The first five minutes are not a great advertisement for NHL hockey, as both teams exchange misplaced passes and neutral zone dump outs. But I’m sure the Leafs will prefer that to being down 1-0 early. Wayne Simmonds doesn’t look too out of place with Matthews and Marner in the early going, but they’re not able to break through and create any chances.
They are able to draw a penalty with 12 minutes to go in the period, though that was more Milan Lucic making a braindead hit than anything else. On the same play, Marner feeds Simmonds with a partial breakaway, but Dave Rittich poke-checks to stop the chance. The Leafs get a few half-chances on the power play, but no major chances and no goals.
I really wish there was more to discuss here, but there isn’t. Engvall had a rush where he used his speed to surprise the Flames, as he and Mikheyev seem to do often. Hyman rushes the net as normal. The Leafs D are their usual competent selves. But really, nothing has happened.
It’s early in the game, so this could change, but Thornton-Kerfoot-Spezza are being used third in the rotation, as they are listed in pre-game line rushes, resulting in some shifts against Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, two strong Flames forwards. Many (myself included) would have expected the Mikheyev-Engvall-Hyman line to be the de facto third line, but that hasn’t really been the case so far.
While I write that, Morgan Rielly loses the puck in his feet, resulting in a Johnny Gaudreau shot from prime real estate in front of the net. It looked like Campbell got a tiny piece of it to make the save.
With about two minutes remaining, a Jason Spezza point shot almost gets deflected in by Dave Rittich himself, but Thornton and Kerfoot can’t capitalize on the rebound. But they than capitalize on the very next shift, as vintage Jason Spezza continues to score goals that look like they come straight out of 2006. The Leafs foil a breakout, and Spezza finds the top corner from a sharp angle in the left circle. Leafs lead 1-0, and they needed that.
JASON SPEZZA 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 20, 2021
PERFECT SHOT pic.twitter.com/0pr0IPTg1h
The period ends shortly after; the last major chance was from Andrew Mangiapane, who pounced on another Leafs giveaway in front, this time by Justin Holl. Luckily, Mangiapane misses, and the Leafs end the first period with a lead.
The Flames get the first great chance of the second, as Elias Lindholm is able to get a rush chance in tight which Campbell saves well. As it goes the other way, Rittich absorbs a point shot with Matthews lurking on the doorstep.
Over the first five minutes of the period, the Flames certainly get the better of the chances, but Campbell holds strong, and the Leafs are not completely powerless at the other end either. That said, it’d be good to see a continuation of the pattern that has been exhibited over the first four periods of this miniseries.
Jake Muzzin continues to own Matthew Tkachuk, as he goads him into taking a penalty when the Flames were in the offensive zone. Hopefully the Leafs can add to the misery with a PP goal.
The Leafs appear not to hear my wish, as they execute a really sloppy power play that results in better shorthanded chances against than anything else (though Matthews had a great chance where he hit iron). Nylander cause the shorthanded chance against by fumbling the puck on a breakout, which led to a Derek Ryan partial break that Campbell bailed the Leafs out of.
Shortly after the power play, Muzzin hits the post on a point shot, and Simmonds takes a penalty for a late hit on Tkachuk (charging).
The Calgary power play is very short lived, as Marner draws a penalty on a 2-on-1. Noah Hanifin trips him, and sends the game to 4-on-4. Nothing of note happens on the 4-on-4 or abbreviated Leafs power play. The Leafs take their customary too-many-men penalty with about seven minutes to go in the period, but kill it off without much fuss.
After the power play, Zach Hyman sighed, muttered “Fine, I’ll do it myself”, and scores! He takes a pass from Tavares as he enters the zone, and rushes wide around the net, emerging out the other side, and firing it past Rittich. Alex Galchenyuk will get his first point as a Leaf, and while he won’t get a point, I want to point out that Rielly drives the net on that play and forces the defender to cover him, which occupies Rasmus Andersson and takes him out of the play as Hyman emerges around the other side of the net. It’s one of the ways that Rielly genuinely does provide offensive value in a way that a lot of other point scoring defencemen don’t always do. 2-0 Leafs, and now they have some breathing room.
Galchenyuk gets his first point as a Leaf on this Hyman goal pic.twitter.com/CkcvIW3Nko— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 21, 2021
Marner hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet today, but he’ll do 5-10 things per game (even in bad games) that I would break every bone in my body trying to attempt in practice.
The HEM line has a strong shift in the early going, continuing their strong play generally. After this shift, Kerfoot is sprung by Rielly (who has been very good IMO) for a partial break, where he is impeded, giving the Leafs another power play. That probably should have been a penalty shot, but with a 2-0 lead, the 2 minute PP (and crippling the Flames offense for 2 mins) is probably better. The Leafs don’t score, as their power play continues their cold streak. They don’t look awful, but they’re not exactly knocking at the door every power play either.
The middle part of the period passes without much incident. The Leafs aren’t doing a whole lot offensively, but the Flames seem incapable of generating great chances that the Leafs don’t spoonfeed them. With a 2-0 lead, it’s not really pretty, but it will be enough.
The exception to this pattern of play was a shift from the Matthews line and Muzzin-Holl, where the Leafs hit some posts and get some great chances in tight from both Matthews and Marner. The former is snakebitten right now, and just cant seem to find the back of the net.
With five minutes left, Galchenyuk takes a hooking penalty, and the Flames really need to score here to rescue this game. But similar to the rest of the game, the Flames just have no offensive momentum at all. Campbell has to make one strong save on Matthew Tkachuk, but otherwise, Calgary doesn’t get a whole lot. The Flames pull Rittich and try to go 6-on-5 the rest of the way, but get nothing out of it. Leafs win, 2-0!