalty kill. The Leafs actually managed to clear the puck a few times at the start, they blocked a few shots, and Campbell made the save that got through. GREAT looking penalty kill, or awful powerplay... you decide!

Willy decides the penalty kill worked so well, why not give the Habs another powerplay! Please don’t make a habit of that, William. Habs actually looked like they got more chances than they did on the 5 on 3, but the Leafs killed it off again.

Things got spicy late in the game... this scrum somehow led to the Leafs getting the powerplay, and with less than two minutes left they ran out the powerplay for the win.

Third Period Thoughts

  • Offense: It was more low-event than the previous two periods, but the Leafs did get their chances — including Willy’s goa ahead goal.
  • Defense: They played very tight defense for most of the period, even for a bit after they got the lead. With a few minutes left in the game, however, the turtle formed and/or Montreal pressed and started getting more chances. Nothing very dangerous.
  • Special Teams: Exceptional penalty killing may have won them the game.
  • Standouts: Campbell, Engvall, Kase, Nylander, Rielly, Brodie, with a bit of Bunting, Kerfoot and Kampf.
  • Heatmap: