The Toronto Maple Leafs journey to Vancouver tonight to play the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks. As is tradition, the league moved the start time up to accommodate Toronto, thereby annoying Vancouver fans, which is a valuable social cause.
The Bo Horvat line (ft. Josh Leivo) comes out loaded for bear and puts in a solid long o-zone shift against the Tavares line, highlighted by some tipped point shots from Alex Edler. After about a minute of that the game settles down into a back and forth of rush chances and the odd icing.
The Tavares line’s next shift goes better than their first one for the most part, but they don’t score, and when the Canucks charge back up the ice, Jake Muzzin takes a slashing penalty on Tanner Pearson.
The Canucks powerplay gets most of its action in terms of point shots from Alex Edler early. Otherwise the Leafs’ penalty killers stifle it pretty well, highlighted by great work from Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen. Also, Ron Hainsey crushes a dude:
Call the flying pigs everyone, someone on the #Leafs not named Muzzin hit someone #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/HVVHt8DGLL— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
Rielly and Marner attempt a gorgeous set play on an off-the-back-boards stretch pass that gets Mitch behind the defence, but he can’t quite finish it as he cuts in front of the net.
Set play here by Rielly. Would've been incredible if it paid off #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/mjxhAh3XUJ— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
The William Nylander line gets on offence a bit but doesn’t achieve a major chance. Then, off a gross giveaway over the blueline, the Canucks get in on a pretty passing play where only Ron Hainsey’s stick prevents what looked like a sure goal.
The game thus far has been a pure track meet, with sloppy giveaways and end-to-end sprints. Ron Hainsey is almost the only player on either team playing actual defence. The Canucks are giving this every inch of effort they’ve got, and the Leafs seem to think it’s only gentlemanly to honour that by handing them the puck a few times.
The Auston Matthews line bears down hard for a bit for a chance; it’s always worth keeping an eye on #34 but he’s been pushing early. Jacob Markstrom is up to the challenge of stopping him thus far.
The Nylander group puts in another good o-zone shift, but man, Willie misses having better offensive linemates. At the other end, Antoine Roussel sparks a great chance for Tyler Motte that skips, but Freddie Andersen is equal to it. It’s been a chaotic period in the Leafs’ zone—like, more than usual—and Andersen has been doing his Vezina thing.
The broadcast is going on again about what happens when the Bruins punch the little Leafs’ fourth line in the face. To his credit, Craig Simpson says “well, if you can outskill them...”
The Canucks come on strong at the end for a final late shift, but Freddie closes the door, and the first ends with the score still 0-0.
The Leafs did not cover themselves in glory this period. They were sloppy on the breakout even by their normal imperfect standards, and about the only Leafs’ defender who looked good defensively was Ron Hainsey (I swear I’m not making this up.) Freddie Andersen kept the game tied, effectively. The star forwards for the Leafs had moments, but not enough of them, and it was hard to escape the impression that the Canucks wanted this one more than the Leafs did. The shot clock sure bore this out, anyway; Vancouver had 63% of the shot attempts.
Standout names on the Canucks for me were Bo Horvat and Adam Gaudette; their veteran defender Alex Edler kept hammering slapshots at Freddie but more than once I thought this wasn’t really the best use of a possession for Vancouver. (Guess whether this turned out to be ironic!) I suppose if you want a bright spot for Toronto, it’s that the Leafs didn’t give any space to wunderkind Elias Pettersson.
Hopefully the second is better.
Well, it starts better, anyway. The Nylander group sustains some pressure, and then the Hobbit Line (Tyler Ennis - Nic Petan - Trevor Moore) puts in a good effort, and only a failed drop pass from Moore to Ennis stops a good chance.
The Canucks take a penalty when Derrick Pouliot high sticks Zach Hyman. The Leafs seem to like this stretch-pass-off-the-back-boards tonight, as Morgan Rielly tries it again but again to no avail.
The #Leafs keep trying this bank pass. Almost works again #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/aYJ9QqHb0f— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
Other than that the powerplay is mostly dormant until a late chance when the second unit sets up and William Nylander threads a pass through the crease that doesn’t quite connect in time. The Canucks finish the kill.
Tyler Ennis zooms off for a near-breakaway, but the defenceman is closing in on his lane to the net, so he settles for a slapshot that Markstrom tips out. Still, his speed makes it a chance.
The #Leafs have speed throughout their lineup and that's what makes them dangerous. Not the best shot but this chance from Ennis is another reason why a fourth line like this work #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/mg2z5hcXAn— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
The fourth line continues to have fun, chasing around Canucks d-man (and former Leaf) Luke Schenn in his own zone. After some back and forth the Canucks get back on the attack and Bo Horvat puts a quick wrister from the point into Andersen’s glove. The Canucks aren’t good yet, but there are definitely a few pieces there that could make them good before long, if Jim Benning doesn’t screw things up.
Patrick Marleau takes a rare hooking penalty to send Vancouver back to the power play. This turns out to be less of a problem for Toronto than you might think, though. The Leafs penalty killers keep the pressure on, and later in the shift, Mitch Marner and Ron Hainsey (!) go off on a shorthanded two-on-one. Marner shows immense patience waiting out the defender and then passes to Hainsey, who finishes for a shorthanded goal. 1-0 Leafs.
Marner and Hainsey connect for a goal on the two-on-one. What a pass from 16 #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/xJlYwiC8g3— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
But wait, there’s more! Patrick Marleau puts in a tenacious forecheck and John Tavares picks up the puck; Tavares comes around behind the net and throws it to Morgan Rielly, who rifles it past Markstrom. 2-0, all of a sudden.
Rielly scores his 17th of the season after a great feed from Tavares #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/B1ClTVyyY9— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
The Hobbit line continues to earn its keep, as Tyler Ennis draws a hooking penalty while zooming in on the left wing. The Leaf powerplay achieves nothing of significance, though.
Nylander gives Pouliot the runaround and breaks in close, but Markstrom gets a glove on it. Vancouver gets back on offence a bit after a long stretch where they were really ineffective; Josh Leivo throws to Alex Biega at the point, but Biega misses the net.
The Canucks get their best chance of the period at the absolute last second, as Bo Horvat gets it all alone at the side of the net and Freddie stretches over for a stunning glove save.
Another big stop for Andersen at the end of the period #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/AlzyQ1D7vC— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
Notwithstanding that super high danger late chance, the Leafs were better—not perfect,but better—this period. Mitch Marner has turned into an absolute monster on the penalty kill; his agility means he can execute defensively in style and his offensive gifts make him a constant shorthanded threat, as seen on that gorgeous 1A to Ron Hainsey. Speaking of whom: Corsi be damned, Hainsey is having a good night so far. I’d also like to single out Tyler Ennis for special mention; someone might come out of the lineup next game but I can’t see it being him.
Bo Horvat is the most dangerous Canuck, by far. It looks a little like Vancouver shot its bolt in the first, but Toronto certainly isn’t playing lockdown defence, so 2-0 isn’t an insurmountable lead.
The Leafs get some good zone-time early from the Matthews line, and AM himself rings the post. But the Canucks get back, and this time they cash. Adam Gaudette storms in and then passes to Loui Eriksson, who puts a backhand past Frederik Andersen. 2-1.
The Leafs take a too many men on the ice penalty, and because it was written, it ends in a Josh Leivo goal. Jake Muzzin gets aggressive at the line and Leivo gets room on the wing, and boom, quick shot in. 2-2.
Vancouver comes on strong after that, as you’d expect. Following a brutal pinned-down shift, the Tavares line charges up ice for a chance, but Jacob Markstrom leaps out to rob Tavares short side.
Jacob Markström robs Tavares with the glove. pic.twitter.com/LBxcXDlOKU— Flintor (@TheFlintor) March 7, 2019
Matthews is getting to the front of the net, but hasn’t yet been able to cash. He pushes to the crease here and bounces a puck off Markstrom. At the other end, the Horvat line puts in another dangerous shift; they’re sustaining a lot of pressure against the Tavares group.
Nic Petan makes himself known with some good offensive pressure, but the shift ends on a puck deflected over the glass.
Tyler Motte knocks over Morgan Rielly at the blue line, and as he’s down Rielly gets tagged for closing his hand on the puck. The Canucks are back to the power play late in the third. This does not in any way seem ominous to me.
The Leafs’ aggressive PK mostly runs the show, and the Canucks are stifled until the very end of their power play, when Freddie has to make a nice short side save on Bo Horvat. Thank God for Andersen.
There’s a bit more back and forth and Freddie is called upon a couple more times, but the period ends 2-2, and we’re off to the land of 3-on-3.
Mitch Marner can’t get a pass through to Rielly, and the Canucks come up, but not many chances in the first minute. Elias Pettersson makes an appearance to make a shot that gets deflected out.
Pettersson makes another pair of dangerous plays, charging in on a rush and then almost getting alone in close. There’s a ton of back and forth, ended when William Nylander gets in on a rush and fires a puck off Markstrom’s glove.
And then it’s over: Alex Edler snaps a shot from the wing and beats Freddie clean. 3-2 Vancouver is your final.
Edler ends the game in OT to complete the comeback (ouch) #Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/Dp7ttBzdbV— Omar (@OLW93) March 7, 2019
- The Canucks probably deserved to win more than the Leafs did. The Leafs are accustomed to winning games when they don’t deserve it so this isn’t unusual.
- This is the first time we’ve had a third period lead and lost. On the bright side, we were the last team to be perfect in that stat, so it was a good run.
- Adam Gaudette really impressed me tonight, as did Bo Horvat. Elias Pettersson did virtually nothing at 5v5, in a surprisingly quiet night, but everyone has off games.
- Like pretty much all of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mitch Marner was great 4v5 and Ron Hainsey I thought had one of his better games in a Leaf uniform, but by and large the Leafs played a mediocre game and got a mediocre result. They’re better than Vancouver, but not by quite enough to win playing at 60% of capacity.
- Matthews and Nylander miss each other, and I think when Kadri returns you have to reunite them. That said, they got a bit of time together at night and didn’t achieve much with it. Womp womp.
- There isn’t a nice way to say this: pretty much the whole defence below the top pair had a rough night, but Jake Muzzin has really been struggling of late. Marincin and Holl were bad, but they’re seventh defencemen, we kind of expect it. Muzzin is supposed to be the second-best D-man in the lineup right now, and tonight he was very not that. I’ve seen speculation he may be dealing with an injury, which is really unfortunate if so. Hopefully he returns to form soon.
- Related: this defence with Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott missing is not good, and it’s worse if Muzzin is playing poorly. I think the Leafs didn’t bring their A-game tonight, but the deeper issue is only going to be fixed when Gardiner and Dermott come back.
- Andersen had some great moments and the Leafs gave him no help, but the winner wasn’t terrific. Ah well. He’s still great.
- The fourth line was good, I thought (ignore the weird small-sample Corsi splits). Nic Petan had his moments but Tyler Ennis looked like he was making the most things happen. I think Petan will probably sit next game.
- On to Edmonton./