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Leafs lose unnecessary game to Canucks in overtime; Zach Hyman injured

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Just a bad night.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Vancouver Canucks Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs journeyed to Vancouver to face the Canucks tonight, who were playing their first game after returning from a vicious outbreak of COVID-19. Should this game even have taken place? Debatable. Anyway, one of us had to recap it, so here I am.

I’ve decided to try the timestamp method, based approximately on the time of the stoppage where I’m writing notes. I hope that you enjoy the vibrant immediacy of this format while mostly looking at Omar’s gifs.

First Period

[18:38] Leafs have the best early chance, such as it is, which is a weird Matthews backhand from the slot. The organist is playing Seven Nation Army. That song is almost twenty years old! God, I’m a thousand.

[16:55] A Canucks rush ends in a Justin Holl deflection. The Canucks are looking to get their legs under them, which is a fair objective and also the most natural place for them to locate their legs.

[16:14] Goal! William Nylander announces his return from the COVID list with a snipe, and Toronto is up 1-0.

[14:00] The Leafs generate some excellent pressure off a top-line shift but it doesn’t garner them more than a close call for Matthews.

[13:05] Alex Edler takes a penalty, so the Leafs are going to the powerplay and everyone can take a two-minute nap. See if I’m right!

[11:05] The Leafs don’t achieve much until the last twenty seconds of the powerplay, when Alex Galchenyuk rifles a shot pass to Jason Spezza, who rings the post. Spezza was the most effective of all of the players the Leafs put out for the man advantage; he’s still a very effective zone entry player, which as anyone watching Toronto’s powerplay lately can tell you, is not a universal trait.

[9:10] Man, I forgot the Canucks had Jimmy Vesey. It feels like he played for us in like 2008. Time is but a construct of the mind.

[7:45] Joe Thornton finds the trailer Jake Muzzin for a one-timer, but Mr. Holtby says no.

[6:00] The Canucks have their first really good chance as a Brock Boeser shot finds Jack Campbell’s shoulder. It’s a solid shift in the offensive zone for Vancouver, but they don’t generate another quality opportunity.

[5:15] The Matthews line has another good pressure shift that ends when Mitch Marner gets a little too cute deking into the slot. It’s all right, Mitchell, sometimes you have to dare greatly to succeed.

[2:13] There was a commercial break here, and yet not much happened in the last couple of minutes. Did any of you see the Nobody movie yet? I want to but I think I might wait for the price to come down. It seems good though. I like Bob Odenkirk.

[0:00] It feels unfair to grade the Canucks on the standard of a normal hockey game here. They haven’t played in three weeks and virtually the entire team had COVID, some players quite severely, during that span. They kept their shifts short and mostly hung in well, and they ended the period only down 1-0, which is an entirely surmountable deficit. From Vancouver’s perspective this is an admirable showing.

The Leafs controlled play handily, which is what you’d expect in the circumstances, but they can only play the game in front of them. The Matthews line owned the offensive zone for long stretches, Nylander and Tavares look great together, and Joe Thornton had one of his best periods in weeks. The worst stretch of the first for Toronto was the first ninety seconds of their power play, which is bizarre but is about how things have gone lately.

Second Period

[15:22] I really thought Bogosian might one-time a goal on a beautiful Royal Road pass, but he doesn’t pull the trigger and ends up losing his handle before tumbling over Braden Holtby.

[12:46] The general tenor of the commentary is that the Leafs are playing with fire by not putting Vancouver away on the scoreboard despite a heavy territorial advantage, and that feels like it might be prophetic as the Canucks put together two consecutive offensive zone shifts, after a long run of play the other way. The puck stays out, though, and J.T. Miller takes a penalty on Jason Spezza, sending the Leafs back to their moribund powerplay.

[9:44] Oh boy. The first unit get turned out of the zone in short order, and Sheldon Keefe goes to his second unit after 21 seconds. The old men generate some nice pressure; the first unit comes back on and sustains pressure long after the actual powerplay ends. Eventually an exhausted Alex Edler brutally knee-on-knees Zach Hyman, leading to a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Hyman hobbles to the dressing room and his night is done as well. Here’s the hit:

[5:03] Goal, at long last! It takes four minutes and twenty-one seconds where I wondered if the Leafs had offended the powerplay deity. Prior to that, the second unit once again looks pretty good, but Braden Holtby absolutely robs Alex Galchenyuk with a stretched-out pad; a little later, John Tavares gets a terrific chance and rings the post. But Matthews gets in-tight off a rush and chips a puck top corner, and it’s 2-0.

[3:37] Canucks goal. Bo Horvat, who’s probably been the best Canucks forward tonight, gets sprung on a partial break and fires a short-side snipe to bring the score to 2-1.

[1:35] Toronto runs around all over Vancouver for a little bit and Willie generates a nice chance for young phenom Nick Robertson.

[0:02] Jimmy Vesey comes close right before the buzzer, only to be stopped by Jack Campbell. I have thought about Jimmy Vesey twice as often tonight as I did in any game he played for the Leafs.

[0:00] The Canucks have a very real chance to win this game. It’s 2-1, Holtby has played well, the Leafs haven’t converted on as many of their chances as they’d like, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Vancouver gets a powerplay or two in the third considering Toronto has had the first nine minutes with the extra man. That said, Toronto is the better team by a clear margin, for whatever that means in a game like this...although they’ve occasionally made some sloppy plays, as ever.

The result either way feels pretty secondary to health concerns; for the Canucks as a team, and for Zach Hyman.

Third Period

[17:00] Holtby stops Ilya Mikheyev and Morgan Rielly in the space of a couple of minutes. Here’s the latter chance, as well as the rush the other way afterwards.

[14:35] Jack Campbell makes a nice pokecheck to stifle the best Canucks chance of the period so far; Nick Robertson misses wide on a gorgeous chance. Here’s the Jack Campbell poke.

[14:01] The next call is indeed against Toronto—Justin Holl for cross-checking (it’s warranted.) No goals result, despite some respectable Canucks efforts and a shorthanded breakaway for Mitch Marner.

[9:05] Wayne Simmonds get in on a rush; Braden Holtby pokes the puck away and then does a pinwheel save to kick the deflection out.

[7:57] Canucks goal. Vancouver rookie Nils Hoglander gets loose in front as Justin Holl struggles to cover two players, and Hoglander taps in a pass by Jaden Chatfield. We’ve got a 2-2 tie.

[4:16] A Jayce Hawryluk tip rings the crossbar so fast the Canucks think it might have gone in and out, but no goal.

[0:19] The Leafs own the last four minutes, for whatever it’s worth, and Auston Matthews rings both the crossbar and the post. Shortly after, a deflection looks like it might go in, but savvy veteran goaltender Braden Holtby squeezes the puck against the post and obstructs the cameras too much to be sure. Them’s the breaks.

[0:00] We’re going to overtime. I’ve recapped a lot of games, including ones where the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs, and this is maybe the least fun game I can remember doing.

Overtime

[3:41] Bo Horvat beats Jack Campbell short side on a shot you would like your goaltender to have, and it’s a 3-2 win for Vancouver.

Thoughts

  • You can’t have a moral victory against a team coming back from a COVID absence. You just can’t. So while the Leafs were the better team and Holtby really kept Vancouver in it most of the night, I don’t expect that to mean much.
  • Knee-on-knee hits are vicious. At this point all we can do is hope for the best for Hyman, and see if the league suspends Edler.
  • Jack Campbell getting beat short side from the circle twice was not the most encouraging thing he’s done.
  • It was a good night for the old men, I thought; Spezza and Thornton looked solid.
  • God, I hope Zach is okay.