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Alex Galchenyuk scores first goal as Leafs beat Flames

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The Tavares line made the difference.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Calgary Flames
Apr 4, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Alex Galchenyuk (12) celebrates his goal against Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, and Auston Matthews all scored in the win, with Michael Hutchinson stopping 31 of 33 for his fourth win of the season (4-2-1). William Nylander created goals that got the Leafs tied and ahead at crucial moments, but was only credited for one. Tavares and Matthews led the way with two points; a goal and an assist each.

The Leafs didn’t have a great middle portion of their game, but a strong start and convincing third period added up to the win. It should also be noted that the Leafs failed to score on their lone power play in the game, extending the drought to 10 games (0/28).

First Period

1-0

Now in the top-10 in games played for Leafs defensemen, Rielly opened the scoring less than a minute in with a wicked shot. Rielly skated into open space created by the Flames getting caught overloading one side of the ice and losing the puck battle quickly. Marner was on one side with Hyman crashing the net on the other as Rielly stepped into a shot that beat Dave Rittich high blocker.

The Leafs were in solid control of the play in the first half of the first period. They won battles in their own zone and kept the Flames from having any cycles, while offensively they did a really good job of getting right in on Rittich with their shots. Galchenyuk had a nice solo chance off the rush, but he took a shot from distance while a Calgary defenseman was bearing down on him that was stopped.

Hutchinson was strong to start, beating Mikael Backlund on a breakaway with a nice pad save. It was a good first chance to settle him into the game and he looked comfortable on the lone other shot he got early in the game.

The fourth line for the Leafs was good, hemming the Flames in their own zone on one shift in particular. I think Mikheyev struggled to manage the puck in the offensive zone, both in handling but also in tactics. I think he’s being asked to do too much on that line sometimes. Thornton would be fun there if he’s going to be in the bottom six.

1-1

Joakim Nordstrom tied the game later in the period, tipping a point shot from Mark Giordano past Hutchinson right off a faceoff. Both Kerfoot and Spezza just drifted away from Nordstrom when the shot came through, leaving him all alone to tip it. I thought those motions were weird.

1-2

Oof. A turnover from the defense as Dermott and Bogosian both got beat to the corner cleanly and a pretty bad goal against from Hutchinson, and the Leafs entered the break down after starting so well. The shot was a floater, which makes it pretty rough.

After One

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 14-22 (39%)
  • Shots on goal: 12-11
  • Scoring chances: 8-9
  • Expected goals: 0.84-0.80 (51%)

Thoughts:

I thought the Leafs were good in the first half of the period, it seemed the Flames had no control of the puck. But in the second, they threw it all away and got completely overwhelmed. You can see in the gameflow the Leafs had put together some good shifts in a row, but immediately following the Nordstrom goal, they were on their heels until the Mangiapane goal and the buzzer for the period rang.

Spezza had the best chance in the period for the Leafs in xG but overall the Leafs offense wasn’t actually getting the chances the zone time should’ve allowed them. It definitely looked like the Flames weathered an early push and then counterattacked once they realized they were in the game.

Second Period

Hyman got tripped with the puck, the Flames guy didn’t lose his position as he fell over Hyman, but it was the Leafs who got the penalty. I don’t get that. Thankfully, the Leafs killed the penalty. At least they know how to do that.

The Leafs then got a power play when Brodie got tripped. On the same play, Matthew Tkachuk fell into an open penalty box door and had to go to the locker room. Matthews had a chance on the power play but his stick blew up on him. The power play was totally flat. Neither unit looks in sync. The fourth line got the closest thing to a shot as they started a shift with a few seconds left in the two minutes.

2-2

Alex Galchenyuk scores his first as a Leaf! Nylander made a great play to get into the zone, he found Tavares with his stick open at the side of the net. Tavares made an elite play to Galch for an awkward chance that he buried.

All the Galch Gifs!

After Two

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 12-17 (41%)
  • Shots on goal: 6-9
  • Scoring chances: 5-7
  • Expected goals: 0.41-0.51 (44%)

Thoughts:

At one point, the shots were 11-3 in the first period. They ended the second down 18-24.

Hutchinson definitely had to work in this period because the Flames were really strong all throughout. Credit to him, he stopped everything that came his way and allowed the Leafs to tie it up at the end of the period.

I don’t expect Keefe or Malhotra to listen to me on this, but I have a few suggestions for the power play:

  1. Nylander on the first unit and stick in him front of the net, end the madness.
  2. Dermott on the second unit, he might as well do something as an offensive guy on the third pair.
  3. Try some high-low plays to force the defense out wide a little bit. That’ll create lanes and openings for players like Marner, Matthews, and Nylander to find. I get what the East-West passing is trying to do, but I think teams have caught onto it, time to change it up.

Third Period

3-2

Nylander, once again, picked up an outlet pass from Tavares, got a great chance on Rittich. The puck rebounded to Tavares, who’s shot from the same area bounced off Noah Hanifin and into the back of the net. This second line has fully deserved to score some goals in this game. Nylander wasn’t given his second assist on the goal since technically Hanifin touched it, but Tavares his second primary point. Don’t tell me Tavares is slowing down, he’s still worth every penny. Plus, they’ve had so much fun with Galch, I really like this line.

4-2

Not to be out-done, Matthews and Marner connected for a goal seconds after Tavares put the team ahead.

Engvall had a nice rush up the ice that nearly opened Spezza up for a chance. I really liked this from them.

The Flames pulled their goalie with four minutes left while down two goals. Hutchinson was good in the final stretch of the game, stopping several chances in the last five minutes that could’ve been trouble. Nylander nearly got an empty netter, but he hit the side of the net. Hyman missed another empty net. And Tavares missed a third!

After Three

Full game 5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 43-50 (47%)
  • Shots on goal: 30-28
  • Scoring chances: 25-22
  • Expected goals: 2.20-1.96 (57%)

Thoughts:

There were some red flags in this game as Matthews and Marner didn’t have their best nights — but hey, they scored. The bottom half of the defense didn’t inspire me much confidence. Holl was his normal awkward self, and was fairly effective nonetheless. Dermott and Bogosian looked overwhelmed several times and they finished the game with the worst shot and expected goals share.

I think it’s quite interesting that the Tavares line played only two fewer shifts than the Matthews line in this game, but their time on ice were somewhere around four minutes less. The Kerfoot-Thornton-Spezza line had the longest shift lengths on the team and they were also benched for the end of the period. Spezza and Thornton the only ones under 10 minutes. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Tavares line’s minutes, they got the deployment they (and we) wanted.