LEAFS POSTGAME: Breezy Season Approaching

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Florida Panthers were in town for the second time this season to play our Toronto Maple Leafs Leafs. Toronto won the first contest 3-2.

Seth Griffith returns to town after his short stint in Toronto. Here’s a post I wrote the other day on him. A little bit of self promotion never hurt anyone right?

Here’s how the game went:

1st period

The first period started off physically with Auston Matthews taking a scary looking hit, but he recovered fine. Shortly after, he whipped a puck just wide of the net adding to his shooting luck troubles.

Later on, Connor Brown tipped a Morgan Rielly point shot past James Reimer for the first goal of the game. The goal was originally waved off for being a high stick, but after review the referees determined that Brown’s stick was underneath the crossbar and, thus, a good goal.

The broadcasters continued to bring up Ben Smith’s faceoff ability on the penalty kill, so I’m just going to toss this piece I wrote in here. A lot of self-promotion still didn’t hurt anyone… right? 

The Panthers’ interesting European free agent pickup Malgin and trade steal McCann later set up the 40-year-old 20-year-old Aaron Ekblad to tie the game on a pass from behind the net that was fired far side on Andersen.

Connor Brown comes back on a really good zone entry, escaping a hit, and a soft shot/pass slips past James Reimer for Brown’s second of the night.

And not long after, Mitch Marner picks up a chip out of the zone, with Michael Matheson all over him, and dances a beautiful deke around Reimer for his 16th point in his 17th game. It was a highlight reel goal without a doubt. Not to take anything away from this beautiful goal, but if Matheson stands his ground in front of the net instead of being half way to the end boards before Marner has even shot, I’m not sure Marner is successful in coming back across the net to score. 

The period ended with the Leafs leading 3-1.

2nd period

The period started off with the 1st defense pair getting caught in their own zone for a long time, with no support from the Leafs’ worst defensive forward line of JVR-Bozak-Marner. They played 2:30 of consecutive hockey before Van Riemsdyk was finally able to get across the red line and dump the puck in.

The Leafs kept their offensive magic going though, with Connor Brown feeding Leo Komarov for a somewhat strange goal that floats past Reimer on the rush. Brown’s 3rd point of a great night for him.

Andersen had a really strong period as well as he made a couple great saves on the penalty kill keepiing the Leafs lead at 3.

Score effects started to creep into the game as the Panthers were closing the gap in shots, but the Leafs were holding strong.

With just over a minute left, Dylan McIlrath coughs up a real blueberry muffin of a D-to-D pass which Van Riemsdyk picks up on the forecheck and buries a quick shot through Reimer’s 5 hole. Probably another stoppable shot for James on a pretty rough night for him.

The second period ended with the Leafs on a powerplay on an incredibly soft interference call against Ekblad. 

Leafs up 5-1 after 40 minutes.

3rd period

This period we saw a slow start from the Leafs, as can be expected when you’re up by four goals. The Panthers evened out the shots after the Leafs had held a solid gap for most of the game. Nothing surprising from what we know about score effects.

One note I wanted to make is that often times we joke about Jaromir Jagr, but I don’t think enough people really are appreciating the fact that we’re probably witnessing him take 2nd in all time points. We’ll likely never see anyone again approaching the numbers that guys like him produced. So I wanted to sit back and think about how awesome that is.

Back to the game that was at hand, the Leafs were having a penchant for chipping the puck out in this game, which had a lot to do with the Panthers climbing back in shots. Allowing ~40 shots-on-goal a game in their last 7, the Leafs were able to keep that number at just the 20 for the first half of the 3rd. 

Gardiner takes a somewhat dumb interference penalty against Denis Malgin, but the Leafs were able to kill it off. Connor Brown was out there on the penalty kill, and found Gardiner coming out of the box for a breakaway goal. 4th point for Brown. 

Shortly after, Brown had a nice shot at the hat trick that was stopped by Reimer to keep him at just the 2 goals.

The Leafs would walk away with the 6-1 win.


Clearly the Leafs dominated this game, but there are still some critiques. As I mentioned, I thought the Leafs were too reliant on chipping the puck out for zone exits tonight. The Hunwick-Polak pair got as caved in as expected, but suffered from some tough zone starts contributing to that. The Bozak line also had yet another really bad possession night, despite scoring the 2 goals to continue their offensive dominance. 

I also thought the Panthers’ Matheson had a really good game apart from the small mistake I noted above on Marner’s goal.

My three stars for tonight’s game:

  1. Connor Brown (4 points, 2 goals)
  2. Frederik Andersen (0.964 save %)
  3. Jake Gardiner (1 goal, 77% 5v5 CF%)

The Leafs return to action on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.