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Auston Matthews erodes the Wild defence as the Leafs win

Petr Mrázek with a quality win.

Minnesota Wild v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

People tell me the Wild aren’t boring anymore. Let’s see if that’s true.

First Period

Petr Mrázek with a tough stop on the first shot on goal, which already makes this better than his last start.

Now I’m scared. The revamped Tavares line has a great shift. Deceptive puck movement, play from behind the net, everything looked great.

This game is really, really fast. The skating speed of these two teams is intensifying the feel of the game, and the passing is generally very quick and sharp too. And yet, here are the shots at 12 minutes left:

That’s not just shot blocking (these heatmaps are always unblocked shots). Corsi is seven to three for the Wild.

Oh, something happened! Wayne Simmonds picks up the puck and Michael Bunting nearly scores.

Officially Toronto’s first shot on goal.

Ryan Hartman hits Bunting hard with one of those not too late, yet late hits.

Dmitry Kulikov goes for David Kämpf and sits for high sticking, and the Leafs get a PP.

The Leafs pass a lot while looking for lanes, but the Wild lay down a good in-their-zone PK.

Ilya Lyubushkin takes a holding call, and now the Wild get to have a PP, and the Leafs PK shows off its aggression.

Thoughts

  • If you like stick checks, blocking and PK, you liked that period.

Second Period

I like this new second line:

Kämpf goes off for hooking, and the Wild try the PP again. Mrázek has to work a little again. The PP has been when the Wild look the most dangerous.

Pierre Engvall up with Kämpf for a shift as Ilya Mikheyev has disappeared. This made the line more exciting, which is a trick.

This Matt Boldy guy sure is annoying, I said a while back. And he’s got that Wild-style behind the net play down:

1-0 Wild

Can the Leafs answer? Really quick they can:

Tie Game

Man, that’s a good goal. Just watch that again a few times.

In between those goals, at the halfway point of the game, both teams hit 10 SOG.

The re-jigged bottom six is now going to run all game. Both Jason Spezza and Simmonds are having very good games, they could play more.

Our favourite rodent, Bunting, draws a penalty, so the Leafs get another shot at solving the Wild’s PK puzzle.

Um. Maybe don’t give them that many shorty chances, guys. Ryan Hartman again with some hard forechecking behind the Leafs net. I’ve always liked him and thought he’d be a good Hyman-lite player.

Rasmus Sandin goes off for interference, that thing that, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. I feel like the call was a bit weak, but... who knows anymore.

Mrázek with another big save at 4on4, and then he faces a PP.

Leafs playing very strong on the Wild in the corners defensively. You love to see that against a team that plays the way they does.

We end as we began, though, tied.

Thoughts

  • The Leafs are struggling a little in this game. They have the puck a lot, but can’t get into shooting position, and they’re levelling the field vs the Wild well, which is why it’s not (yet) an annoying game.
  • Even all-situations, there is not a lot of dangerous offence from the Leafs, and that always worries me:

Note the scale on the colour, it’s very low-event still.

Third Period

Bunting takes a penalty in the first two minutes of the period. Mitch Marner starts the PK off with a rush, and the rest of the PP was a very good demonstration of the “powerkill” by Toronto.

Two excellent behind the net plays by the Leafs, first Matthews takes the puck of the Wild with his stick, then Marner does it with his feet. The result is two good chances.

Lots of cycle time for the Leafs.

Matthews with a steal right off the Wild sticks and he does not miss:

2-1 Leafs

Watch that one three times. Good heavens.

Mrázek gives up a giant rebound and makes a great save on the result.

The Wild put on huge pressure with the goalie pulled, and the Leafs put on their worst defence of the game. Mrázek holds on.

Kerfoot with a good effort to out-skate the icing, and then he gets the ENG.

This one is done. In regulation. A clean win. With a good goalie at each end.

3-1 Leafs

Thoughts

  • Mrázek with 1 goal against on 2.06 xGA (Natural Stat Trick version)

Now that you’ve seen him in two whole games, what do you think? (I’m not giving you a vote for too soon to tell, because of course it is.)

Poll

Is Lyubushkin better than Holl?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Absolutely
    (85 votes)
  • 31%
    I think so
    (152 votes)
  • 42%
    Maybe so, maybe not
    (207 votes)
  • 7%
    I don’t think so
    (35 votes)
  • 1%
    No way
    (6 votes)
485 votes total Vote Now