Well, that was one frustrating game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs looked offensively dead in the first 50 minutes of play against the Calgary Flames at home on Monday night in a 3-1 loss. Some key giveaways in their own zone, and some Halloween-like fear of shooting ultimately led to their defeat.
The top six plus Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner put up a fight at the end, but they simply couldn’t get the puck on net. Zach Hyman thought he scored after a tip in front of the net in the dying seconds, his teammates and Leafs Nation went wild celebrating, but the puck was in fact on top of the net, not underneath the mesh. If you didn’t get to see the game, that play was a microcosmof the whole night. Ugh.
The Flames spent a lot of the early part of the game in the Leafs’ zone. Their defence were doing a good job of staying high in the neutral zone and cutting off breakout passes. The goalies got in on the passing action — just in time for Halloween if you ask me — as both Mike Smith and Frederik Andersen popped out of their blue patch of ice and attempted to move a loose puck while the skaters worked their way into the zone.
Smith was in a precarious spot; he passed the puck across the ice from the corner of the zone. Freddy tried to negate an early partial break by Mikael Backlund, but gave the puck away and had to get back and stop a cold James Neal with a good blocker save at the side of the net.
The always smiling Zach Hyman took Neal and himself off the ice when the two took to slashing each other off a faceoff in the neutral zone. It must be said that the immature rookie Neal started it (and finished it). On the 4-on-4, Mitch Marner got to dancing through the neutral zone, but was stopped on his first attempt by on-the-trade-block (not really) T.J. Brodie.
Wily vet Johnny Gaudreau baited Connor Brown into a cross-checking penalty with three seconds left in the 4-on-4. It was a crosscheck, but any player lighter than a PS4 controller wouldn’t have fallen like he did. Nevertheless, he got a call out of the refs, so kudos. On the ensuing faceoff, Par Lindholm got waived out of the faceoff dot, forcing MARTIN MARINCIN to take the faceoff! Unsurprisingly, he lost the draw laughably. At least he knew where to put his stick!
Hyman got his revenge on that upstart winger Neal when he incited the rookie to take a interference penalty as Hyman skated into the offensive zone on a forecheck. 500th game player Nazem Kadri got one chance at the side of the net on the power play, but the penalty ended before that could happen. The period ends with the shots at a whopping 12-4 in favour of Calgary.
Yea, the Leafs got out-played in that first period. At even-strength, the Leafs were out-shot (3-9), out-attempted (7-17), and lost the scoring chance battle by an astonishing margin of 2-11. Lindholm, Freddy the Goat, Josh Leivo, and Morgan Rielly are the only players with shots tonight, thankfully John Tavares (who is a Maple Leaf) leads the team with two shot attempts so far.
BAD NEWS: we are on pace for 12 shots— BOOᵇʸ ᶜᵃᵖᵖᵘᶜᶦⁿᵒ (@bobbycappucino) October 29, 2018
GOOD NEWS: based on Mike Smith's sv% that still equates to 8 goals
Remember Tim Thomas and how nutty he was? Smith has been carrying the torch along with Jonathan Quick as the biggest Divas with the wide sticks. First, he was unhappy with his water bottle, delaying the start of the period. Then, he made it his job to point out that Tavares wasn’t far enough away from his blue ice when he blocker-punched the Leafs’ center in the back. He’s been complaining to the refs all game, and I can’t wait for him to blame the coming loss on Toronto’s longitudinal axis or something. [Editor’s Note: Womp Womp.]
With Marleau in the box for being slow on the line change and needing to interfere with a Flames player in order to catch up, the Leafs did a great job of keeping the Flames to the outside. In keeping with the theme of the evening, Smith tried to get the Flames back into the offensive zone by sending a pass from his side of his own blueline to Gaudreau at the Leafs blueline, but several Flames were still extremely offside, causing a faceoff outside the zone. Mike Smith used pass! It was not effective!
I also want to shoutout this great defensive play by Hyman who held the zone brilliantly while down a man. He also didn’t get a chance going the other way, but oh well.
The Leafs started to pick up their offensive play, and it was Kasperi Kapanen who led the charge. He’s dangled a few Flames off their feet with his speed and agility.
Kappy 👀 pic.twitter.com/6INBDMtWRC— Spooky Juno 👻 (@junotheleafs) October 30, 2018
This is officially a Kapanen clip account pic.twitter.com/7yTSAObdPY— Spooky Juno 👻 (@junotheleafs) October 30, 2018
So the next majority of the period was a snore-fest. Hockey Twitter contemplated turning it off, Bumble, and complaining about Babcock, but there was a ray of hope at the end of the period when the MarKadMar line really started to apply the pressure. Tavares’ trio followed and nearly scored off a mad scramble right in front of Smith’s net, but the buzzer had gone to signal the end of the period just as the hungry Leafs fans in attendance roared, begged even, for the goal to be real. Alas, we headed to the third still scoreless.
Good news for the Leafs in that period: they were only out-shot by the Flames by one in that period (11-12). Someone’s gotta score in this game at some point, right? I prayed during the second intermission for Scotiabank Arena to play William Nylander’s music at the start of the third. But those are just dreams.
In terms of shot-share, the Leafs out-attempted the Flames 27-20 in that period, so even though it was a dull period, both teams got chances. Shots were even at even-strength (11-11), and the Leafs had more scoring chances in the period as well (13-9).
After Freddy Andersen kept the Leafs in the third after an early barrage of shots, the Leafs took their fourth penalty of the game. Hyman and Rasmus Andersson got tangled up in front of the net and somehow Hyman got called for an interference penalty. Despite the soft call, Elias Lindholm’s shot bounced off Andersen and through the crowd of people, an open Sean Monahan in front of the net tapped home the rebound. *extreme sigh*
Almost immediately afterward, Lindholm (not ours) came streaking down the slot and his wiiiiiide open shot beat Andersen clean through the five-hole.
The Leafs tried to get things going again, but the Flames began to implement a neutral zone trap. The Leafs were eventually able to break through and get a few chances thanks to the chip and chase tactic. Tavares had a great chance but was tripped (no call), Igor Ozighanov channeled his inner Travis Dermott and went for a brilliant skate after keeping the puck in the zone, but his centering pass wasn’t picked up by anyone on the fourth line. Eventually, Kadri got hauled down in the corner and the refs *finally* gave the Leafs a call.
With Tkachuk in the box, Mark Giordano pushed Tavares into the net, knocking it off and earning a penalty. Hope!
AND IN HIS 500TH GAME AS A MAPLE LEAF, AND 500TH OF HIS CAREER, NAZEM KADRI BRINGS THE LEAFS BACK WITHIN ONE AFTER A GREAT PASSING PLAY BETWEEN RIELLY AND MARNER!!!! WOOOOO!!!!! (I’m sorry mom for waking you, but I got excited because my big brother Naz scored).
ZACH HYMAN ......... scored????????? Oh. No, he didn’t. Dammit. Sorry, guys, false alarm.
Alas. Michael Frolik scored the empty net goal. Oh, what could’ve been.