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Leafs stifle Flyers 3-0

A solid defensive game and a shutout for Jack Campbell.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Leafs journeyed to the City of Brotherly Love tonight to face off against the league’s most orange team, the Philadelphia Flyers. Here is what happened when they got there!

First Period

[20:00] Before this season, I said the Flyers were a good team who risked being sunk by unreliable goaltending from Carter Hart and Martin Jones. Because goalies are an eternal enigma, they have instead gotten superb goaltending from both men. Let’s see if that continues. Hart is tonight’s starter.

[17:58] Scott Laughton gets called for hooking, and the Leafs get a powerplay after two minutes of decent action both ways.

[13:06] The best chance on the Toronto PP comes fairly early, as a puck comes to William Nylander, but he can’t convert. After that the Flyers get a rush and then the Leafs do little with their zone time. They keep getting zone time, though, long after the power play ends, and the pressure on the Flyers is a promising sign. Justin Bourne has a microstat about this, right on cue:

[8:26] They don’t feel quite as immediately dangerous as I’d like, but the Leafs are simmering in the offensive zone. Here’s an example.

[7:43] After a good shift from the Flyers, the Leafs get the puck out and Jason Spezza gets into a footrace with Claude Giroux. Spezza seeks to win the race by slightly untoward means, and it’s a two-minute penalty.

[5:32] The Leafs kill the penalty in fine fashion.

[2:30] David Kämpf trips Claude Giroux, for whom the Leafs apparently have a vendetta. Not much argument with the call. The Flyers have been playing better these last few minutes, at 5v5...

[0:40] ...but they again achieve nothing on their powerplay.

[0:00] Good period for the Leafs, on balance; they controlled the run of play and killed penalties well. If there’s a knock it’s that both the penalties were unnecessary plays in the offensive zone. Jack Campbell made all the saves possible, although a couple of rebounds seemed to sit in front of him.

Second Period

[18:42] Matthews buzzes around the Flyers net and comes close on a wraparound. His effort provokes a Flyers scrum on the goal line to keep the puck out, or failing that, make it impossible for the overhead camera to see it go in.

[15:30] Carter Hart makes a kick save that actually cuts off a pass from David Kämpf to Ondřej Kaše, which would have set up a tap-in. Whatever was making Hart bad last season, he seems to have figured it out. Oh, also Michael Bunting got into a heated debate with Travis Konecny, presumably on whether there’ll ever be a grand unified theory that incorporates quantum mechanics.

[14:21] The Leafs seem to get two chances for every one the Flyers get, even if some of those chances are from further out. Both goalies have been sharp, though. Also, here’s a terrific gif of Sheldon Keefe looking confused.

[11:52] Nick Ritchie takes a dumb penalty. Drink! This time he pulls off Rasmus Ristolainen’s helmet, I guess so they can have a closer conversation about how they’re both overpaid because they’re big. Flash forward a bit, though: the Flyers do as little with this powerplay as they did with the first two.

[8:49] GOAL! William Nylander deflects a Jake Muzzin pass in off his toe, and after a review, it stands. 1-0 Leafs.

[4:58] The Leafs, as is their habit, are controlling possession and cycling, while the Flyers are mostly relying on rush chances when the Leafs break down or get cleared out. Rush chances are more dangerous, so this could go Philly’s way, but it’s how Toronto likes to play under Keefe.

[3:31] Not that any line centred by David Kämpf is going to score that often, but Pierre Engvall has a relentless habit of settling for a mediocre shot from distance that goalies just eat up. If you’re going to do it, you at least have to try and force a rebound or something.

[2:20] Campbell continues to be very good at positioning for the first save and a little sloppy on the rebounds. He’s playing well, don’t get me wrong, but if he keeps letting the puck bounce off him uncontrolled, it’s eventually going to end up behind him, whether it’s this game or another.

[0:28] Here’s Timothy Liljegren making Flyers forward Joel Farabee fall over with his mind.

[0:00] The Flyers were better toward the end of the period, once again, and actually swung the shots and xG in their favour with late-period pressure. I think Toronto is mostly playing well, especially on defence. Hart has had tougher saves to my eye, but it’s a close one without a ton of great chances at either end. The Flyers broadcast (I like to get other perspectives) just adores Rasmus Ristolainen...who it has to be said, has actually played pretty well tonight, getting in lanes and disrupting passes.

Third Period

[16:55] The Flyers come out strong to start the period before the Leafs push back with some great pressure from the top line. The sequence finally ends when William Nylander fires a shot into Carter Hart’s glove.

[15:35] Ivan Provorov slashes Michael Bunting in front of the net, and the Leafs go to the power play. The Flyers broadcast suggests the subsequent cross-check would have been a better reason to whistle Provorov than the slash, and I agree with them, but whatever.

[14:34] GOAL! William Nylander strikes again, this time on the powerplay, as he rifles a genuinely great pass from Nick Ritchie, of all people. 2-0 Toronto.

One other note, on Toronto’s powerplay: Marner is playing lower in the zone at times, and I think this is a good twist to throw into the process.

[11:41] Strong pushback from the Flyers, and unsurprisingly it’s driven by their deadly top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. Konecny in particular seems to be buzzing, and has shot frequently, though to no avail.

[10:50] Ondřej Kaše takes a tripping call on Scott Laughton and then bumps him as Laughton tries to rise, hitting his head. Not a great play to make, Ondřej.

[9:03] The Flyers’ first powerplay unit puts in easily the best 5v4 shift Philly has had all night, rifling several threatening shots at Jack Campbell—and this unit has James van Riemsdyk in front of the net; I don’t think Leaf fans need reminding how effective he can be there. The second unit is less frightening, though they still get a little chaos in front of the net that Jack Campbell is saved from by a quick whistle. Toronto gets the kill.

[8:34] Claude Giroux gets called for high-sticking Mitch Marner. No blood; it’s a two-minute minor.

The Leafs don’t do too much while the powerplay is on; the most dangerous chance is on a lucky bounce that Wayne Simmonds nearly converts. Seven seconds after it ends, though...

[6:27] GOAL! Alex Kerfoot zooms in, circles behind the net and then whips a pass to Ondřej Kaše in the high slot, who rifles it home. 3-0 Leafs.

[3:48] Clearly indignant at my complaint about his rebound control, Campbell snatches up an Ivan Provorov shot with aplomb.

[0:00] That’s all, folks! Leafs win 3-0. JVR exhibits some frustration towards fellow tall man Pierre Engvall as the game wraps up.

Thoughts

  • This was the quintessential good road game, with the Leafs missing John Tavares. They conceded bad shots but the Flyers had remarkably few scoring chances, and they were assiduous in clearing rebounds, which were the only mistakes Jack Campbell made.
  • I think it was as much the defence as anything, but when you get a shutout, you did a damn good job, and Campbell tracked well and got in front of every single shot. Attaboy.
  • The Leafs’ top four defence, restored to its last-season form, played quite well, coming out ahead in scoring chances. Of note, Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie got the tough assignment against the Couturier line and didn’t do well in those minutes by the numbers, but they seemed quiet enough to me, and I’ll take that. Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl looked a lot more like the duo that gave the Leafs a remarkably solid shutdown pairing the last two seasons. Muzz also added an assist.
  • The penalty kill was very good, and I was barely even worried through the first three Flyers powerplays. And I worry about everything!
  • William Nylander continues to dazzle. He’s been an elite offensive player this season; I’m giving him full marks for his toe-tap goal to open the scoring. I’m very fond of his combination with Auston Matthews, who had a secondary assist on each of Willie’s goals. Keep them together, Keefe.
  • Since it was depth forward Kirill Semyonov’s first NHL game, I am adding a bullet point just for him. In the first period, I saw him coming in hard on the forecheck, and thought, good stuff, Kirill. I did not have another thought about him, for good or ill, for the rest of the evening, but that’s life on the fourth line for you when you don’t play much on special teams. Semyonov finished at the bottom of the team in ice time, playing 11:40. He did get 55 seconds on the penalty kill.
  • The Flyers probably don’t feel great about that one. They just didn’t look dangerous enough either at 5v5 or at 5v4 for most of the night. Travis Konecny was alert, alive and effective, but Philly’s supposed to have a more productive group of forwards than they looked like tonight.
  • Carter Hart was very good, though, and it would be an ungenerous observer that would fault him for any of the goals against.
  • All in all: a solid performance for the Leafs. Next game is back in Toronto on Friday, as Toronto hosts the red-hot (har har) Calgary Flames.