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Game Recap: Nic Petan, Nic Petan, leads the Leafs like only he can

Jason Spezza’s hat trick part of a dominating win over the Canucks

Vancouver Canucks v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking on the Vancouver Canucks in the first of a three game set. The Leaf got a nice little break to rest and relax, while the Vancouver Canucks have been off to a rough start to the season. They got pummeled by the Habs, and are looking to get their best players going.

Sounds like the Leafs, but the Leafs at least have been banking points. Their last game, which I also recapped, I turned into a drunk recap after the worst start to a game I’ve ever seen the Leafs play. Please, don’t do that again... it’s still a week night.

FIRST PERIOD

The first good chance goes to the Leaf. Kerfoot got hit in stride through the neutral zone and set up Vesey for a good shot on a sort-of odd man rush.

Not long after, Tavares had a rush and set up Bogosian who jumped up into the play. Two shots from two chances off the rush for the Leafs early.

GOAL: Auston Matthews goes end to end, makes it 1-0 Toronto

Matthews drew a penalty and scored on an end to end rush, made it look really easy. Or Vancouver’s terrible defense did... that was bad all around for them.

Not long after the fourth line had a nice shift, with a good shot from Petan coming in from the point. Leafs are all over Vancouver early on.

GOAL: The Canucks capitalize on their first chance on an ugly scrum in front of Andersen. Tie game.

Double bad news: Dermott went to the tunnel earlier on what looked like a fluke knee-on-knee collision.

The Leafs follow up with another good shift by the fourth line, with Spezza and Petan almost connecting. The Canucks followed with a heart-attack play off a rush by Pettersson, they’re starting to push back more. There’s been no shortage of chances on either side so far. Defense has been optional.

Tavares with a great solo rush, pantsing Hughes on a deke and stick handling into the slot on his knees, almost setting up a chance.

GOAL: Jason Spezza scores on the powerplay, 2-1 Leafs.

Simmonds nearly set up Marner for a goal right after, but Demko robbed him. A few minutes later of more pressure by the Leafs, Nylander draws a high sticking penalty and the Leafs go back to the powerplay.

They don’t score, but apparently having two powerplays in the period hit a hard quota because when Kerfoot got clearly hit from behind into the boards, there was no call. I’m sure if you looked back far enough in time, Kerfoot turned into it like 30 seconds before.

Leafs end the period with a 2-1 lead.

Period One Thoughts

Offense: It was good. They tied at even strength in goals 1-1, but the Leafs were clearly the ones controlling play. At even strength they controlled 74% of the expected goals and 71% of shot attempts.

Defense: It was good. They had the one brainfart that led to the Pearson goal, but otherwise did not give up much to the Canucks. They were particularly good at getting it out of their own end quickly, so Vancouver had almost no extended zone time in the Leafs’ end.

Special Teams: It was good. The first powerplay was over quickly thanks to Spezza. Their second powerplay was... less good since they failed to enter the zone about half a dozen times. Can’t argue with a 50% success rate though.

Standouts: Honestly, aside from the obvious names I thought Petan had a great period. He had three shifts looking noticeable and being a part of 2-3 scoring chances, all while on the fourth line.

NST Heatmap:

SECOND PERIOD

More of that first period effort, please.

Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews work their magic early, with Demko robbing Matthews in front on a great feed by Mitch.

The Canucks come right back with their top line, and Pettersson set off a frantic flurry in front with a screened shot off the rush.

GOAL: Auston Matthews banks a goal in from behind the net. 3-1 Leafs.

Marner makes a great play going behind the net with the puck, pulls the old no-look pass to Matthews behind him, who chipped it in off Demko as he was leaning the other way. Great assist by Marner for a guy who can’t skate or stickhandle or receive a pass.

GOAL: Horvat catches the Leafs napping right after, 3-2 Leafs

The Leafs got hemmed in their own zone for two shifts, and to the rescue comes... the fourth line again. Petan again has looked good. He led an extended shift in the Canucks’ end with Spezza and Boyd.

GOAL: Jason Spezza scores his second on a SUPERB all-round play. 4-2 Leafs.

The fourth line connected on a great shift. Bogosian erased a cycle, passed to TJ Brodie. Brodie springs the rush with a great stretch pass. Boyd, Petan, saucer to Spezza, roof baby roof. Great to see Petan rewarded for his great game.

The first half of the period was more high-offense for both sides, with the same general over all result: Leafs controlling play to a high extent. The second half of the period has been a bit more calm, the Leafs are controlling play in the offensive zone and more suffocating through the neutral and defensive zone.

GOAL: Nylander with a beautiful pass to Tavares for the tip in. 5-2 Leafs.

My god William, you hug your mother with those hands?? What a passing display.

The Canucks get a chance late with a powerplay, but Ilya Mikheyev had the best chance on a partial breakaway. He needs to bury some of those eventually.

Period Two Thoughts

Offense: It was very good. They scored three goals, all at even strength. Three different lines scored it. They were simply dominant and controlled play everywhere. They made stretch passes, they passed cross ice at will, and just skated circles around Vancouver.

Defense: It was good. They gave up more chances against than the first period, but not by much. They still controlled play to the tune of 70% expected goal share and 55% shot attempt share.

Special Teams: They had about 1:20 of a penalty to kill, and the best scoring chance was from Mikheyev. That’s good.

Standouts: I’m coming around on Bogosian. He’s a perfectly cromulent third pairing guy. He’s underrated at handling the puck in his own zone to help start a breakout. He’s by no means like Polak or any other defenseman of his ilk that the Leafs have cycled through the last few years.

NST Heatmap: the red blob of death returns!

THIRD PERIOD

Starting on the penalty kill, Marner had a nifty rush that had a decent scoring chance. The two best scoring chances on that powerplay for Vancouver came from Toronto.

William Nylander with a ridiculous effort that didn’t really lead to a scoring chance, but I wanted Willy to know I saw it. Fought through three checkers in the neutral zone, had his stick knocked out of his hands, picked it up and still corralled the puck surrounded by Canucks.

Not long after, Hyman with a drive to the net drew a slashing penalty and the Leafs go back to the powerplay... apparently slashing is the only penalty in hockey these days. There was no goal from it, but my god that was a great looking PP. All kinds of movement, passing, good open shot attempts. The best chance came on a Matthews one-timer, but Demko made a great save.

GOAL: JASON SPEZZA WITH THE HAT TRICK!!! 6-2 Leafs

Pretty goal by Spezza to cap the hat trick. Was it bad defense? Absolutely, but still fun. What a game for the 37-year old.

Leafs continue dominating play... or rather the Canucks are just lifeless. They’ve been broken, and took another penalty sending the Leafs to the powerplay. Which... was quickly erased by a Kerfoot penalty. I’m sure he’s thrilled with that. And not long after Tavares takes a penalty for accidentally colliding skates with Hughes. Hughes is the one who fell, so Tavares takes the penalty. Makes perfect sense. Leafs to the PK, then a 5 on 3.

GOAL: JT Miller scores a powerplay goal, sniping it over Freddie. 6-3 Leafs.

GOAL: Mitch Marner sneaks a wrist shot from afar past Demko. 7-3 Leafs.

Good effort from the fourth line led to that goal for Mitch as he jumped on the ice.

Great win by the Leafs.

Final Thoughts

Offense: Domination. Leafs took their foot off the gas pedal in the third when they were up by several goals, for the most part. But still got their chances off turnovers and on the rush. They still controlled shot attempts and expected goals in the third to the same degree as the first.

Defense: They gave up almost nothing against at even strength. Can’t really ask them to do better than they did, although the Canucks were also just completely lifeless.

Special Teams: They had a great looking powerplay that didn’t score, then a penalty kill that did give up a goal against but that was also the only scoring chance they had. They also had some chances themselves, from Marner and Mikheyev.

Standouts: That’s the best any Leafs’ fourth line has looked all year. But it was also the best the Leafs as a team have looked all year. Bogosian had his first point as a Leafs and looked solid all night. Tavares and Nylander finally had a good game at even strength. Dominating game.

NST Heatmap: