Game review n. 53: Toronto Maple Leafs 5 against Ottawa Senators 4

"It was fun, eh, but stupid."

That early October 2017 quote by Mike Babcock after the 8-5 victory over the Rangers was certainly applied last night when the Toronto Maple Leafs challenged to win an uncertain comer and go back and forth with Ottawa senators on Wednesday evening.

Your game in ten:

1. A showdown among senators of the worst league and maple maple Leafs? This provincial imbalance laid the foundation for the game's ten-minute opening when Toronto dominated the flow of the game. The time of possession and shooting attempts were strongly in favor of the Leafs, culminating in a beautiful Mitch Marner who has passed the race for a touch of a striped Hyman. Unfortunately, Toronto was guilty of having taken the foot off the pedal for long stretches at a later date, allowing the senators to return, take the lead, and then return to play after 4-2 in Toronto because of some disengaged, defensive-disarmed and non-detailed playing periods by the Leafs. The victory of The Ducks was a step in the right direction, but the Leafs still need to understand how to dispose of a lukewarm opposition like this in a business-like way.

The senators were the ones who worked the most: they had almost 60% chance of scoring and high-risk opportunities, but against this Leafs team, they lost their talent in the 60 minutes.

2. The senators arrived strong in the second half of the first period and marked their first of the night in a race to the center of Magnus Paajarvi. A non-existent gap control with the Gardiner-Zaitsev coupling – not unlike the 3-1 goal against Anaheim – left the ice too open for senators to advance and pass directly into the net. At the beginning of the second, Gardiner launched a reckless backhand (attempted elimination?) Along the lines intercepted by Ryan Dzingel. Dzingel's shot attempt rebounded on Zaitsev's face directly to Matt Duchene, who made no mistake to put Ottawa in a 2-1 lead.

It was a tough night for the Gardiner-Zaitsev mating, to say the least. It is a combination that has had some success when deployed with favorable offensive starts. However, they can be an adventure in their own end and often it is not so smooth to get out of the end of Leafs with this pairing on ice.

Data updated to 18 November

This match was in progress for 8 of Ottawa's 15 high-risk occasions in the game. Gardiner generally positively distinguishes itself from its high-risk and high-performance gambling style, so you can live with occasional bites or defensive slips, but this season, when on the ice with Zaitsev, mating does not stop either. shooting, shots or goals shared on 5v5. This pairing has been an extra staple due to the lack of better options than its effectiveness as a pair. At this point, Zaitsev seems to be at best a "defensive defender" who can kill but must be protected by quality competition.

3. Fortunately, the addition of Jake Muzzin offers them some valid options that they simply did not have in 2017-18. So far, the combination of Muzzin-Rielly seems to be a top match valid for all situations. The Dermott-Hainsey pairing was fantastic, finishing the game as the main pair in terms of shot shares. We also saw Babcock recently deploy a Gardiner-Demott duo in offensive situations with some success.

So, what is the best option for Leafs if no further changes are made to the blue line? You could use Dermott-Hainsey more often as a second choice, but Dermott only played one round in the last 10 minutes last night and still does not seem to fully trust Babcock. You wonder if Babcock at least tries Gardiner – Hainsey / Dermott – Zaitsev to see how he looks before the playoffs. It risks going from two work pairs to one, but the goal is to have three postseason work pairs.

4. Su Muzzin himself: another solid result of the most recent acquisition of Leafs. He had a couple of big blocks in this game, including a dive effort in the middle of the second while Toronto was struggling to find his legs. Muzzin checks a bunch of boxes that were missing from the Leaf: physical play, high-point shooting, and absolutely epic chin curtain. Above all, it provides a reliable defensive effort on a night-time basis, whether it's blocking shots, boxing / tying, or its ability to win battles with records.

According to the data tracked by The Point, Muzzin is in second place in the championship in the battles with puck won / game behind only Mark Giordano in this sense. Not surprisingly if you look at it closely during a game. The Leaf has really faced a needy glare head here up to a defender who can break cycles and pass the disk.

5. William Nylander has continued his strong game recently with his performance in this game. He hits the ice with the balance that characterizes his game when he is "active", feeding Kadri for seven minutes in the first for what would have been a tap-in if it had not been for some acrobatics by Craig Anderson. When Nylander is at his best, control the pace of the game by keeping possession with a slippery and deceptive game and deceptive force on the disc.

He had quite a few of these moments tonight that usually end with a perfect plate for the open man. It really seems to have turned the corner.

6. Despite their evil ending for the first / beginning of the second, the Leafs have shown why they are so dangerous – and able to win with partial efforts thanks to the presence of stars and different actors up and down the linieup – with three goal exactly in the four minutes near the end of the second. The Toronto wave began with Andreas Johnsson who cleaned up a Ceci tribute to the network to extend his recent series of victories. This earned him a promotion for the Kadri line in the third period.

In his rookie season, Johnsson is walking for a season of 23 goals, 47 points in less than 13 minutes of average ice. His P / 60 of 2.47 with the same points puts him fourth in the team behind Tavares, Marner and Matthews. Johnsson deserves a place in the top nine and it's hard to argue that it should not come at the expense of Connor Brown. That said, Brown has formed an effective trio with Kadri and Nylander in recent games. It will be interesting to see where Babcock finally comes to this decision. Based on your statements from yesterday, you're not entirely sure what the right answer is here. Good problems to have.

7. The goal of the go-ahead was a fantastic solo by Auston Matthews and a punctual reminder of Leafs fans were lucky to have him stuck in the foreseeable future of the franchise. He took the pocket of an Ottawa player in the neutral zone and headed straight for the slot. A recovery of the finger forward and the record later, he was covering it with Anderson to give Toronto full momentum. When it has a steam head, the ice tilts and the disc sticks to it only thanks to that rare combination of power, reach and skill of the elite record.

Matthews is the most dominant when he is completely engaged away from the puck through the pursuit of the puck and stealth stick attacks that help Leafs' transition to offense. A key to the growth of his game will reach this level of involvement on a consistent basis.

8. Fortunately, he has one of the best in the game to know the consistency of John Tavares. Tavares has remounted the Leafs for 4-2, another beautiful comedy orchestrated by Mitch Marner. The narrative that his success this year depends on Marner is seriously underestimating the impact that Tavares has had himself. The duo was lethal due to a mutually beneficial relationship as Tavares opens up so much space for Marner to work. For what it's worth, Tavares was the most consistent Leaf in a night-out, night-out campaign, generating shots in the slot with a pace only surpassed by Nathan MacKinnon.

9. Unfortunately, the Leafs allowed the senators to return to the field with a sloppy start on the third and a couple of quick goals. Again, Toronto responded with a goal out of a hurry. A fantastic sequence led by Rielly culminated in the 14 bluelinerth goal of the season, setting a career high in points with 53 with 29 games remaining. Norris' dream season continues for Rielly with some of Toronto's record firmly in the crosshairs.

The winning goal sequence was similar to the one we saw from Rielly this season: it starts with a good defensive action, the ice explodes from the other side and then ends the game on the other side.

10. I will not speak in any contract, because there are more than enough in these days, including a ton of fantastic analysis of the Matthews contract with all its exciting and terrifying implications. Inevitably, the MSM will now focus on the Marner contract in their interminable research to increase the collective blood pressure of Leafs Nation. I would encourage our readers to overcome this noise and try to enjoy this Leafs team for what it is the rest of the season – one of the best collections of elite talent that most of us will see in our lives as fans of this franchise.

They will not be perfect. They will not always dominate the teams they should. They will have their highs and lows just like any other "good" team in the NHL. They will win games that are not really masterpieces (like last night) based solely on their skills. Ultimately, their legacy as a team will be determined by their success in the postseason. But to date, for all their warts and perceived shortcomings, they are the fourth place in the NHL, and it's easy to forget that they're only going better.

In Matthews and Marner the Leafs they have two budding superstars with an unrealized upside. Perhaps more importantly, they have two young players who are entirely dedicated to improving their game and bringing a championship to this city. Professional sports are full of empty banalities and words, but these guys are sincere when they declare their desire to win here in Toronto and their appreciation for fans of this city. Of course, there is a prejudice influenced by the interaction on my part (in the photo below), but I have no doubt that they will be here until the city has them.

A friend of MLHS, Auston Matthews, who gave his seal of approval to the next generation of Leafs Nation

Mike Babcock Post Game

Mike Babcock spoke to the media after his team won 5-4 against the Ottawa senators on Wednesday night, the fourth victory of the Leafs in the last five games (4-0-1).

The opening of Babcock: "It was fun, eh? The fans were happy, too funny for the coach."

On what brought the game to open up so much:

Probably lost balls. The bottom line is that we thought we were really ready to play. I thought we'd started and thought we were playing well, and then we were careless and never seemed able to recover it. At the same time, when you are a good team and you win games, sometimes they are not very nice, but you win anyway. In the end, when we get up tomorrow and look at the rankings, it will look pretty good.

On the multi-point night of Zach Hyman:

I thought he had played hard and done a good job. Play hard most of the time. It's nice to see when the kids are rewarded. I thought the Goat line was very nice tonight too. Little John let us go in the second when the wheels broke off. I thought it was good. I mean, Freddy, at some point, had to do a few saves in a row. We found a way to win a game. I did not think … I thought we started big. I thought we were organized. I thought we were good. And then, in the end, we were not as good as we wanted. But I think that suddenly we now have points in five points and it seems that they are going in the right direction.

On Frederik Andersen's pad stack save:

When you start to make the rescue when you are lying on your back and the disc is behind the net, it will probably be bad, but it kept him off, so good for him.


Condensed play

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