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Recap: Maple Leafs save it for later, win with a 3rd period push over the Canucks

They played as good as they needed to. As they do.

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

What more is there to say about the Canucks? This is the reality of this season, eventually familiarity breeds boredom. Let’s see if this game bores or thrills.

First Period

16:30 is Frederik Andersen’s first stop, and so far Braden Holtby has been less busy, so that’s how this game has started.

Someone told Alex Edler he looked older than Spezza out there.

Oh my. My, my, my. That sure is pretty. Mo with a sweet shot after Mitch Marner played as the blueline man for a while. Huge amount of movement on this play, bodies in motion, and not just passing practice. It looks almost like the power play.

I’m going to gush some more. Yes a skilled shot is fun to watch, but this is skilled team hockey that led to this goal. This is possession with intent. This is what I love to see, and what the Leafs are uniquely qualified to produce. Watch the whole play:

1-0 Leafs

Post goal, the game has sped up, but no one is taking big risks here. It feels like the Canucks just don’t want to look stupid, and the Leafs are content to just roll with whatever happens. So far, so good.

Nils Hoglander just fountains blood on a puck to the face. His visor is red. You go look it up on the internet, you ghouls.

Vancouver gets a power play on a Justin Holl tripping call. The power play is bad and boring.

Andersen with a smoking good save, and maybe it’s time for the Leafs to control the play a little more.

Rielly gets another look, which tests Holtby, who has had it easy so far.

Thoughts

  • Mitch Marner has been maximum Mitch tonight
  • The rotation of guys — mostly Matthews or Mikheyev — on line two is dumb, and they should just pick a guy
  • Sandin played 2 minutes, and I did not notice him at all
  • Leafs have the puck more of the time, it seems, but aren’t doing much with it

Second Period

Broadcast is going on about how many feet Matthews skated vs Quinn Hughes from the player tracking data. They then try to narrativize why a centre skates so much based on playing deep in the zone. Auston Matthews played a minute more than any defender on the Leafs because he double shifted. It’s really not complicated or illuminated by raw distance measures.

Oh, wow. JT gets a sweet centering pass that he just can’t connect on, and the Canucks get a chance the other way. If the Canucks weren’t bad, they’d be dangerous.

Leafs making Andersen work in this period, and Vancouver are achieving that rare thing for them: not looking like they want someone fired.

Matthews takes a penalty!

And Vancouver scores!

Tie game

Maybe the Leafs should try for the second half instead of coasting.

Justin Holl, briefly playing for Vancouver, helps on a rush up ice but Vancouver can’t convert.

Hyman gets tripped, with a stick right in his skate, so that had to be called. Power play for the Leafs.

Marner, playing on the right side with Matthews on the left as they do now sometimes, gets a good shot. Exciting! A shot from the Leafs.

Rielly takes a penalty with under 3 minutes to blow away the rest of this period. The Canucks aren’t really very good on this one, but it eats up time.

Thoughts

  • Leafs decided a team playing badly deserved no respect and they got what you’d expect as comeuppance.
  • I don’t know why Rasmus Sandin is in this game. I fully understand the KHL “dressed but not played” process, but you don’t do that with a guy like Sandin. It’s weird.

That’s embarrassing.

Third Period

Leafs open the third with a flurry of net-front activity, so I’m guessing they didn’t get backpats in the second intermission just for showing up.

Now, of course, because of the lineup cuteness, the game is tied, and the top five players have been overplayed. No choice but to keep doing it.

Toronto gets a power play, and they always look at least okay, but nothing comes of it.

Last game had a lot of Leafs bobbles of the puck, bad passes, just general sloppiness, which was disguised by the score. This is just that only in a tie game.

This game has been full of auditions for the job of playing with Tavares, and so far that Auston Matthews guy looks okay, the rest, not so much.

Oh, my. So about that Matthews guy. I think he might be good:

(Sandin with a point.)

2-1 to the underserving Leafs

Oh, you heard that did you, Leafs?

3-1 to the mildly deserving Leafs 11 seconds later

Kerfoot has sucked this game, so this is nice for him.

The Leafs can lie back and let Freddie win this one, like they did in the second, or they can play hard. Let’s see what they choose.

They control the play for half the remaining time, but then Barabanov takes a penalty.

The crossbar makes a great save to preserve the lead. The Canucks keep the goalie out as the power play ends.

The Canucks put the Leafs through the spin cycle, but it looks so tame, so tentative. They have no belief they will score.

Game over, Leafs win... and they don’t ask you how, just how many.

Thoughts

  • Canucks made the case that coach Travis Green is not their problem
  • The final score was the best part. Okay, no, that first goal was really, really nice.