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Need a save, Dave: Leafs lose to Canucks

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Nylander held up his end of the bargain, but it was all for naught

Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks
VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 20: Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks scores on David Rittich #33 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on April 20, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Things were going well for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they carried a lead midway through the game. John Tavares had scored two goals, both directly created by some William Nylander brilliance. They were producing at even strength. Adam Brooks scored a shorthanded goal from Mitch Marner. Heck, even the power play got a goal! But unfortunately, in the second half of the game, goalie David Rittich let in three brutal back-breaking goals to Hughes, Hoglander, and Pearson, eventually leading to a 6-3 loss on the road. By the end, it was five goals against on 29 shots while the Canucks had less than three expected goals by MoneyPuck. The Leafs had another 40-shot performance in the loss.

The Leafs lost Zach Bogosian to an upper body injury midway through the game, putting the Leafs down to five defenseman that included young Rasmus Sandin. Nick Robertson was also in the lineup, getting two shots in less than 10 minutes of ice time.

First Period

It’s really great that the Leafs were able to find Galchenyuk when they did because he’s been a gem. In his first two shifts he was able to help create two great chances for his line. The first, he beat a defender and pushed to the front of the net for a point blank chance. The second, he got the puck from Matthews in transition and got a nice shot off.

Over the course of the first several minutes, the Leafs were doing pretty well at playing with the puck in the offensive zone. They were not without fault as the third line of Thornton, Engvall, and Simmonds made some errors and got hemmed in their zone for a pretty bad shift. The fourth line also struggled to dump the puck in the offensive zone, they really needed three or four tried to get a -dump in.

Then the Canucks started out-skating the Leafs and got several chances on Rittich.

Kerfoot was on the second line for this game with Hyman out, he made a good grunt play around the side of the net with Tavares nearby. Nylander was looking especially dangerous after getting a media target on his back yesterday.

1-0

And just as I finished talking about them, the second line gets a goal! Tavares finished the play, but it was all William Nylander. Willy got the transition into the offensive zone, picked up his own rebound off the rush shot, made a beautiful play around the back of the net for Tavares coming in support.

William Nylander is good. He’s very good. That’s why he’s in the lineup and that’s why the Leafs got the first goal. He’s too important to scratch. End of discussion.

After One

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 18-18 (50%)
  • Shots on goal: 13-12
  • Scoring chances: 7-7
  • Expected goals: 0.87-0.54 (62%)

Thoughts:

It was an even period in terms of puck time, but Nylander’s play to create Tavares’ goal was the differentiator in terms of expected goals (and real goals).

I said it last week and I’m saying it again, I really don’t understand the purpose of Engvall with Thornton and Simmonds, and most of that confusion comes from the latter two. Engvall does so much work on that line — transitioning the puck through the zone and forechecking with speed — while Thornton and Simmonds just get beat standing still.

On a play just like this, the two got beat deep, Engvall was stuck low as the first forechecker, and they gave up a partial break the other way that Rielly had to stop in desperation. I really don’t see the pace in Thornton anymore. Simmonds could make a fine third musketeer on a bottom six line, but he’s being asked to take on more with Thornton as his linemate.

They feel aimless on a line that is begging to be a hard forechecking, possession line. Unfortunately, the two players who would be perfect for that role (Hyman and Mikheyev) are injured.

Second Period

1-1

Travis Hamonic’s point shot was tipped and bounced off the side of the net, somehow the puck came right back into the blue paint where Brandon Sutter tied the game. Tavares, Rielly, and Holl all got stuck on the wrong side of the puck as the Canucks ended up being biased to the right side for the rebound. This came off an offensive zone turnover where Kerfoot came down from the point (he rotated for Rielly earlier) but had his stick lifted and the Canucks all stormed back the other way. Holl and Tavares were supposed to rotate, but it initially ended up being fine as Holl was able to disrupt the play in the neutral zone. Unfortunately the play still came into the zone and into the back of the net.

A few minutes later, Zach Bogosian fell hard into the end boards trying to retrieve the puck. It looked like he got crossed up when the puck didn’t end up being where he thought it should be. His legs crossed and he fell feet first into the boards at full speed. He skated right off the ice after a few seconds to get it looked at, and possibly also out of embarrassment (it happens, Bogo). The Leafs announced in the second intermission that Bogosian wouldn’t return to the game.

1-2

This frustrating goal from Quinn Hughes put the Canucks ahead shortly after the Bogo injury. Apparently the puck slightly deflected off Marner’s stick on its way. It’s still tough to deal with a goal like that at a time when the lead was just lost.

The second line was still the most dangerous line going for the Leafs. They got a couple good chances from in tight in a row in response.

Nylander also drew a penalty from Jalen Chatfield by driving hard to the net and getting in Holtby’s face.

2-2

JT ON THE PP!! With You Know Who (Nylander) making a perfect screen in front of the net, Tavares took a snapper from the left wing and beat Holtby for the slowly reheating power play, primary assist to Nylander for the puck-retrieval earlier. Nylander was really good in the net-front role, making a play down low earlier in the power play that nearly created another goal for Tavares. The two were set up down low with the usual suspects around the perimeter.

After Two

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 24-19 (56%)
  • Shots on goal: 17-8
  • Scoring chances: 15-10
  • Expected goals: 1.56-0.99 (61%)

Thoughts:

The young guns were on display in their limited time on the ice. Sandin showed off his skating ability and passing when left alone in the defensive zone. He also broke up a play at the red line and threw his weight around. With Bogosian out, he was given a spot shift with Rielly and Muzzin but wasn’t played very much. His third period ice time will be interesting.

Nick Robertson was keeping up his role as a gunner, but Holtby was being extra frustrating with the teenager. Parents, ugh.

Third Period

3-2

Todd Crocker voice: “ADAM BROOKS!” With Engvall in the box, the Canucks made a total mess of themselves on the power play. Marner ran roughshod on a rush the other way with Holl. Brooks was coming in late, but it turned out to be the perfect time as Holtby and two of the Canucks defenders left the net completely empty for a tap in.

3-3

Ugh. Rittich gave it right back with a five-hole slap shot from Nils Hoglander. I just...how? Ugh.

I also don’t know what’s going on here, Omar.

3-4

Another penalty, this time a goal for the Canucks. Tanner Pearson beat Muzzin and Holl to the puck in front of the net, Rittich was well out of the play.

3-5

Another brutal goal from Rittich from nowhere. Pearson again.

The Leafs pulled Rittich with over four minutes left. The Leafs got a few chances, but it was a power play with less than a minute and a half to go that gave them the biggest opportunity. No goal, and Sutter got the ENG for his second of the night.

After Three

Full game 5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 47-48 (49%)
  • Shots on goal: 35-25
  • Scoring chances: 26-22
  • Expected goals: 2.56-1.88 (58%)

Thoughts:

This was a winnable game. The big guys showed up and did their part (mainly Tavares and Nylander, but also Marner, Matthews, and the defense). I thought Galchenyuk played well, Thornton had his moments. Unfortunately it all turned into nothing thanks to three specific goals against. Oh, what could’ve been.