The Devils came to town bring Brian Boyle for a visit, which was nice, but he brought this bunch of kids with him. Jesper Bratt, sounds badly behaved.  Nico Hischier, sounds Swiss.  Will Butcher, sounds punny.

When you get right down to it, these guys have a lot in common with the Leafs, and the game should be fun, fast and hopefully have a happy ending.

Period One

The Leafs announced one set of lines, and then did this at warmup:

Which is the usual no-Matthews arrangement.

The teams started out fully mapping out the neutral zone in case someone had moved it.  Eventually the up and down gave way to some speed, but all the goalies were doing was putting the puck back in play.

Both teams are batting the puck back and forth to the opposing team until Travis Zajac, in his first game, almost picks up a rebound opportunity after one of those giveaways leads to a Devils’ chance.

Mitch Marner flubs a zone entry badly, and Miles Wood, yes, that guy that tuned up the Leafs the last time., ends up with a breakaway. Andersen with the save.  And he’s fine even when Wood crashes the net.

Leo Komarov ends up on a two-on-one with Andreas Borgman, and that’s a time when you do pass to the defenceman, but the pass isn’t there and Leo doesn’t score, which surprises no one.

Rielly with a chance off of the faceoff, and it’s game on with the Leafs looking alive now.

Hischier gets a chance coming back the other way.

Taylor Hall does a dance in alone, while the Leafs defenders just watch, but the save is easy once he shoots it.  It was pretty mesmerizing, I’ll grant you, but no one laid a hand on him.

At the approximate half-way point in the first, the Devils are getting most of the shots, but the Wood breakaway was the only really dangerous chance.

Hyman flubs a pass to Marleau, and a great zone entry ends up with one shot, with not much on it.

The Kadri line gets a nice long cycle mostly due to Nylander.  They get the crowd going on some more dangerous shots, and Nylander gets a mini-rush but he can only shoot backhand, and it’s wide.  Nylander could use a slump-busting game. Why not now?

The Leafs get the first power play of the game, and they get a nice setup on the delayed call for slashing against the Devils.  This is exactly what the slashing rule is for, a stinging chopper on Marner’s wrist that’s done just because Marner is who he is.

Unfortunately for the otherworldly Leafs power play, Adam Henrique gets the first shot on a short-handed break. Andersen with the save.

The power play finally gets really going and Cory Schneider just robs James van Riemsdyk who is camped at the net.  Fantastic saves.

Schneider does it again on a quick shot off of a quicker pass, and that’s the power play.

The Leafs were good, but Schneider was Schneider.

The Fourth line puts on some pressure offensively, which is good to see.

Some end to end action ends in the offensive zone with a tripping call to van Riemsdyk, not his best moment ever.

Boyle is playing net front on the Devils power play, and Andersen has to make a good save on his tip.

Connor Brown gets loose with the puck and the Leafs play an amazing game of keep-away with the puck.  The time they kill against the Devils power play is impressive.

That power play never gets set up again, and the last two minutes tick down on the clock.

It used to be that the Leafs got sloppy at the end of the period, but it’s the Devils who fail to clear the puck, and the Leafs come oh, so close to scoring.

The Numbers

The five-on-five Corsi was 17-15 for the Devils by the end of the period, but as you can see from above, the Leafs actually filled the danger area with shots during some mid-period pressure while defending well. One of those things is normal.

0-0 at the end of one period.

Period Two

The first meaningful play of the period is a weak little lob towards Schneider that almost turns into something as he gives up a rebound. He is human!

The Devils get a weaker chance at the other end, and I’m reminded this is the second period.  The Leafs aren’t good in second periods.

The Devils get a couple of chances against the Kadri line, whose defensive tactic seems  to be wait for the save from Andersen.  The Devils are not getting good shots, but the Leafs are also not getting the puck and taking the play the other way either.

Borgman makes a nice outlet pass that fails on the receiving end into another neutral zone turnover. There is a lack of crispness to these plays from all over the Leafs lineup that’s frustrating.

Marner sets up and end to end rush that is vintage Marner, but nothing much comes of it.

Bratt gets a shot, Hainsey blocks it, and the puck is quickly transitioned, and I suddenly like shot blocking! This is an intelligent way to do it.

The teams have taken the puck for a skate for five minutes now and don’t look to be changing that pattern.

Komarov dumps the puck out, the Devils dump it in, and this is not very exciting, with a couple of shots wide standing in for action.

Marner and Bozak get a nice rush going with Borgman, who is looking feisty tonight, but the shot is blocked.

Brown flicks the puck right out over the glass, and it’s another Devils’ power play. (Maybe just don’t flick the puck out of the zone?)

This is a much better power play from the Devils, and Andersen is busy early.  The Devils spend a minute and a half in control before the Leafs can change. Andersen is the hero right now.

Hischier finishes the power play with a rush chance, but Andersen has it.

I haven’t looked at individual numbers, but as Marner and Bozak get a chance on net, I think they’ve been very good so far. We’ll see how it looks after the period is over.

There’s so much circle-to-circle action that doesn’t ever turn into a scoring chance at both ends, but it feels like one defensive lapse and there will be a goal.  This is not how these two teams usually roll, but this game looks a lot like the two games vs Boston.

Van Riemsdyk ices the puck on a lazy dump out, and that’s the symbol of the period with five minutes to go.  No one is trying to win this game right now.

Well, aside from van Riemsdyk who gets a breakaway with Marner, and the open net was there, but Bozak’s stick is lifted, then the crowd thinks Marner has put it in, but it goes just wide and gets the ref in the midsection. That was exciting, but there was no goal.

Hyman gets a break and chooses to shoot it. That seems suboptimal, but sometimes that’s how it goes. He’s been good at coming up with the puck all game, but nothing is coming of it. His line have been getting zone time but have one actual goal scorer who is busy being the centre. That also seems suboptimal.

It’s a bit mean of me to complain about the absence of Kasperi Kapanen from this lineup. Roster choices can get made for you by other factors, but if one of Leivo and Soshnikov are one 24-year-old guy too many, make the move now and put a scoring winger out there with Marleau.

They play out the last few minutes running a drill where the object is to keep the puck moving, but to never shoot it.

This is the most boring period of hockey anyone has ever played.

The Numbers

The numbers show the Bozak line and the Marleau line winning the Corsi battle, but with a 0 - 0 tie, it’s all irrelevant.

Period Three

The Devils start the third with a lot of jump and pin the Leafs in their zone.

Komarov has a not very good shift in the defensive zone.

The Bozak line get a great chance from a Marner set up to get them in the zone.  They play so well together, and they can pass the puck.

The game is at risk of opening up in the wrong way, and the Devils get some chances off of a few minutes of track meet hockey.

Andersen sets up a rebound to the boards that should lead to a breakout, but the Kadri line stay stuck in the zone.

Wood gets the puck and cuts in with a chance.

It feels like the Leafs are chasing the increasing speed of the Devils.

Again, the Bozak line with pressure offensively.

Hyman gets a shot, then Brown gets a break he can’t do anything with. This line is almost good, but fail at the most important thing.  Flip them some luck, hockey gods. Or flip Nylander and Brown, Babcock.  One of the two might break this game open.

Hall has a chance that Andersen saves, but Hall is looking very, very good.

Devils put on a lot of pressure against the fourth line.  The Leafs look outclassed.

The Leafs ice the puck on a failed stretch pass.

Marleau gets checked hard into the end boards and the booing is the liveliest the building has been since the first period.

I’m not sure about that.

The flurry of pace has cooled again, but that’s not helping either team do anything much.

Marleau just does not pass well to Hyman.  He keeps having to slow up to collect the puck. It’s like Marleau forgets he’s a right shot.

The Leafs get a power play on a holding call, and this is a good chance to score, guys, don’t know if you realized.

The Leafs fail to get setup, fail to connect on basic passes, and there’s 17 seconds left in the power play before any kind of a chance on net happens.

I expect a voice over: We secretly replaced the Leafs usual brew with Devil Brand Decaf, let’s see if anyone notices.

Hall creates a chance by stepping around Rielly that Palmieri can’t convert on, or this game would be over. Andersen with an easy save.

The Bozak line flail around after the puck in their own end, the first time they’ve looked very inept, and this is a bad time for it.

The next Bozak line shift is a good one in the offensive zone.

The clock is ticking on what is looking to be a scoreless tie. One point from zero goals.

The Numbers

In regulation the Corsi was 49 - 46 for the Devils.  All three periods were almost exactly even in (glacial) pace.


The Leafs have yet to lose a game post regulation.  They should have the skill to take this, but Taylor Hall scares me.

The Leafs start with Kadri, Rielly and Nylander.  And yes, Hall is out there.

Hall sets up Zajac for a shot and Andersen makes the save.

Marner is on the ice! Things are happening. Except the thing is a penalty to Jake Gardiner for interference that seemed, er, just one of those things. Not really interference, not really not.

The Devils get a chance, and Andersen has it.  Andersen has to keep having it, or the Leafs can’t win it.

The Leafs call a timeout so Babcock can explain to the guys they need to not lose here.

Butcher with a shot that is deflected out.  The Leafs PK looks good on the four-on-three.

Butcher then fans on it, and the Leafs clear, but almost blow it on a bad change.

The power play is over, and they play at four-on-four, but the Leafs don’t put another guy out right away. This is a terrible example of bench management, twice in row.

Andersen with a big save in a scramble in front, and they can return to three-on-three for one minute after the whistle.

Nylander with a beauty pass to Rielly, but Schneider is the hero in that moment.

Andersen gets the save on Hall going the other way.

Nylander’s going, and the pass doesn’t connect, Nylander is done, out of gas, toasted, roasted, flip him over and do the other side, he has nothing left in the tank.  Oh, except this one little bit of fumes:

First star of the game is William Nylander and Frederik Andersen sharing the award. Second goes to Taylor Hall.  Those are my awards, I don’t care about the real ones.

1 - 0 Leafs!