The classic mistake people make when judging how a hockey game should work out is to measure team strength as good team/bad team. The bad team is bad up and down the lineup and perform poorly at everything. The good team is the opposite. This leads people to think a team can’t be good if it’s bad at some things or that a team can’t be good at some things if it’s bad. When the Leafs play the Senators, you should be able to see how wrong both of those ideas are just by watching.

When you run their actual lineups plus their results this season through a model (this one is Moneypuck’s) and then tweak it with home ice advantage, the Leafs are 54% favourties to win to the Sens 46%. So yes, the Leafs are better, but the days of being overwhelming favourites to beat the bad team on their home ice are gone in the NHL.  Even the LA Kings have won some games lately.

In the last Leafs game, there was some very interesting usage of players in terms of ice time and matchup, and I’m very curious to see if that continues tonight. We also have Travis Dermott returning, and perhaps some funky new power play units that were shown off at practice. You never know if that’s just for fun, or if they’ll show up in a game.

First Period

Angela James to drop the puck! She looks like she could play. Aw, the littlest girl does the puck drop. Perfect.

Okay Leafs, play like Angela James a little for me.

We start out, after a little faffing about in the Leafs end, with a nice centering pass to JT and a shot, er, kind of like his shootout effort. But no matter, it’s a good start.

Muzzin makes a Jake Mistake and passes the puck right to a Sens player. He just does this a little, but only a little, and we’ve had practice living with it. We’ll cope.

William Nylander with a hard shot that just gets Craig Anderson’s stick.

Sparks saves a Cody Ceci shot, for his icebreaker.

Chucky the Younger picks Nylander’s pocket cleanly.

So far the Leafs are in charge of this game. They can take the puck away from the Sens with ease, and they are very willing to give it right back, but the Sens haven’t actually done anything.

This ice looks a little sticky. There’s a lot of passes falling short, just stopping, guys overskating the puck too.

Nylander with a quick whirl and shoot on a turnover. He looks dangerous tonight.

Note to broadcast: please can you tell me how tall Ben Harpur is?

Seems like you’d need to kill a man in Reno to get a penalty in this game. Refs want this over and the first period is still underway. Can’t blame them, to be honest.

Leafs are skating a little faster, and Anderson is working a little harder now.

Okay, the Leafs have a power play because of puck over the glass that bounced back on the ice. Neat. So that gets you a power play, but not any actual violence.

And most of this power play will be in period two, and there was nothing interesting in the first few seconds.


Did the Sens ever do anything?

Survey says:


This was not a pretty period of hockey, but the Leafs are clearly running the show here. Some decent quality shots might be nice. Travis Dermott looks ready to go, which is what matters.

Ice time

The D is Rielly at 8:07, Muzzin and Hainsey at just over 7 minutes, Zaitsev at 6 and Marincin and Dermott with 5:15 each. So there’s been very little pairing shuffling, but the third pair, even though this is Dermott’s first game back, is getting a much higher proportion than had been the norm. There has been an ongoing effort to play Hainsey and Zaitsev much less, which has meant heavy minutes for Muzzin and Rielly, and we’re seeing that a little so far.

The top three forward lines are rolling out reasonably evenly. One of these coaches is hard matching. Matthews faces the White-Tkachuk-Gibbons line. Tavares the Pageau line. Kadri’s line is picking up some time vs Pageau as well as the very weak depth, and the fourth line is not playing much.

Second Period

So the new power play units are, um, interesting. Zach Hyman as net front is fine. I don’t see how it adds much, though. But as often happens, the best chance comes just as the penalty expires.

Leafs take a penalty on the Sens first serious cycle of the game, and now they can’t get control, and it keeps going.

The broadcast is talking about how the Sens power play is coming along while they are failing utterly to even gain the offensive zone. The Leafs are amping up the aggression on the PK to match the ineptitude they’re facing.

For real, I was just thinking how Sparks hadn’t made me wince yet.

Matthews can’t control the puck against Magnus Paajarvi, for reasons that aren’t clear, and Sparks is motionless on the Anthony Duclair shot:

1-0 Senators

Most of the wincing is for Matthews there.

Sparks has to come back and make a couple of saves, so maybe he’s in the game now.

The Leafs come back with some good zone time, and some chances, but they really aren’t controlling the puck/it’s bouncing all over the place on them.

Matthews and company get a long, long cycle going, but no joy.

The Leafs are starting to get some shots off from actually dangerous locations, and are pushing harder. The play is just running without many whistles, which favours the Leafs, I think.

The fourth line of the Leafs can’t handle the Sens fourth line which has some ringers hiding on it.

Yeah, okay. Now I’m wincing. It is what it is.

2-0 Senators

And in the way of things, Sparks makes a great save on Tkachuk.

Sorry, what? Andreas Johnsson is going after Ceci? Can we see that? I do not know what caused Nylander to go down there, someone’s stick, but Johnsson sure reacted fast.

And that’s a period of dismal results come to an end.


Oh, well. I’ll keep my “rest Freddie” thoughts to myself, but regardless of who is in net, you can’t win if you don’t score, and the Leafs offence has been below what they’re capable of, even if it’s better than the Sens by a mile. The Sens are outright awful. The Leafs look just a bit tepid, not extremely underperforming.

Ice Time

The D ice time has changed a bit. Hainsey has climbed the small amount to be even with Muzzin at just under 13 minutes. Rielly has almost 16 minutes. That’s classic ‘need a goal’ deployment, only that would be Gardiner with Rielly on the ice if he were available, not Muzzin or Dermott.

Zaitsev and Dermott are now even at 10 and a half minutes, and Marincin is stalled out at less than 9. He’s not trusted to fry an egg, was I think Arvind’s line on that situation.

The top three forward lines are rolling very even, much more so than is normal, and the fourth line has under 4 minutes, which is likely too many in this game.

Third Period

Nylander gets dumped into the crease and into Anderson, so the Leafs have a power play. I have a suggestion what they do with it.

They nearly get a chance off of Marleau right in front, but he can’t quite get it past Anderson.

No joy, but it was a mostly good effort.

Dermott draws a penalty on Tkachuk by getting away with holding onto Chucky’s stick until he retaliates. Travis, you dog, you.

Okay, there it is, the man we count on. No, not that one. Or that one, or that other one, this one:

2-1 Senators

Okay, so you know, I could go back and edit out everything I said about the fourth line, but I won’t. Connor Brown has to shoot here, and he makes it a beauty.

2-2 tie game

Kappy was out there still, but that was fourth line goodness.

Okay, so, one time, could we just ... ah, fuck it. Never mind, here’s the video:

3-2 Senators

Kadri double shifting as the fourth-line C now.

Inspired by this game, I’m tripping everyone in my living room and expecting to face no consequences. Later I stopped the cat from getting through the door, and they were fine with it.

Muzzin gets a post as the pace picks up.

Johnsson gets a penalty because Chucky is a dirtier dog than Dermott.

The Sens get some zone time on this power play, but they never shoot. Not that I’m complaining.

Sparks does this thing where he leaves the net wide open, and then few seconds later, well, I’ll just quote Hughson: Sparks just made a save and he has no idea where the puck was, he’s facing the wrong way.

Anderson stones Marner. Dammit.

Leafs take a penalty when Johnsson does one of the three mysterious things that will get called. We know it’s not tripping, interference or slashing at this point, but cross-checking is a no-no this game.

The power play will run to the end of the period, nearly, so the goalie is pulled, and the Leafs are cycling hard against the Sens. But Tavares goes down, Marner trips over him, and that’s the ball game. Empty net goal for the Sens.

4-2 Ottawa


All three Sens goals and the ‘big save’ on Tkachuk were from the same small area of the high to middle slot. No other Sens shots were very good chances, but they shot four times wide of the net from the same area in the third period. One out of four ain’t bad, I guess.

The Leafs played well offensively, but that was not their best game ever for scoring chances. They did not give up any serious chances in their own end beyond that blunder by Matthews and they easily owned the game for shots, chances, expected goals, just being engaged and on special teams.

One final ice time note, by the end of the game, Dermott’s ice time had climbed over Zaitsev’s, so expect to see him played harder in offensive situations in the remaining games.