The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing the Colorado Avalanche, and will be without Mitch Marner and Ondrej Kase. The Avs have been one of the top teams and are on an 8-1-1 hot streak, so this should serve as a good measuring stick game for the Leafs.
GO LEAFS GO!
Early on, I can say with confidence that the Leafs having their fourth line made up of 2⁄3 Taxi Squad call ups against the Avs top players like Cale Makar is a terrifying thing. Campbell has had to be very sharp.
Jack Campbell denies Jost point-blank pic.twitter.com/BPC6l3eJwQ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
BUT YOU KNOW WHO ELSE IS SCARY? THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LED BY ALEXANDER J. KERFOOT! 1-0 LEAFS! TORONTO WON THE KERFOOT TRADE! That was the Leafs’ first shot on net this game lol. What a pass by Bunting too.
That’s seemed to get the Leafs going a bit, even that aforementioned 2⁄3 Taxi Squad line.
Good recovery from Seney to gain possession of the puck and set up Clifford for a chance pic.twitter.com/tw3L31ZOm8— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
William Nylander steals the puck from Byram and sets Tavares up pic.twitter.com/0zPtEuks6R— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
AUSTON MATTHEWS MAKES IT 2-0 LEAFS WOOOOOOOOOOO!
THIS IS NOT A REPEAT AUSTON MATTHEWS SCORED AGAIN RIGHT AFTER AND NOW IT’S 3-0 LEAFS WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
AUSTON MATTHEWS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
AVALANCHE KILLER! 22ND! pic.twitter.com/yIJAun32pB
Leafs have caught up in shots on goal after starting the period being outshot 8-0, and they have a 3-0 lead, and chased Kuemper to the bench.
Avs get one back thanks to MacKinnon coming in as the trailer and having a wide open shot in the slot. 3-1 Leafs.
Nathan MacKinnon puts the Avalanche on the board— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
The shot goes off Rielly's stick pic.twitter.com/nHaAcjqNyL
Matthews is on a mission... almost gets a hat trick in the first period alone.
The wraparound itself is one thing. The series of moves Auston Matthews did to get himself in the position to do the wraparound is another.— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
34 is on another level tonight pic.twitter.com/ld5kqHAVuN
First Period Thoughts:
- Shot attempts: Leafs were getting killed early, but survived and finished the period leading in shot attempts 22 to 19 at even strength. They had a dominant stretch in the middle of the period.
- Expected goals: They also finished with 56% of the expected goal share, in large part because of the Matthews line.
- Special teams: They killed off the one penalty they took, so... that was great!
- Standouts: Jack Campbell for surviving the initial push by the Avs, then Kerfoot and Matthews for going on a rampage.
NICK RITCHIE SCORES ON THE POWERPLAY TO MAKE IT 4-1 LEAFS oh no...
NICK RITCHIE— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
What a pass from Wayne Simmonds! pic.twitter.com/URaieZCBIb
Genuinely happy for Ritchie though. I know he hasn’t been the most popular, and I’d also say he makes too much to be the Leafs 13th forward on a fully healthy lineup — and I think that’s what he is at this point. But I also don’t think he’s been as bad as some people think.
Avs follow that goal with some relentless pressure. A neutral zone turnover by Mikheyev led to a long shift being hemmed in the Leafs’ end, and Jack had to make a nice kick save to save the Buds’ bitts.
Campbell bails Mikheyev out after he is robbed by Burakovsky pic.twitter.com/J43cTuyi57— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Leafs had a real good chance on the next faceoff, with Nylander getting sprung on the breakaway.
Nylander on the breakaway but can't get much on it pic.twitter.com/WhoICwORmT— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Auston Matthews is a god damned wizard and cannot be stopped.
Auston Matthews doesn't give a damn who is trying to cover him pic.twitter.com/LScoTnbecm— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Willy doesn’t have the points tonight but he’s been on a mission of his own.
Another Nylander feed to Tavares tonight pic.twitter.com/oQfH6Kz0Qb— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Cale Makar is scary, man. Leafs had a chance to get it out and failed, and the Avs made them pay after some scrambly play by the Leafs. 4-2 Leafs.
Cale Makar did it to us— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
15th of the season pic.twitter.com/KcGoO9hO8O
Leafs are still getting their chances, but so are the Avs at this point. They finish the period on the penalty kill in a butt-clenchingly tense siege.
Second Period Thoughts:
- Shot attempts: The Avs had the edge that period 16-11 in shot attempts at even strength.
- Expected goals: NST appears borked for the time being, as they show the Leafs at 0 xGF and the Avs at not much more than 0. If I don’t update this, it’s because NST didn’t fix itself by the end of the game.
- Special teams: They had the powerplay goal and killed off the first part of their late penalty, so that’s a success! The first PP unit looked kinda ass though, outside the first 5 seconds.
- Standouts: Matthews again, Nylander and Tavares some more, and I’ll give a callout to Wayne Simmonds for drawing the penalty that led to the PP goal, and directly setting up Ritchie for it.
The Leafs start the period by killing off the remainder of the penalty, but you wouldn’t know they were even strength for another... all of the minutes so far, as the Avs are really pushing hard for a goal. Sandin saved a goal clearing it away from a down Campbell as the back just sat on his pad on the goal line.
Strong right pad from Campbell and Sandin clears the rebound pic.twitter.com/jsTdUTr5Zo— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Leafs finally get a good shift going thanks to — you guessed it! — Matthews, Bunting and Kerfoot. Nick Ritchie had a good chance not long after.
Nick Ritchie has two Avs players in the area but gets to the puck first and shoots pic.twitter.com/EHfFXFFGCh— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Brodie hauled down MacKinnon so the Leafs are back to the penalty kill for some more butt-clenching fun. HOLY SHIT JACK CAMPBELL WITH THE RIDICULOUS SAVE TO PRESERVE THE TWO GOAL LEAD! THANK YOU JACK!
JACK CAMPBELL— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
ARE YOU SERIOUS!? SUPERMAN SAVE! pic.twitter.com/EZJG2yc8rA
Unfortunately, as these things always seem to go, the Avs keep the pressure up and score right after that amazing goal. 4-3 Leafs half the period to play still. Leafs in full turtle mode.
And, well, at least they didn’t draw out the tension of “will they tie it up?” for the whole period. Compher scores off a great no-look between the legs pass behind the net by Rantanen that caught Campbell looking the wrong way. Tie game 4-4 and... sigh... “it was 4-1”.
Leafs go to a PK again after just an absolutely stupid penalty by Ritchie. If they get scored on here I take back any sympathy I offered for him before.
Ritchie nooooooo. Ritchie whhhhyyyyyy!? pic.twitter.com/mrlUQFXLW2— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
And it goes to a 4 on 3 right after when Brodie collides with an Avs player and they both go off, though on the replay it looks like all Brodie did was... get cross checked to the ice?
Kadri called for interference— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 9, 2022
Brodie called for getting knocked pic.twitter.com/yw3x9KmjAG
The Leafs kill off the penalty and we’re going to overtime. Avs score to win it 5-4.
NST is borked and isn’t fixed by the time I needed to write my final thoughts, so I’ll just add general ones. All of the big boys for the Leafs came to play, even though the Matthews line did all the actual goal scoring, I thought the Tavares line was also strong.
What killed them was trying to do their “defensive” hockey to hold the lead in the third period — aka the Turtle — against a team like the Avs who were just relentless with chances and skill, and they tied it up.
If you consider the Leafs on the road and without two of their better forwards building a lead with some dominant play, and finishing with a close result against a team like the Avs... it’s about what I would have guessed for the final result.