Rumors of the Maple Leafs’ demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Four of four points against the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes (in a back-to-back situation) without conceding a single goal in five-a-side and their third goalie at the net for four of the six periods is no small feat.
Doing their best against top competition — with frustrating games pitting them against weaker competition — remains the hallmark of this Leafs team in the first dozen games of the 2022-23 season.
Your game in 10:
1. Sheldon Keefe walked the fourth line early in the game (and every period thereafter), which is notable for a few reasons aside from the fact that the line gave the Leafs some really solid minutes, a goal and a couple of penalties during those three -Game winning streak.
The Leafs have struggled in recent years to find consistent traction with a four-line combo. Part of that was the awkward mix of personnel they deployed down there, and another factor might be the Ice Age spread on a team where Matthews and Marner under Keefe are Ice Age top 5 in the league for forwards, what they leave fewer minutes behind and make it harder to consistently gain a foothold in games. However, sometimes it’s not even just about actual overall TOI, it’s also about making them feel important early on and involved in the game/period, which Keefe is currently making a collaborative effort to do.
That fourth line gave the Leafs their first good change of game after 15 minutes, when they owned the puck for a spell in the O-Zone and attacked the net thanks to a nice cut from the inside Denis Malgin at the bottom. That led to the icing on the cake, after which the Austin Matthews Line came out – it came to nothing, but it’s exactly the kind of momentum-shifting, win-your-matchup, set-the-table-for-the-top-lines kind of shift you’d expect from a fourth line .
2. Sometimes the team that played the night before can jump early on in a tackle on a rested opponent, but the Canes are such a well-prepared, structured and hard-working team under Rod Brind’Amour that it’s probably going to be not happen. This was not the case in the first section as the ice sloped in favor of the canes.
The Leafs had just two shots on goal in the first 15 minutes. However, they avoided the multi-goal deficit scenario by maintaining good structure and attention to detail on the defensive end. There weren’t too many Class A chances conceded and there were the hands – and the goalkeeper Erik Kalgren after conceding a bad first goal – a chance to get back into the game.
Especially in a duel that’s something of a loss of plan – or at least a “point would be nice” scenario – a good team sometimes has to get through a sleazy first phase on the road without putting themselves out of contention. and the Leafs did so by defending well and being patient in this game.
3. Carolina’s 1-0 goal on the power play came from a Justin Holl Cross-checking penalty that the umpire closest to the infraction failed to mark — it was the center ice official who made the decision. TSN color commentator Mike Johnson dropped a good line that summed it up perfectly: “It is a cross-check, but if you called every one of those cross-checks you would have a lot of penalties in play.
Ultimately, it was just a weak goal Erik Kalgren that must be stopped at his near post. Kallgren settled in really well after a tough first goal against and outplayed Frederik Andersen at the other end of the 60 minutes.
4. With still little to do at halftime in the game but the team staying within striking distance, Sheldon Keefe made a good decision (some might say long overdue, but better late than never) by shaking up the lines and moving Austin Matthews away from Mitch Marner. He ran Kerfoot – Matthews – Nylander / Robertson – Tavares – Marner / Bunting – Engvall – Jarnkrok while holding the effective fourth line together.
The spark helped the Leafs generate their late push in the second period, leading to the equalizer Jarnkrok Street after generating consecutive shifts in the offensive zone for the first time in the game.
5. Speaking of Calle Jarnkork Goal, we saw him score twice in the same game just like he did against Ottawa back in preseason – quick up and off the stick to the other side of the net (left side as a right hand shot) from a stoppage in the slot. You can see why he’s managed to get himself into the 15+ goal zone year after year despite a lack of momentum on offense.
⚠️ Järny in space ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/MlmN2jxzKz
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 6, 2022
6. Justin Holl deserves a lot of credit for the resilience of a player that he has proven over the years. We’ve all known the unlikely tale of his rise from the ECHL, his success with the Marlies (including a massive role in winning the Calder Cup) and the whole season of healthy scratches he endured under Mike Babcock. After being one-half of a truly effective shutdown pairing with Jake Muzzin in 2020-21, some ups and downs – particularly early on the schedule the last two seasons – have seemingly anchored him as the Leafs Nation’s resident whipboy on defense ( there must always be one!).
Holl was the target of scattered boos from the home crowd against Philadelphia on Wednesday, but he continues to compete for the team, playing over 20 minutes a game against good competition (including great PK responsibility), fighting hard, blocking shots and finding one Opportunity to come out of this tough weekend as a plus three. He played a direct role in the Leafs’ 1-1 goal, jumping on offense and then scoring a big hit to keep the game alive on the boards Pierre Engvall configuration Calle Jarnkork in slot. Holl still has the only goal by a Leafs defenseman in 12 games.
Holl’s game has settled down since Keefe and Dean Chynoweth made a good adjustment by moving him alongside TJ Brodiea movement supported by Timothy Liljegren turn it around so that the other two pairings can also snap in around it.
7. Fortunately, it was the team’s deep lines that really got the team going in this game – with shifts on offense, chances and the 1-1 goal.
In line with center and winger (David fight & Zach Aston Reese) who can grind, defend well, forecheck and is decent enough on transitions, the fourth line is laying up the puck Denis Malgin‘s stick in the offensive zone in matchups against checking lines, and it might just be a nice sweet spot the Leafs coaching staff worked out of him. Nor is that to take away from the appreciation for Malgin’s hunger he has shown chasing pucks – he had a great pre-check to capture a puck and then hauled a penalty in the second period. His five shots on goal in two thirds were three more than the big five (Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares, Rielly) combined.
The Leafs’ ZAR – Fight – Malgin line led the team with over 70% of expected goals, beating the opposition 9-2 at 5v5.
8th. After 40 minutes of offensive silence from the Leafs’ best players, their difference makers put them over the top after solid team defense, goalies and deep scoring kept them in the game.
After the Leafs started the third half without a shot for nearly nine minutes, Mitch Marner made a game with Mitch Marner to prepare John Tavares’ game-winning 2-1 goal. Tavares did a great job catching the puck in the neutral zone to get the sequence going (TJ Brodie also kindly refused an entry shortly before). It was the fourth line that preceded that goal with a severe, grueling ozone shift.
These magic gloves 👀🪄 pic.twitter.com/B4QJyzQgxD
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 7, 2022
This was a tight game, just like against Boston, and when Carolina finally worked their way into a half opening offensively, they just couldn’t find the decisive touch or finish around the net. The Leafs stayed here all night and were more opportunistic when it came down to it.
9. It should also be noted that while they basically played nothing offensively for the vast majority of the game, the Leafs’ top players struggled and tended to their details defensively. Austin Matthews made a critical defensive play in the crease to prevent a 2-2 equalizer. Mitch MArner‘s backcheck early in the game prevented a clear break at a time when the Leafs could have been in a deeper early hole. Wilhelm NylanderHis second and third attempts at the insurance goal ended the game, and he also did a good stick lift to stop a scoring opportunity a little earlier.
With that dedication from the top players, even on a night when they’re not really up to the task offensively, you put yourself in a position to get a few points away from a good team in a bad situation.
10 More credit for Keefe’s bench management in this back-to-back game in a tight spot: Despite tracking the game for about 30 minutes between the middle of the first third and late second, he kept the minutes truly balanced across his four rows and three defense pairs. In a game with light on special teams time, all 12 forwards were between 11:01 and 18:53. He rewarded his deep lines for giving the team the best minutes in the first two legs, lit the top six a little with a line shake, and then the Stars had enough gas in the tank to find a nudge in the third the team over the top.
Heatmap: 5v5 shot attempts
Gameplay: 5v5 shot attempts
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