It’s finally here! Real hockey is back as the Toronto Maple Leafs open their 2019/20 season against the Ottawa Senators. We also got to see the big reveal about the first Leafs captain since Phaneuf was traded away in 2016.
Of course Chris Johnston spoiled it ahead of the reveal on Twitter and for that he will be forced to watch Season 8 of Game of Thrones on repeat until GRRM publishes his next book as punishment.
They also announced the assistant captains: Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly get the A’s. As we all expected even before CJ ruined the surprise, John Tavares was announced as the 25th Captain in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That little short and sweet ceremony done with, we’re ready for puck drop to open the season. GO LEAFS GO!
Well that started about as poorly as it could have. Leafs get caught awkwardly trying to break out, Marner loses his stick after getting tangled up with Kasperi Kapanen. The Sens forced the turnover, and Connor Brown set up Brady Tkachuk for the first goal of the season 25 seconds into the game.
Thankfully Trevor Moore drew a penalty not long after the goal, so the Leafs have a chance to tie it right back up. Not thankfully that PP looked kinda butt, I’ll bet Jason Spezza would have scored though.
After the PP ends, Ottawa gets another very good chance off a brutal pass by Jake Muzzin from the corner out into the slot that Dylan Demelo had a great shot off, but Frederik Andersen gloved it. A not very inspiring start for the Leafs.
Leafs finally get a good shift going with the third line. Jake Muzzin had a good rush, Tyson Barrie got a couple of good shots and their forwards swarmed in front of the net but couldn’t get a tip or rebound.
What a shift for Jake Muzzin #Leafs pic.twitter.com/pffL89UcB3— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 2, 2019
The Matthews line follows up with more zone pressure and Nylander draws a penalty by muscling his way off the boards towards the net. Marner seems trigger happy this game, taking a (not great looking) one timer and then rung one off the post with a wrister. Off the next faceoff Matthews hits the post too. Second unit comes on and Nylander feeds a pass to Kapanen in the slot that creates a mad scramble they can’t put in. Leafs starting to shake off the rust and create good chances but don’t have a goal to show for it yet.
What a pass from Nylander to Kapanen in front but Andersen shuts the door #Leafs pic.twitter.com/au2w7qgMtl— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 2, 2019
Colin White gets a breakaway right out of the penalty box that Andersen saved, and Ottawa takes a goalie interference penalty right after. Leafs back to their third straight power play.
Second big stop for Freddie as Colin White burst out of the penalty box #Leafs pic.twitter.com/zFmjzMG8zG— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 2, 2019
We’re almost halfway through the period and with all the powerplays, the Leafs’ third pairing with Rasmus Sandin and Big Safety Martin Marincin have yet to see a single shift. The first PP unit can’t get anything going and get the hook before being on for one minute, second unit comes on and gave up another breakaway to Anthony Duclair that Andersen stopped. And after the PP ends, another rush by Ottawa that Andersen had to glove.
After three full powerplays I can safely say it looks like ass so far.
9 minutes to go in the period and we get our first Sandin sighting! By now the game has settled with a long period of more cautious hockey, less mistakes and not as frantic action or rushes for either team.
Leafs finally get a good chance after Marner and Kapanen create a turnover and chip it to Tavares in the slot, but he can’t beat Craig Anderson. The Matthews line gets a good forecheck going, and Muzzin got a clean wrist shot from the point that Anderson saw the whole way.
First Period Thoughts
Ottawa ends the period with a 1-0 lead, and a 9-8 lead in shots on goal. The shot attempts more heavily favoured Toronto 19-12 at even strength, but the big story is the Leafs had 6 minutes on the powerplay in the first period alone and did not really look very good.
As a whole I would say they were pretty sloppy. Missed passes, turnovers, all that jazz you expect to start a season. They’ve shown flashes of exerting some offensive pressure but also showed flashes of giving up breakaways. The defense did most of the shooting, which in general is bad. Of the 14 shots they got on net, 8 were from defensemen. You can see the boring ineffectualness of it in the heatmap.
To start the period Matthews made a brilliant flip-saucer-bank-pass that sprung Nylander on a breakaway, but he just couldn’t quite catch up to the puck in time to set up a move or clean shot.
Wicked feed from Matthews to Nylander but Willy #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/79epUCpKDg— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 3, 2019
1-1 Leafs Tie It!
As we all predicted, the first goal of the year for the Leafs came from Frederick Gauthier. Tyson Barrie and Dmytro Timashov played keepaway along the boards, and after a rebound sat in front of Anderson without anyone noticing, Freddie the Goat was knocked down and STILL managed to whack the puck into the net. Timashov gets his first NHL point and Barrie gets his first point as a Leaf.
That goal seemed to give Leafs life, as the third line followed with more pressure right away. Sandin had a good wrist shot that Kerfoot just couldn’t tip or screen completely, and Anderson gloved it. The Matthews line jumped on and Nylander looks like he’s dancing and playing more fast and confident.
2-1 Leafs Take The Lead
The Leafs hem the Sens in and are dominating play this period. The third line jumps on and they get buzzing around the net. The Leafs work a shot from the point and swarm the rebound, with Trevor Moore putting home the goal. Rasmus Sandin and Ilya Mikheyev both get their first NHL point with assists, wonder if they have the cut the puck in half.
2-2 Ottawa Ties It
12 seconds later. The less said about that the better.
3-2 Ottawa Takes The Lead
Ron Hainsey. Of course.
Ron Hainsey puts one in the back of the net amd #GoSensGo up 3-2... #LeafsForever challenging for offside. pic.twitter.com/myAxrp4ELX— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) October 3, 2019
After starting the period on fire and dominating play the Leafs just went to sleep and allowed two quick goals. Or did they? Leafs challenge the goal for offside and it looks like Ryan was according to the rule. Can I just say, I know this call benefits the Leafs but I fucking hate that offside rule. It shouldn’t matter if the skate was on the ice or not, it’s still the exact same body position and momentum.
Back to 2-2 Leafs Win The Challenge
3-2 Leafs Take The Lead What Is Even Happening
Jesus guys slow the fuck down so I can keep up! Nylander gets in on a 2 on 1 with Matthews and plays it brilliantly. He out waits the sprawling defender and slid a perfect pass to Matthews for the tap in!
John Tavares juuuuuuuust about set up Kapanen for the 4-2 goal, but he just tipped it wide. And there’s the first of your equalizer penalties, as Kerfoot took a bit of a weak penalty. Leafs to the PK. Thankfully the Sens PP looked as bad as the Leafs’ first three were, and Toronto killed it with relative ease.
Finally after a span of relative inaction so I could catch up recapping everything, Matthews drew a penalty after Tkachuk tripped him. Right off the faceoff, Matthews has room to walk in and rip a hard wrist shot that Anderson just got enough of it to deflect it out of play.
4-2 Leafs Holy Shit Matthews
Oh my god Auston Matthews is not human, and Marner makes an appearance. Tavares wins the faceoff, Marner makes a brilliant, no-look, back the back spin pass to Matthews who I’m fairly sure blasted the one-timer into oblivion.
Right after the goal, Barrie takes a slashing call to put the Leafs on the PK. The Leafs get the best chance, with Gauther and Timashov on an almost-2-on-1 where Timashov just couldn’t handle the bouncing pass.
With the penalty over Auston Matthews gets the crowd ooh-ing and aah-ing a few times on one shift. He is hungry for the hat trick. The Leafs have the Sens hemmed and are opening a firing squad on Anderson. Tavares and Marner managed to get on, and after more shots and chances Ottawa finally, desperately clears it. What a shift to end the period.
34 was going to attempt the Lacrosse goal pic.twitter.com/spRlIZv989— Flintor (@TheFlintor) October 3, 2019
Second Period Thoughts
That period was a pile of cocaine soaked in Mountain Dew-flavoured Red Bull and set on fire with a molotov cocktail. The Leafs were utterly dominant for long stretches, but still had a few lapses where they went to sleep and Ottawa capitalized with two goals. Thankfully, only one of the goals counted because the offside rule is stupid.
At 5 v 5, the Leafs had a clear advanced in shots on goal (17 to 3), shot attempts (27 to 8), and expected goals (1.20 to 0.26) in the second period alone. Dominance.
Only three Leafs are in the negative in shot attempts: Kapanen, Shore and Timashov — and for each of them it’s by only 1 or 2 attempts. Rasmus Sandin leading the way with a cool 81.82 CF% (9 for vs only 2 against).
Okay... deep breath... here we go again.
Leafs start the period as they finished the last one, hemming the Sens in with all of their lines rolling. Moore and Milheyev on the third line had the best chances of the bunch. Matthews is dancing some more, which for some reason prompted Jim Hughson to make a really dumb and gross comment.
Hughson got talking about the charges against Matthews, then praised Patrick Kane and was like “that’s how you put a little problem behind you”— Ryan (@ryanfancey) October 3, 2019
They get rewarded with a powerplay, as Chlapik took a dumb boarding/hitting from behind penalty on Shore as he was fighting to free the puck as it was pinned in the corner. Leafs back to the PP.
Matthews got a good one timer off again but Anderson was square to it. The PP looks a lot better than it did in the first period. They don’t get a goal this time though.
And right after the powerplay ends, Timashov takes a dumb tripping/interference penalty to put the Leafs on the penalty kill. The Leafs did a good job shutting things down, not giving up a single shot on net.
5-2 Leafs Holy Shit Tyson Barrie
Tyson Barrie put on a show. He pulls the spin-o-rama at the blueline, skated it in and fired a dart of a pass through three Sens to Mikheyev, who scored his first career NHL goal on the one-timer.
Game has settled down, and I’m noticing the little things more. Barrie is such a good skater and he is STRONG. I just saw Rasmus Sandin steal a puck in the Leafs’ end effortlessly and then feed a quick backhand no-look pass to Kerfoot to start the easy breakout. He made it look like the easiest thing ever.
Sandin. Rasmus Sandin is not 19 #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/o4WD9RatY7— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 3, 2019
5-3 Ottawa Closes The Gap
The Leafs have started coasting, but not giving up anything dangerous to Ottawa... until Bobby Ryan made it 5-3. The Sens took a harmless looking shot from the corner that Andersen pushed with his blocker right out into the slot. Unfortunately the only player there was Bobby Ryan.
🚨 Bobby Ryan gets his first of the season. This however is on Andersen #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/jhJ7HOy9EP— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 3, 2019
The Leafs played the first half of the third like they did the second period, hemming the Sens in their own end and dominating play. Once they got the 5-2 goal they started to coast a bit, and another of their little gaffes led to the Senators’ third goal by Bobby Ryan.
There wasn’t really a Leaf I would say struggled, except maybe Kapanen and Ceci. Even then I would not say they were terrible.
A lot of the new Leafs looked great. Sandin made the same small, quiet plays we’ve come to expect. Mikheyev had two points and was part of an effective looking third line. Barrie looked dynamic at times, but maybe a little too trigger happy with his shot. I don’t want to get carried away because it was against the Senators after all, but that’s a great start overall for the Leafs.
GO LEAFS GO!
Which new Leaf impressed you the most?