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Game 63 Recap: Maple Leafs edge the Devils with their new look lineup

Leafs scored two short handed goals to squeek out a win

New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

First game for the Leafs with their new post-deadline roster. There are some guys missing from injury, some new guys making their debuts, and that goalie you all hate making another start instead of the hot young Swedish rookie you clamor for.

FIRST PERIOD

Game’s starting a bit slow, and pretty even. Leafs are getting the better chances early, though that’s partly because Tavares made a nice play getting back to deny a chance from technically happening. Leafs are outshooting New Jersey 7-1 in the first seven minutes, because they’ve blocked or prevented most attempts by the Devils.

Matthews out there in his next-gen jerseys trying some next-gen moves.

Leafs aren’t getting that many clean, quality chances on net with some slightly sloppy passing, but they’re definitely controlling play.

Leafs are doing a pretty good job of not letting the Devils get much going.

This was the best chance of the period for the Leafs.

But the most fun came in the final minute when Willy had the puck on a string and danced through the whole Devils’ team in their own end. Shame it only led to a Holl point shot.

First Period Thoughts

Shot attempts: Leafs had a big edge thanks to a flurry in the final couple of minutes, with a 21 to 11 lead in shot attempts. Only three of the Devils’ attempts were on net.

Expected goals: They had an even bigger percentage of the expected goal share, with 81%. That is mostly due to the Leafs blocking shots, knocking passes away, and preventing the Devils’ chances from turning into shots.

Special teams: None to speak of.

Standouts: There was only one Leaf under 50% in shot attempts (Giordano lol, and it was 3 to 4) and none under 55% in expected goals. The top two lines in particular were quite dominant.

Heatmap:

SECOND PERIOD

Devils start with a good shift in the Leafs end, and Mrazek makes a nice little glove save. Confidence growing???

A nice shift by the third line leads to a good chance in tight by Mikheyev, who drew a slashing penalty as a result. Leafs going to the PP.

The powerplay is BRUTAL to start with. Turnovers galore. Sloppy passes. Losing the puck off their own stick unpressured. They don’t get set up in the Devils’ end until more than halfway through. The second unit was better, insofar as they actually spent it in the offensive zone but they didn’t really get a good chance. Not long after, Engvall trips a Devils player and the Leafs will be killing a penalty now.

And their penalty kill was as effective as their powerplay was. Devils get a lucky bounce as a pass attempt ricochets off Lyubushkin’s leg and perfectly through Mrazek’s five hole as he moved towards the intended shooter. 1-0 Devils.

Leafs have a chance to redeem their powerplay and tie the game, as Subban fires the puck over the glass without even being pressured. Surely their powerplay can’t be as bad as the first one.

Narrator:

As Nafio said... when the commentators are openly laughing at the futility of your powerplay, that’s next-level bad. What the hell is going on guys?

Fourth line gets a good chance with the new guy almost connecting with Spezza.

After a whole lot of nothing, the Leafs go to the penalty kill. A little trip by Matthews was... a call. The Leafs actually get the first good chance of the powerplay on a 2 on 1 that Kerfoot whiffed.

BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE ILYA MIKHEYEV WITH A BEAUTIFUL SOLO RUSH AND BACKHAND MOVE FOR THE SHORTIE! 1-1 TIE GAME!

But right after the powerplay expires, the Leafs defense just... disappears. Mrazek was wild a bit but he made the first two saves with no one around to clear the rebound or tie up the several Devils players around the net. 2-1 Devils.

WOOOO BUT HERE COME THE LEAFS RIGHT BACK WITH A TIE GOAL THANKS TO A GREAT SNIPE BY MITCH MARNER!

Second Period Thoughts

Shot attempts: Devils out attempted the Leafs 16-13 in the second period.

Expected goals:

Special teams: I cannot remember if I have seen two powerplays in a row that were both so horrendously bad like that. Both times they couldn’t complete a pass unless it was to the Devils, and couldn’t get set up until 34 of the powerplay was over. They did have a short handed goal, and the PK looked good if unlucky.

Standouts: The Matthews line was buzzing, Willy keeps dancing with the puck then passing it to Holl, and honestly I’ve thought Mrazek has looked good if wild as usual. He’s made some good saves, and both goals are hard to pin on him. One was deflected off his own player, the other he stopped the first two chances and was hung out to dry by his own team. Hoping his better play tonight continues in the third and beyond.

Heatmap:

THIRD PERIOD

The period starts with a bit of an adventure. Giordano misplays a lob puck and Tatar had a chance to go around him and then he.... fell. Giordano didn’t touch him, but the ref called him for tripping. Giordano was seen pleading his case, and the other refs conferred to overturn the penalty call.

On the next play, Tavares decked Dawson Mercer as he crossed the middle of the ice inside the Leafs’ blueline. We’re starting off the period... interestingly.

And the refereeing adventure continues! Leafs get called for icing, and Mitch was hopping mad about it. Refs confer and decide the puck never actually crossed the goal line, so the faceoff is put at center ice.

Leafs have been playing a pretty physical game tonight, with a few big hits on the Devils players.

Matthews set up Bunting for a good rush chance with a perfect flip pass.

Unfortunately, Mikheyev had a wayward stick in a scrum that caught Andreas Johnsson in the face and looks to have broken a tooth. He’s bleeding, so that will be a four minute penalty kill for the Leafs.

Like the last powerplay, the Leafs get the first scoring chance off a Mitch Marner rush. Leafs PK does a great job to kill the first two minutes. AND THE GIRAFFE STRIKES WITH ANOTHER SHORT HANDED GOAL! MY MAD HAD THE BALLS TO LOOK OFF WILLIAM FREAKING NYLANDER AND SOLO THAT 2 ON 1!! 3-2 LEAFS!!

On another short handed rush, Kampf draws a penalty after being “tripped” by Hamilton... may have been a bit of a dive but that kills the rest of the Devils powerplay, with the Leafs having a chance on a shortened powerplay. Wait, no, can they reject it? CAN THEY REJECT THE POWERPLAY PLEASE THIS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

Leafs actually get some decent chances on this one, but it ends with just over 2 minutes to go left in the game. The Devils pull the goalie for most of the remaining time, but never really get anything dangerous going. Leafs come back twice to eke out a 3-2 win.

Final Thoughts

Shot attempts: Leafs had a real strong first period, but were... less good the more the game went on. Not exactly what you’d expect to see against a team that played last night. Leafs squeeked out a 42-40 edge in shot attempts at 5v5 for the game.

Expected goals: What the Leafs did win was on quality. They controlled 61% of the expected goal share at even strength.

Special teams: The PK got two goals and looked amazing all game, except the unlucky bounce that led to the Devils’ first goal. The powerplay was pretty awful until their shortened chance in the third period.

Standouts: Engvall, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Mrazek. I’ll give a collective standout to just how physical the Leafs were this game. Tavares was decking guys in the open ice, and the defense were blasting Devils against the boards left and right.

Heatmap: