Five games into the season the Leafs are 4-1-0 and have scored 26 goals in those five games. That is good. It’s also an extremely limited sample size, so it would be silly to draw any strong conclusions from data at this point. Due to this, I’m going to stray from my usual statistically inclined writing style and try my hand at a little video breakdown. This piece will focus on Saturday night’s overtime win over the Canadiens and, more specifically, the plays which led to each goal for and against.
Petry from Drouin and Lehkonen: 1-0 Canadiens
Jonathan Drouin enters the zone with speed, but the Leafs have everyone back and they should be safe. Jake Gardiner is keeping a good gap on Drouin and all the other Leafs on the ice have to do is pick up their man.
The problem is this is the JvR-Bozak-Marner line and they aren’t known for their defensive zone prowess, to say the least. Marner gets caught puck watching and starts gliding toward Drouin.
Marner goes down to cover a pass to the middle of the ice, for some reason, and Gardiner doesn’t know what he should be doing now. Drouin knows that Jeff Petry is stepping over the line and the guy who is supposed to be covering him is on the ground in front of him, so he gives Petry a pass he can step into.
Petry does just that and the puck finds its way into the Leaf net. It’s a long range, low percentage shot, to be sure, but it was still very easily avoidable. Even the camera guy ISOs in on Marner like “Mitchell, ilu, but c’mon man.”
van Riemsdyk (unassisted): 1-1
Not much to say for this one, so here’s a GIF and that’s it. Lost offensive zone draw, goes off of a Canadiens defender straight to JvR who fools Carey Price with a soft knuckler along the ice. The JvR-Bozak-Marner line makes up for their mistake on the first goal against!
Matthews (unassisted): 2-1 Leafs
This one starts with a nice little saucer pass from Frederik Andersen past the forechecker right on the tape of Auston Matthews along the boards, who has some space to work with.
Matthews curls and begins accelerating when the forechecker (Charles Hudon) comes across to pressure him at the blueline.
Matthews saucers it past him, into the wide open neutral zone, and takes off after the puck.
Jordie Benn hesitates, but eventually decides to step up at the blueline and clear the puck toward the boards and away from a streaking Matthews. The puck is in the air heading toward the desired location and Benn and the Canadiens are safe, right?
Lol, nope. Matthews has some of the best hand-eye coordination I’ve ever seen on the ice in terms of knocking pucks down with his stick. He shows that skill off yet again here, in full speed, and he’s now one on one with Brandon Davidson from the blueline in.
Davidson does a pretty decent job of keeping his stick in position to force Matthews out wide and the forward is providing the back pressure.
Unfortunately for Davidson and the Canadiens, Matthews can rip a shot from virtually anywhere at any time under any circumstance. In this specific instance, he drags the puck by Davidson’s outstretched stick toward Matthews’ own front foot and lets it go, all in one motion, effectively turning Davidson into a screen. Price was oddly out of position and he gets beat clean.
This is art.
Galchenyuk from Hudon (PPG): 2-2
This play starts off with Zach Hyman picking off a Charles Hudon pass in the neutral zone. It looks like Hyman is going to be able to simply clear the puck down the ice and force the Habs to attempt to enter the zone again.
Unfortunately for Hyman, the puck is on his backhand and he bobbles it into Alex Galchenyuk’s feet, forcing a turnover.
Hudon gets the puck in the mess of players along the boards at the blueline and it looks like everything is fine, right?
Until you notice that Andreas Borgman is taking the man along the boards, while the puck squirts out into the middle to a streaking Galchenyuk who is now on a 2 on 1 from the blueline in on Morgan Rielly.
Leo Komarov makes a valiant effort to get back and cover for his defender, but Galchenyuk is out of reach and he’s keeping all the way.
Galchenyuk makes no mistake, firing it between the blocker and the pad, off the far post and in.
Drouin from Alzer: 3-2 Habs
Rielly has the puck with speed and room to skate in his own end and all is well.
Until he decides to throw the puck around the boards toward Marner at hip height for some reason.
The puck inevitably gets by Marner and right onto Karl Alzner’s stick at the blueline, which is usually still fine because he’s Karl Alzner and he’s not much of a threat with the puck on his stick. Except when JvR-Bozak-Marner is on the ice in their own end. Colton Orr would be an immediate threat in this situation somehow.
Bozak, the centreman, was curling hoping for the exit pass, so he’s headed right toward Alzner. Alzner with the puck at the offensive blueline under pressure? Game over. The Leafs have pretty much been handed the puck.
Wait, what?! Alzner dances Bozak and Bozak waves his stick at him and curls away. Classic fly by.
This wouldn’t have been a huge issue, except that JvR and Rielly are both puck watching and neither is even close to covering Drouin in the slot. Between JvR, Rielly and Bozak, not one of them are covering anybody or even getting in the passing lane. Alzner makes a nice slap pass to Drouin who tips it home.
Marleau from Kadri: 3-3
Marleau retrieves the puck in the corner after a Borgman point shot and Komarov heads to the slot while Kadri heads below the goal line to start the cycle.
Kadri takes a peak over his shoulder to see where Komarov is as he goes to retrieve the puck with Petry right on him. He sees that Komarov is uncovered and heading around the other side of the net.
Kadri smartly lets the puck slide by him while Petry takes him into the boards and Komarov has the puck with room to swing out around the far post for a wraparound.
He does just that and Price is thrown off due to having to look over his shoulder on either side too many times in too short of time. The puck gets lost in between Price’s feet and he just spins sideways hoping to kick the puck out. He’s successful, but the puck is now loose in the crease behind him and he can’t find it.
Now it’s just pure chaos in the crease. Kadri tried to jam it in, but Price used witchcraft while reaching behind him and stopping it with his glove while still having no clue where the puck is. Marleau now takes a crack at it and it just finds its way over the line.
Highlight of the night candidate.
Matthews from Nylander (OT winner): 4-3 Leafs final
Matthews-Nylander-Gardiner on the ice for 3 on 3 hockey is what I live for. Glad we got that out of the way.
The play starts with Andersen making a big blocker save after a weak rebound bounced off Gardiner’s butt and back on net.
Nylander picks the puck up with speed and the Canadiens have two forwards deep which, during 3 on 3, means the Leafs have a 2 on 1 the other way. Matthews and Nylander are the attackers. This is good.
This is a very good situation for the Leafs. Petry isn’t taking Matthews and Nylander has space to hit Matthews with a tonne of speed and space to make a shot.
Nylander makes a sweet saucer pass and Matthews is in alone. This thing was over at this point.
Matthews knocks down the pass and immediately rips it short side high on Price for his second OT winner of the week. Hold me.
*infinite heart eye + crying emojis*
I’ll just leave this here so you can watch it on loop.