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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Postgame: No Sympathy for the Devils

Babcock wants the Leafs to play more machine-like and they certainly had that in mind as they trampled the New Jersey Devils in their home arena.

The Leafs were able to execute this game like it was so damn easy – going through the motions but able to play their high-danger game and completely run over a struggling opponent. Causing Kinkaid to get the hook mid-game, the Leafs were able to score all the way throughout the lineup – Ennis scoring two, Matthews, Tavares, Marner, Rielly, and Marleau with the goals.

A special game for Leafs elder Patrick Marleau as he was able to score his 544th career goal, tying Rocket Richard for 30th in all-time goals.

Not the most exciting game overall, but you almost feel bad for how badly the Leafs were able to steamroll the Devils. Everything was so precise in its execution, the Leafs controlled the play for most of the game.

First Period

After a quick and an early penalty kill that denied the Devils any shots, the Leafs were able to sustain some solid pressure in the offensive zone that earned them a powerplay of their own. After a little back and forth towards the end of the man advantage, the Leafs were absolutely gifted a 3-on-1 rush from a beautiful play by Morgan Rielly.

Some skillful stick work that was able to break up a Devils odd-man rush and moving the puck up the ice to a Tavares, Matthews, and Kadri rush. Of course, that was going to lead to a goal.

Technically an even-strength goal for Tavares, this play was beautifully orchestrated and the Devils defenceman and goaltender were helpless.

Speaking of helpless, the Devils as a whole really are helpless against this Leafs offense. Some quick cycling and pressure in the offensive zone lead to an extremely chippy goal in front of the net from Auston Matthews.

It was initially under review for goaltender interference, but that was seen inconclusive, so it’s a good goal and the Leafs have doubled their lead in the first ten minutes of the game. This was foreshadowing for the entire night.

The Leafs continue to just completely run over the Devils this period. Like a bulldozer that has its brakes cut, all four lines are able to dominate possession and really make use of it. Including putting in the back of the net…again.

Patty Marleau gets his 544th career goal! Tying with the dirty Hab Rocket Richard at 30th in all-time goals – what a career and he’s only this good because he’s a Leaf. The goal itself wasn’t pretty, but it will do to have the Leafs up 3-0 with just a few minutes left in the first.

That three-goal lead didn’t last too long, the Devils were able to come back and get a sneaky shot on goal from defenceman Sami Vatanen. Rising all the way into the back of the net, the Devils blueliner was able to pick the top corner beautifully and beat Andersen.

Nothing really to complain about that goal – a pretty goal from the Finnish back – luckily doesn’t hit anyone on the way and was able to cleanly turn into a goal to cut the lead to just two. This finishes the first period for this game, Leafs up 3-1.

Second Period

The Devils opened the period with a solid shift, hemming the Leafs in their own zone and getting some good cycling going on. But of course when you’re facing the Leafs, you can try all you want, but they’ll come and just score a random goal on you. So they did just that.

Able to enter the zone with ease, Marner set up Tavares with a beautiful drop pass and able to bury his rebound. He should have really went and hit some guys later in that shift, that’s what captains do. Leafs up 4-1 at this point.

Both teams were able to get some powerplay opportunities in the middle of this period, but either bad luck or completely screwing up some scoring chances led to neither team scoring on the man advantage.

This was a peak Leafs period overall. Some lucky breaks gifted them some goals from their more-skilled players and Freddy Andersen was able to completely rob some goals from the opposition. Andersen was able to securely grab the puck on a breakaway scoring chance like it was nothing. The blueline was able to make some smart stretch passes as well, launching the offense from the back and able to sustain some pressure while the Devils were trapped in their own zone. It was beautiful.

Right at the dying moments of the period, our beautiful captain material defenceman Morgan Rielly was able to bury the puck bar-down and destroy any hope that the Devils have. Leafs leading 5-1 after 40 minutes.

Third Period

The Leafs destroyed the Devils’ hopes so good that Keith Kinkaid had to get pulled in favour of Barrie Colts legend Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood is making his NHL debut against a red-hot Leafs team in the third period.

Score effects are definitely a thing and you could see it with the Leafs throughout the start to this period. They weren’t really going for the high-danger chances and letting the game come to them. Any scoring chances coming their way was from hard work and sustained pressure in the offensive zone – very machine-like for what Babcock wants.

Throughout the whole third period, both teams just seemed to go through the motions and nothing significant really happened. This could be, again, because the Leafs were holding a four-goal lead but even with the massive lead, they were still able to control the shot share. They never really were on their heels necessarily, but they always chose the safer option offensively.

Even though they gave up a weird goal within the last five minutes to the Hall-Hischier combination, the Leafs didn’t really let the Devils completely dominate for any period of play. Especially that they were able to net their sixth goal of the game from the fourth line.

And Ennis wasn’t even done at this point – scoring another goal just moments after he was able to score his sixth.

Now with seven goals on the season, Tyler Ennis has really given all of his value so far this season. Looking really tight in the bottom-six, he’s got some goal-scoring threat that the Leafs really missed down the lineup.

The scoreline really reflects how this game went, the Leafs completely dominated the Devils and were so damn casual about it. Nonchalantly destroying a team that already has no hope for their season.

Leafs win 7-2.

Final Thoughts

It’s a good sign that the Leafs did not even let in a goal towards the end of the game – the narrative that they give up leads is just slightly closer to being completely dead. Especially that Tyler Ennis was able to put that thought to bed with two quick goals to close out the game, making the scoreline look a little bit better than just a 5-2 win.

This was a battle of high-danger chances – the Leafs being their usual selves and not even attempting a shot until they’re within just feet of the opposing goalie.

via naturalstattrick.com

The Devils were able to somewhat match the Leafs in pure numbers, but just looking at where both teams were able to attempt their shots, the Leafs were really able to get some good chances. Basically getting handed the ice right in front of Kinkaid and they were able to score some significant goals just inches from the goaltender.

Kadri stole the show with three assists tonight, but the Leafs were able to really demonstrate their offensive balance down the lineup. Six players with seven different goals and only seven players left the game without a point. Brown with three assists, Tavares and Matthews each with a goal and an assist, even Par Lindholm was able to net a point – the Leafs were an offensive dynamo no matter who was on the ice.

An extremely strong showing against the struggling Devils will surely make people shut the hell up about any unwarranted negativity. Enjoy this team because it is a fucking joy to watch.

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