The Toronto Maple Leafs scored a goal! They won a game! The clouds have parted over the GTA and anything is possible now. Let’s look back at Toronto’s 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in game two of their best-of-five series.
When it comes to evaluating the winners and losers from each game, it’s pretty much just arbitrary from me. I’ll incorporate some stats and narratives relevant to the series, but it’s mostly based on how I felt during the game. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The man of the hour, the one that broke the goose-egg, after five grueling periods against the Blue Jackets, of course it was Auston Matthews who got the Leafs off the line. This goal was several scoring chances in the making, the Matthews and Tavares lines were utterly relentless throughout the game and Matthews was the first to be rewarded after tipping in Zach Hyman’s leading pass to him.
Starting from the defensive zone and skating all the way in pic.twitter.com/dNUq7LBqb7— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
It wasn’t an especially creative goal or one that took something special to go in. This was the result of volume. Surely at some point the puck was going to find a speed, direction, and angle that beat Joonas Korpisalo. While for much of the second period Leafs fans were dejected into believing Korpisalo was going for a second shutout — I think Arvind even described Korpisalo as having horseshoes up his ass on the latest B2E Podcast — eventually something was going to go in and it just happened to be this shot.
The numbers say it all for Mr. T. Captain John? John Blue? Mr. T.
At 5v5, five shots, seven shot attempts, six scoring chances, 0.51 expected goals. All top of the charts for the Leafs (both teams, actually).
Across all situations, JT put eight shots on net and had an expected goals of 1.21, a performance he matched only once this season in a game against the Flyers in early December where he also found 0.7 expected goals on the power play. Relative to playoff performances, this wasn’t even Tavares’ best performance in a Leaf uniform. He generated 1.32 expected goals in Game 1 against the Bruins last year on six shots. He scored once in the 4-1 win.
It was agonizing watching Tavares during the game, because we all knew in our hearts that he deserved a game and that it would be an utter tragedy if he didn’t get rewarded for his amazing effort all afternoon. So glad he got the goal, he was determined to get it one way or another. Did anyone else have their jaw drop when they realized there was no one in front of Tavares but the goalie? I was not expecting it at all.
The Leafs would not have won this game without the efforts of Morgan Rielly on several occasions. Among the players who did absolutely everything it took with a preschool supporting cast around him, Rielly was at the top of the list for both teams.
He dragged the second power play unit into the offensive zone and was even found behind the net a few times trying to create some offense while the top unit was on the bench resting up. He was much more active in the defensive zone than in Game 1, which is saying a lot. He was hard on the puck, diving to make plays in front of and behind Frederik Andersen. And then he scored the empty-net goal to seal it! Rielly really deserves every bit of credit you can give him and more.
Rielly stung by a blocked shot pic.twitter.com/difWD5RuZ4— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 4, 2020
By the numbers, Rielly led the Leafs in 5v5 minutes (15:52) and all-situations minutes (24:37), was a 61% shot share, 62% expected goals, and 67% of the scoring chances when he was on the ice. Including the Montreal game, Rielly has two goals and four points in his last three games.
All throughout the game you could see the effort Rielly was putting into his shifts and everything he was trying to keep the pressure on the Blue Jackets and give the Leafs good chances. It was heartbreaking to see him on the second power play unit because with all due respect to Jason Spezza and Nick Robertson, he deserves to be on the top unit. I don’t know if it’s politics or that we’ll realize Barrie is completely useless if he’s not on the top unit, but Rielly has earned that role on merit.
In summary, when the Leafs are full-send, Morgan Rielly is probably their best defenseman.
Morgan Rielly doesn't get enough love in this town. Even if he gets a lot of love, he still doesn't get enough.— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) August 4, 2020
Got the shutout! What more can we say? He had one job and he bloody did it perfectly. Four high-danger shots, 10 medium-danger shots, and six low-danger shots, all saved.
Two penalties and the worst Corsi in the game (28%) isn’t what you’d expect from the defensive specialist captain of the Blue Jackets. Foligno had an awful night. The only player with a worse expected goals than his 17% was linemate Alexander Wennberg who sports an impressive 8%. Big “L” for Foligno, who I felt embodied the Blue Jackets in this game; overwhelmed and easily exposed when they had to push.
The Leafs Power Play
The power play went 0/5 in this game, and while Tavares and Nylander really led the way with some high-value chances, they still need to find a way to break through. Get the puck low and stop pissing around with shots from the edges. Tavares can do it, Nylander can do it, Matthews can do it. Get the puck to them and see if skilled chaos reigns. Oh, and don’t let Tyson Barrie shoot. Or just put Rielly back there. Please.
With Don Cherry finally run out of town, Mike Milbury currently holds the trophy for biggest loser in the NHL. Congratulations.
Mike Milbury asked if Jake Muzzin was staying down on the ice in order to get his team a whistle. He followed it up with “But I don’t want to question his integrity.”— Melissa Burgess (@_MelissaBurgess) August 4, 2020
Muzzin had to be stretchered off the ice.
Mike Milbury should not have a job in hockey, @NHLonNBCSports.