It’s time to play hockey. In our first of an unknown number of games against the Oilers this year (they could make the playoffs), Toronto is ready for them. Theoretically.
The Leafs are doing the 11F and 7D, and I’m going to break with my usual stance that it’s a clever scheme, and I don’t like those, and say: When you’re breaking in a new guy on defence, why not?
Let’s just get to it.
What I want to see: something other than just pass, pass, pass, point shot, block to open the game. I want zone time, and good offence both.
What I got:
The first five minutes were a drill for the Leafs in perfecting their responsible backchecking and two-way play. I got to see a lot of (very good) zone exits, because they bounced back to their own zone with alacrity on each fruitless offensive foray.
Is this what being a Columbus fan is like: Oh, look, Mable, look at the five men deep.
First scoring chance for the Leafs comes at 13 minutes left:
Rielly jumping up on Koskinen pic.twitter.com/25E7KdGId5— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
At the half, the Oilers have 1 SOG, but the Leafs aren’t sustaining a cycle pretty much ever.
Oh. My. God.
Leafs put it in their own net.
Man... pic.twitter.com/CI6QTKu0Py— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
(There have been a few defensive concepts that involved popping the puck back towards Andersen. Other than that, the Leafs defending has been good. Honest.)
Is this a Leafs offensive cycle? It is. They’ve started stepping up from the points to the tops of the circles to shoot when they can’t get to the net. This is mostly that kind of cycle with — I’m not kidding — really good defending from Edmonton.
Me right now:
Tavares isn't pleased pic.twitter.com/SXt4k5aNzo— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Mitch Marner gets creamed at the corner of the Edmonton net, and that’s a penalty, Mr. Nurse. Time for the Leafs first power play.
Wow, all four OIlers over in the corner digging for the puck with only three Leafs. They win the puck and get it out, but that’s a hell of a PK strategy.
Leafs never really get it going, and Mikko Lehtonen looks slow to react when the puck comes to him. He’s not used to playing with these guys yet.
Yawn. Corsi is 12-6 for the Leafs. This is what you get when both coaches convince their teams to go defence-first out of respect for the other team’s offensive skill.
It's like a weasel on the verge of starvation 💀 pic.twitter.com/DdO8Sr17Yv— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 21, 2021
What I want to see: A Blue Jackets - Islanders game? It might be more exciting.
What I got:
The second starts out with some non-stop blueline to blueline inaction. Andersen and Koskinen may have left.
Here, have some defence. It’s all there is:
Brodie gets the stick out on McDavid pic.twitter.com/GEUaWZAC5Q— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Good pass by Bogosian to Mikheyev and the Leafs have their first shot of the second pic.twitter.com/Nrt7C2Osix— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Oh wait! The Oilers are skating fast, is that allowed? The Leafs try to stop them and Marner takes a penalty on Nurse.
Jason Spezza gets the puck off the Oilers on the PP and goes for a chug up the ice with it.
Ilya Mikheyev does it next and gets two rushes, but just a bit faster than Spezza.
Oilers get a big PP point shot from E. Bear, not T. Barrie as you’d expect.
That PK was the most Leafs action in two minutes so far this game.
Beast penalty killing from Ilya Mikheyev with speed.— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Even gets a steal on McDavid pic.twitter.com/k2jtXOTOdh
Oh, great. Now the Leafs are in take weak penalties mode as Alex Kerfoot gets the stick up. They sure won’t draw any the way they’re playing.
Andersen had to make a stop, so he’s awake. The Oilers PP has shrivelled up to nothing compared to last year’s, and nothing else happens.
The Tavares line gets some movement and passing going, but Jimmy Vesey is where offence goes to die this game. The Leafs draw a penalty on McDavid with this action, though.
Dammit. Wayne Simmonds gets a post.
Matthews, like 18 other people in this game, fans on a shot. It’s been a little weird how often someone has.
And that’s a duller period even than the first one.
Connor McDavid’s being outshot 12-6.
I can’t show you a heatmap, because with so few shots, you’ll think they did things by the size of the blobs. Instead, tonight we have the Evolving Hockey plot which is all unblocked shots:
In order to shut down McDavid, the Leafs had to shut themselves down too.
At the end of two, the Leafs CF% of 56% is approximately equal to the Oilers FF% because the Leafs are shooting from easy to block locations.
What I want to see: A bag skate.
What I got:
Unfortunately the game wasn’t called off due to a power outage or anything, and I have to watch 20 more minutes.
The line blender is out. Goody.
Vesey, Thornton and Kerfoot are cycling in the offensive zone without an ounce of shooting skill between them.
Thornton hurt on a hit and he’s going down the hall.
Looks like Thornton jammed his wrist— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Went off to the Leafs locker room pic.twitter.com/lZjim4mSVK
Nurse sends Hyman for a tumble. Careful Oilers, you don’t want to wake this sleeping dragon (as if).
Ha! The reverse jinx is working, baby.
Matthews vs Kassian in the corner is no contest and TIE GAME!
Matthews making it look easy pic.twitter.com/RJoZoM2ds7— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Jake Muzzin takes an interference call that is pretty weak, and the Oilers get another chance to try to score for themselves.
And they do. The fun was short lived, and yes, we are in a situation where tying a home game counts as fun.
Draisaitl puts the Oilers up 2-1— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Assist goes to Yamamoto for his dive pic.twitter.com/vNibR5icHf
More line blender, and Vesey is finally playing with Kerfoot.
It’s the Oilers carrying the play here now, and any effect of limiting the Oilers shots is fading away.
Did we take Tyson Barrie back?
Five minutes to try to find redemption, Leafs.
Kassian gets a post on a rush chance because the Oilers are playing with speed, unlike that other team on the ice.
And Spezza misses a wide-open net because of course.
Spezza had an open-net. pic.twitter.com/Y5gBb51SAB— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 21, 2021
Finally, Andersen can leave with the Leafs having control, and the ENG comes so fast, you’d think the Leafs put it in themselves.
Oilers block a bunch of shots on the Leafs last desperate efforts.
The Leafs contained the Oilers is shot volume for two periods, but never quality, and their offence was worse than it was in the Ottawa game. This team is in crisis at five-on-five, and it’s time they faced up to that. This season doesn’t allow for 10 games to get the kinks worked out and 10 more to get in a groove. They’re in a rut.
Worse than that, they’re boring. $40 million of boring.
Updates on Joe Thornton when we have them.