Part of being a great team is beating the teams that you ‘should’ beat. New Jersey is surely one of those teams. Despite a hot start, they simply don’t have the horses to compete with the Leafs, if the Leafs play at their best. In fact, looking down their forward group is almost a masochistic exercise. The guy they have centering Taylor Hall is Pavel Zacha. Poor Taylor. But this is hockey - anything can, and often does, happen.

Tonight we see a battle of first overall picks, as Toronto gets its first look at Nico Hischier. Of course, Auston Matthews needs no introduction, and coming off perhaps his finest game in the NHL (yes, including his 4-goal debut), all eyes are on him as he continues to grow and ascend to the top ranks of the NHL.

Or at least better than Brandon Saad.

Anyways, lets get into the game. Frederik Andersen and Corey Schneider are your goalies, with the latter looking to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor year. He’s been great so far this year. Dominic Moore suits up for the Leafs as 4C tonight, with Calldreas Borgen remaining the third pair.

First Period

[20:00] Kadri line to start off for the Leafs. Zacha line starting for New Jersey.

[19:43] Matthews gets his first shift against Hischier’s line (Marcus Johansson and Jesper Bratt). Auston nearly gets a partial break immediately, but no dice.

[18:02] Blake Coleman (who?) nearly turnstiles Hainsey but Andersen had it covered.

[17:34] Zaitsev sags HEAVY off Taylor Hall as he enters the zone. Not a good idea, and he gets a dangerous shot away.

[17:21] Looks like the Kadri line will get the assignment on Hall’s unit, by the way.

[16:44] Speaking of which, they get a nice shift in on that line, leading to a backhand shot from the slot by Marleau.

[16:31] A horrific giveaway by Damon Severson behind is net gives Marner a lot of time and space in front of the net. Also not a good idea, and he nearly capitalizes himself, before feeding it to Bozak, whose shot is blocked.

[13:27] Nylander stickhandles in a phonebooth to maintain the puck in the neutral zone, leading to a zone entry and net crash by Matthews and Hyman. This line is good.

[12:36] Marner may take more obstruction penalties than he should, but he does a nice job drawing one with his speed and elusiveness. Matthews unit up first.

[11:59] Nothing doing for that group, so they leave early.

[11:27] The Bozak group comes on, and it immediately pays dividends. They’re next level. James van Riemsdyk is left all alone in front and crams it in from the doorstep. Typical JVR, and the Leafs lead 1-0.

[10:53] And the Devils respond immediately! Steven Santini with a slapper from the right point. Lot of traffic in front, and the puck finds the top corner. 1-1 Tie. Looks like it was a tip from Miles Wood.

[9:40] Another Matthews shift, another instance of he and Nylander dummying fools. No goals for them yet, but it feels imminent.

[9:15] Oh lord, that was ugly. Calle Rosen has had an ugly start to the season, and this only continues that. He fumbles a fluttering puck off his glove, and it leads to a breakaway for Miles Wood. He makes no mistake, and it’s 2-1 Devils. He gets his second.

[9:15] Gotta be honest, if Marincin made that play, we’d be hearing about it for a month.

[8:30] Rosen with another bad play, failing to keep a routine puck in at the line.

[8:30] Also, Martin is fighting someone, which gives me time to catch up on my notes.

[8:30] Leafs get a power play out of the deal, so good stuff Matt!

[7:35] Bozak unit doesn’t get anything going - lets see if Auston’s group does.

[6:27] Leafs score! Just after the power play ends, Dominic Moore gets another tip goal, off a point shot from Zaitsev. 2-2 Tie.

[5:59] The Devils almost get it back immediately! A neutral zone scramble leads to an odd man rush for them, and the combination of Hischier and Hall almost pots one by Andersen.

[5:59] On the replay, it looks like Kadri saves a goal with a desperation dive, and Komarov takes a slashing penalty. Devils to the power play.

[5:10] About a minute into the penalty kill, the Leafs have done a pretty solid job limiting chances. Hall had a nice opportunity from the left circle, but not much else.

[4:15] Yep, pretty uneventful kill, which is exactly what you want as the shorthanded team.

[3:24] Jesper Bratt dummies the Leafs D and draws a hooking call against Zaitsev. Another penalty for the Leafs to try and kill.

[2:09] Hischier shows off his speed and stickhandling to get a great zone entry and rush shot. He stepped around a flatfooted Jake Gardiner like it was nothing.

[1:26] Penalty killed again. And just as it ends, the Devils take a penalty, as Blake Coleman trips Gardiner. Leafs with a chance to take the lead before the period ends.

[0:00] They can’t do it. Toronto gets an abbreviated power play at the start of the second. The Leafs played alright, but the Devils are certainly game, and won’t roll over. Alright might not be good enough tonight.

Second Period

[19:15] Nothing happens on the shortened Toronto power play.

[18:42] Similar to what the Leafs do after penalty kills, the Devils put Hischier and Hall together after theirs, and they are predictably excellent.

[17:31] Gotta say, the ice looks terrible. The puck has been bouncing like crazy all night.

[15:34] Gardiner, to my eye, has not looked good tonight, and he takes an obstruction penalty after losing body position. Another chance for New Jersey to take the lead.

[13:35] Once again, a convincing kill for the Leafs.

[12:47] The Devils get some serious zone time, but don’t generate a ton offensively.

[12:28] But they do that on their next shift, as Adam Henrique is denied by Andersen after a nice cross-crease pass from Marcus Johansson.

[11:45] Another slashing penalty, this time for JVR. Please stop taking penalties, guys.

[11:37] Andersen is playing great, as he stones Kyle Palmieri in tight.

[10:02] Great puck movement from the Devils, and they finally make it count. Bratt finds Zacha all alone in front, and he makes no mistake. No chance for Freddie. 3-2 Devils.

[10:00] The Leafs need to step it up here. The Devils are theoretically weaker than them, but they’re not in this game by accident - they’re outplaying Toronto.

[9:05] Wood gets a holding penalty, and the Leafs get a chance to tie it up on the man advantage.

[8:18] JVR with a great chance on the doorstep, and tries a move similar to what got him his first goal. Schneider adapts, and makes the save.

[7:19] Other than that, a real weak power play from Toronto.

[6:15] Borgman blows a tire at the blueline, leading to a breakaway for Henrique, but Rosen shows off his great skating and disturbs him enough to prevent a great shot.

[6:06] By the way, Marleau has been totally invisible. Johansson has an assist and has looked dangerous all night. Just saying.

[5:33] Hall shoots just wide on a 2-on-1. Close to doubling the lead there.

[5:16] Another penalty on the Devils. John Moore gets booked for cross-checking.

[5:16] Also, Zacha is in the box for some reason? SO the Leafs get a full minute 5-on-3

[5:06] Are you fucking kidding me. The Devils somehow score. Jake again has a terrible time dealing with the puck at the line, and New Jersey takes advantage. 4-2 Devils.

[4:26] Kadri hits the post. No luck for Toronto right now.

[3:20] Nope, the Leafs are basically doing nothing on the 5-on-3.

[3:04] Gotta be said - the Leafs are deservedly losing this game, and Gardiner in particular has been absolutely awful.

[2:05] The fourth line gets a good shift to generate some offense, but the Leafs need some goals, and soon.

[1:38] This has not been a fun game to recap. Schneider looks like nothing clean is going to beat him right now.

[0:00] Well, fuck that period.

Third Period

[20:00] Time for the third. The Leafs got two against Chicago in this period, they can get two against New Jersey.

[19:26] A strong shift from the Matthews group opens the period. But still nothing past Schneider.

[18:36] HOW DID HE SAVE THAT! Marleau sets Kadri up beautifully in front, and Schneider somehow prevents it from going in.

[16:33] Turns out Kadri rung it off the post.

[16:25] Welp, that’s game over. Blake Coleman takes advantage of a weak clearance by Rosen. His slot wrister gets by Andersen going off the post and in. 5-2 Devils.

[15:55] The Leafs weren’t gonna go undefeated, and the Devils have been good enough to win this game. But this has exposed the same weaknesses we’ve seen for a while. Shaky defending with goaltending that isn’t always enough to cover for it.

[13:55] Schneider is on some next-level shit right now. He casually stops Marleau off a cross-ice pass from Kadri as if it’s a 100 foot Matt Martin floater.

[12:32] Some line juggling going on now, as Kadri and Nylander are playing together a bit. JVR also gets a run on the fourth line (???).

[11:28] The Devils are ahead by three and also carrying play at times, which is not a good sign.

[10:42] BTW, Brown took Nylander’s spot on the Matthews line.

[8:31] Really, the string is just being played out now. Not much more to discuss.

[7:38] Leafs go on the power play to see if they can get a consolation goal.

[7:01] The Devils take a delay of game penalty, likely in an attempt to score another shorthanded goal.

[6:26] Well, I guess I was eventually right about a Nylander-Matthews goal coming. Willie with a beautiful cross-crease pass to Matthews at the back door, and he doesn’t miss those. 5-3 Devils.

[5:10] Unfortunately, the Leafs can’t capitalize on the remaining 5-on-4.

[4:33] Schneider stones Nylander twice on the door step, who shows some frustration afterwards.

[2:35] Devils score. Gotta be honest, I looked away from the screen and can’t be bothered to rewind and describe how it happened. Zacha got his second, teaching me to never say anything about a player pregame. 6-3 Devils.

[0:00] That’s everything. Very disappointing game, even though Schneider is primarily responsible. Still, the Leafs had a million defensive breakdowns, which has been true in every game thus far. This time, it cost them. They face Montreal on Saturday to try and right the ship.