Did you even watch the game? Game one, I mean. That charming phrase takes on a whole new meaning now, because I did and yet, beyond that one power play where Auston Matthews tried to will the puck in the net, I don’t remember much. Puck over glass times three — I recall that. And the six on four that didn’t get it done at the end.
I have a vague recollection of the rapidly reconstructed second line with Alexander Kerfoot at centre just not working. I remember seeing William Nylander over in his spot, surveying his pass options and I imagined him yelling, “None of you guys are where you should be!”. And I said to myself, don’t worry, you’ll have Alex next game, he’ll know where to be.
I remember Riley Nash looking like he was in his first game with the team, and Rasmus Sandin getting big mistaked by all the fans and declared “bad”. I remember Josh Anderson.
You don’t buy a new house from the measurements of its rooms, but they still give you an idea of the shape of it. You do want to know how big the bedrooms are, and how many bathrooms it has. We measure hockey games in the same way, and the numbers tell a story.
Were the Leafs bad? Did the Canadiens outplay them?
In all-situations, the Leafs had 56% Corsi (all shots), Fenwick (all unblocked shots) and only 47% Expected Goals (weighted unblocked shots). Something went wrong somewhere, but the base level of play — the shots for and against — was in the Leafs’ favour in all three periods.
Switching to five-on-five, the Corsi was 58%, Fenwick 62% and the Expected Goals was 55%.
Okay, there’s the story. The Canadiens defend well once you get in their zone, which they aren’t very good at preventing, but the Leafs gave the edge away on the power play. One caveat on the five-on-five Expected Goals is that the first period was terrible, not surprising.
This is not Leafs typical in terms of shot quality, however:
Was Rasmus Sandin Bad?
Sheldon Keefe had concerns. He played Sandin heavily in the first two periods, and used him for full power plays, and then played him more sparsely in the third. But that’s what you’d expect of the third pairing guys in a close game. Zach Bogosian played less, but more than Sandin late.
Sandin’s on-ice Corsi at five-on-five was 8-8 and 50% puts him well back on the team average. Jake Muzzin has the same stat, but of course he was playing a different level of competition. Sandin backed up Alexander Kerfoot most, and suddenly that poor on-ice number feels less Sandin’s fault, doesn’t it? However, he faced the Canadiens’ fourth line the most, and they ate him for lunch.
The question for Keefe has to be is his power play ability worth it?
What about the power play?
The Leafs power play had some good chances, and they allowed only one shorthanded shot against. That’s good, right, one shot against?
Paul Byron scores shorthanded pic.twitter.com/e2TkzEY1gS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 21, 2021
And that’s a large part of why the view of Sandin is so dire right now.
Toronto shot from good locations, the Canadiens still managed to block a lot of shots, and it’s hard to call the power play bad just because of how the goals for and against went. But it was not the dominating power play of early in this season.
Which lines worked and which didn’t?
The Riley Nash line only played four minutes as originally formed, and they were very bad going 1-4 in Corsi . The fourth line, who worries so many people because they watch Joe Thornton for mistakes like he’s a defenceman, were excellent going 9-2 in only five minutes.
The Auston Matthews line were on fire, and dominated at 18-6, and the various forms of the second line with and without John Tavares were bad.
The priority is to get that second line sorted out, which the Leafs have made an interesting start on by choosing Nick Foligno as centre.
Was Josh Anderson really feasting on the Leafs from the third line?
He had bad on-ice stats. The line he played with most were terrible by shot metrics but he was the person Matthews and company couldn’t handle. He was 3-0 against Matthews, and that’s hard to do. The Staal line with Anderson were the line that the Leafs fourth line also struggled with.
Was that “playoff Carey Price” and how was Jack Campbell?
In all-situations, Price was 1.66 goals saved over Expected Goals against. The Leafs had a fairly low overall Expected Goals for with only 2.66, though, so it was a mix of Price playing very well, and the Leafs delivering less than their usual shot quality.
Campbell saved .25 goals over Expected Goals against. He let in one stinker after committing his two big sins in short order, going for a puck clearing wander that doesn’t work well and failing to stop a lone breakaway. He still played very well, though, and was not in any way “the problem”.
That’s the story the numbers tell, which is not usually a perfect image of the game. But it’s better than “puck over glass three times”.
All numbers are from Natural Stat Trick, and you can find the game report at their site if you want to look at things in more depth, like the shift report or the power play shooting.