The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the second leg of a back-to-back win, played the Colorado Avalanche who were well-rested after a night off in Montreal in which they lost 10-1. Antoine Bibeau would make his debut in net for the Leafs, while a struggling Semyon Varlamov went for the Avs.
As usual, the recap is conducted in live-fire, bullet point format, with some overarching thoughts at the end of the game. Let's do this.
-Good early start from Matthews line with a couple of strong early chances turned away by Varlamov.
-Leafs get some early pressure, including a 4-0 run on the shot clock, but can't get a goal out of it
-Seriously, my game notes so far are just that the Matthews line looks good and nothing has happened. I really have nothing else to add right now.
-My eyes didn't deceive me; as it turns out, Mitch Marner is on the fourth line. Babcock loves him some Sosh on the Kadri line at home.
-Matthews line, good again. Matthews line, scoreless again.
-Antoine Bibeau hasn't been tested too much this period, so it's hard to form an opinion on him. From what little I've seen so far, my only real criticism is he looks kinda scrambly.
-A penalty called on Nazem Kadri! It finally happened! [sounds alarm]
-Ben Smith out on defensive zone draw with 10 seconds left in a 4-on-4? I see we're starting the penalty kill early.
-After one, the Leafs outshot the Avs 21-8, but are down 1-0 because of course they are. Now for some hokey Canadiana. I'm gonna go make mac n cheese.
-Mac n cheese in the oven! Not much to say about the first half of the period. Matthews and Nylander continue to look lethal but fail to convert. Bibeau seems to have settled in some. The only time the Avs got anything resembling sustained pressure, all three of Hunlak and Ben Smith were on the ice. Nothing shocking here.
-Matt Martin fights Nikita Zadorov. The fight was uneventful and boring, but the ACC played the Friends theme after, which was....interesting.
-Not much to report on in the 2nd. No goals, and other than a small handful of scoring chances, not much else. Avs played a much more even possession game, which is bad news for a Leafs team that desperately needs a goal.
-Landeskog gets an early penalty, and it's time fooooooooooor...*studio audience yelling*....SCORING! A! POWERPLAY! GOAL!
-Bozak gets wide open with the puck and the Leafs have an early PP chance, but don't even get a shot as they seem to be afflicted with a bad case of "one pass too many."
-And dumb penalty, and Avs powerplay goal, and it's 2-0 Avalanche. They will follow up a goal against with another penalty, so RIP momentum.
-Oh, and it's a 4 minute one? Why am I even watching this?
-The mac n cheese was delicious, by the way.
-Leafs getting a ton of pressure in front of the net. Leafs get a 5-on-3 with 2:51 left.
-F I N A L L Y!
-Gardiner snaps a solid one-timer on the PP and knocks it past Varlamov on the 47th shot of the game. Lead cut to 2-1.
-Mitch Marner almost ties the game, but then the Avs take a ~180-foot shot into the empty net. 3-1 Avs. Game, blouses.
-There really isn't a whole lot the Leafs can do here. When you fire 52 shots at a goalie and only one gets by, you're going to have a difficult time winning. The way the Leafs played, they could've beaten an average goaltender. Heck, Varlamov has been a below-average goaltender for most of this season. Tonight he was a 2013-14 vintage. Really not much they can do here.
-The Leafs PK gave up both (non-empty net) goals. It's time to question putting guys like Polak and Hunwick on the PK now. Hunwick tied up Bibeau making his lateral movement somewhat more difficult for the first Colorado goal, and Polak was snoozing on the second one.
-Bibeau had a shaky start, but settled into the game, and overall gave the Leafs the goaltending they needed to win. He stopped 25 of 27 shots for a .926 SV%. That should be more than enough to win most nights, but the other goalie doesn't make 51 saves most nights.
-The Matthews line was absolutely phenomenal all night long. They deserved better than the goose eggs on the stat sheet they got tonight.