Right before the game we got a bombshell dropped on us about Keefe’s weird forward lineup choice with Hutchinson in net. I give it half a period before he scraps it and goes back to normal lines. Also, I’m sending him a strongly worded letter about doing this to me on one of my recaps.
Let’s see how it works out.
Early on, the already injury-depleted Leafs saw Jimmy Vesey go to the dressing room after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face.
The Leafs came out looking strong, playing almost all of the first few minutes of the game in the Flames’ end with their weird new-look lines.
GOAL: Sam Bennett scores on a gift by Hutchinson
The Leafs’ super-line got hemmed in by the Flames, and a Hutchinson let an open point shot go through him, albeit tipped by Tavares. Bennett was in the right place at the right time for the empty net tap in.
Sam Bennett trying to show Kyle he's the one— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Six minutes in and we have our first blended lines, with Nylander - Matthews - Mikheyev getting sent over the boards. Didn’t take long at all! They had a nice shift with Mikheyev and Matthews both getting chances.
In short order we also saw Petan (blocked shot) and Marner (collision/Flames penalty) limp off the ice. PLEASE ALL OF YOU STOP EXPLODING!
Now Marner is limping after this drawn call— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Marner came out for the ensuing powerplay, so just maybe a bit stung. The Leafs were all over the Flames on the powerplay, lots of shots a couple of better quality chances. But no goal to show for it.
Hutchinson is, as always, a bit of an adventure...
The Leafs get another powerplay chance, and load up the mega-unit again. Leafs come real close after Rielly walked in and rang one off the crossbar, and the Leafs couldn’t quite put in the rebound in the ensuring scramble. Calgary holds on to their 1-0 lead.
Leafs came so close to scoring twice.— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Once from Rielly's crossbar and the rebound afterwards pic.twitter.com/qz3q9IWlZl
Leafs are turning it on more in the final minutes of the period. The fourth line, which has looked good all game, had a good shift leading to Spezza alone in front getting robbed. Rittich has been good to start the game.
Solid chance for Spezza in the slot pic.twitter.com/Uz3SLKBUvT— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Leafs end the period with a Petan hooking call in the final seconds. They’ll be killing it off to start the second period.
First Period Thoughts:
- Offense: Despite a strong start and finish to the period, they really didn’t get much going at even strength at all. A lot of their shots were blocked or missed the net, and none were from very dangerous locations.
- Defense: The goal they gave up was a bad self-deflection and poor goaltending, and while they gave up more shot attempts and expected goal share at even strength it wasn’t a lot. The two teams combined for less than a full expected goal in the period.
- Special Teams: They had two powerplays that looked really dangerous throughout all four minutes, and came close a couple of times to scoring. Just couldn’t get the goal.
- Standouts: Willy is playing like he doesn’t want to be stuck on a line with Kerfoot and Barabanov, and Matthews felt like he had about 10 shot attempts in the period alone. The fourth line looked like their most effective at even strength.
Starting on the penalty kill, Vesey and Mikheyev did a great job killing almost all of it on their own by keeping it in the Flames’ end. Hutch made the saves he needed to in order to kill it off.
Great penalty killing from Mikheyev and Vesey pic.twitter.com/sGKBI4wugO— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Leafs not getting the same lucky bounces that the Flames got for their goal.
Kerfoot nearly scored off this Bogosian shot pic.twitter.com/7fIMcDioqi— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
Leafs get another powerplay from a Leivo holding call. The top unit came out but didn’t look as dangerous as before, and they get to the 13 minute mark still trailing 1-0. A couple of minutes later, and Marner took a tripping penalty to send the Leafs on the penalty kill. Spezza got a good chance on a 2 on 1 early on, but Rittich gloved his shot. Mikheyev and Kerfoot together got another breakaway after, but they still can’t score.
Another shorthanded rush by Mikheyev with no goal pic.twitter.com/rhSFcxetVS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
GOAL: Tkachuk tips a point shot, 2-0 Flames
Right after the Mikheyev breakaway, Tkachuk tipped the point shot and put the Flames up two goals to none. Sucks the Leafs looked like they had the more scoring chances, but them’s the breaks.
Right after, Lucic caused a scramble in front of Hutchinson. Hutch made a good save, but the Leafs took another penalty and back to the penalty kill they go!
Boyd takes a penalty while Hutchinson makes a good save pic.twitter.com/oHVE1cHfrc— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2021
The Leafs manage to kill this one off, and now need to get something going to work on the comeback. Then the Leafs get another powerplay! The refs are allergic to even strength play this period, apparently. Then Lindholm took ANOTHER penalty, and the Leafs will get a pretty lengthy 5 on 3. The Leafs do a whole lot of passing around, fumbling said passes, and missing the net on their shot attempts. No goals at all on the powerplay.
And Dermott takes a penalty right after, when his jersey was getting tugged. Penalty filled period. Not favouring the Leafs so far, after they’ve failed on all their attempts. They killed off most of it, and they will once again start the next period on the penalty kill.
Second Period Thoughts:
- Offense: The Leafs generated more shot attempts and scoring chances in 9 minutes of even strength time in the second period, than they did in 15 minutes of the first period. That’s good.
- Defense: They held Calgary to half as many shot attempts and a slightly less expected goal rate as well. That’s also good.
- Special Teams: More than half the period was played on special teams. The Leafs went 0 for, and the Flames got another goal to pad their lead.
- Standouts: Same as before, really. More of the top line doing things. Mikheyev just can’t buy a short handed goal, man.
- Heatmap: This is not the heatmap of an exciting game.
The Leafs killed off the rest of the period to start, and Barabanov after had a great chance off the rush. He bounced a high, hard wrist shot off of Rittich’s mask and then off the crossbar. Leafs keep coming close, but can’t beat Rittich or the iron.
And we’re back to the penalty kill now.... that was a weak ass call. I’d have called an embellishment on that myself. And wouldn’t you know it, the Flames capitalize.
GOAL: Monahan scores off the scramble, 3-0 Flames.
Hutch made the first two good saves. Monahan scores on the backhand. That’s a backbreaking goal to give up, off a soft penalty call.
And not long after, Matthews hit the post. That’s at least three posts/crossbars that the Leafs have hit this game.
The rest of the game played out with the Leafs trying to get anything going, but it wasn’t to be tonight. Call it bad luck, sloppy play, or whatever. I’m not even mad at the result, just one of those games.
There were some notable differences that led to the Leafs’ loss.
- They hit the post or crossbar several times
- David Rittich made some big saves
- The Flames won special teams, which took up like half the game, and that’s not what anyone would have guessed ahead of time.
- Not gonna lie, I’m hoping Keefe learns his lesson for the 2nd time now that loading up a super line for a game does. not. work.
Just not the Leafs’ night, but they didn’t play badly all things considered. I’d be worried if I were the Calgary Flames, because that’s a game they only win one time out of ten, and that’s with the Leafs missing half their lineup due to injuries. Even as injured and as unlucky and as sloppy as the Leafs were, they still outplayed the Flames.