After stealing a game in Boston last night, the pendulum came full swung for the Toronto Maple Leafs versus Colorado on Sunday.
1) Looking to jump on a fragile Avalanche team early, it’s hard to have a better first period than the Leafs did in this game. They led 20-8 in shots and 32-9 in 5v5 shot attempts after 20 minutes. The Auston Matthews line was running roughshod on the Avalanche shift after shift; they played the most even strength minutes of any line in the first (4:33) and generated nine shots on goal, conceded zero against, and had four high-danger scoring chances.
Overall, the Leafs controlled 78% of possession in the first period and generated 18 shots from the home plate area in 14 minutes of even strength action.
2) The Avalanche grabbed an unlikely lead late in the period on their first powerplay of the game; Antoine Bibeau got tangled up in a scramble in front and Matt Duchene’s brilliant no-look pass found Mikko Rantanen wide open to the side of the net. That broke a six-game penalty killing streak for the Leafs.
3) It’s become something of a lazy narrative to blame any and all of the team’s shortcomings on the fact that the Leafs are a young team with so many rookies on their roster, but one situation where the inexperience shows: when the offense doesn’t come right away, the Leafs begin to cheat. In the second period, the Leafs started to stretch out their breakout passes looking for quick offense. It led to some turnovers, several icings, and a couple of odd-man chances against in transition. The Leafs needed to relax and trust that the goals would come if they continued to do the right things; instead, they got away from their game, allowed the Avalanche to settle in, and wound up conceding 15 shots in the second period.
4) The Leafs established total dominance again to start the third period, generating 14 shot attempts in the first 4:13 of the period. The game swung on two Leafs penalties in the span of a minute between 6:23 and 7:27 of the second period. After a JVR tripping penalty, Leo Komarov high-sticked Nathan MacKinnon in the neutral zone before McKinnon roasted Morgan Rielly inside the blue line and finished clinically past Bibeau, drawing a four-minute powerplay in the process. Two individual plays by MacKinnon and Duchene on the powerplay and the performance from Varlamov between the pipes was the difference.
5) The Leafs generated 27 shot attempts in the final 8:17 of the third period. Twenty seven.
6) Despite the 6-on-3 goal in the frantic late stages, the Leafs powerplay struggled early, putting just two shots on goal on their first three powerplay opportunities. Mitch Marner will capably run a powerplay before long, but he’s struggled at times in the last few games as the Leafs’ main half-wall puck handler; part of it is his need to develop more of a shot threat that earns the respect of penalty killing units. By having a player that’s not a dual shot-pass threat on the half-wall, the PK can sag off and concentrate more on filling the dangerous passing lanes (one-time threats, backdoor plays, etc.).
7) Full credit to Semyon Varlamov for an out-of-his-mind performance, but for much of the game he was just sitting back with his heels on the goal line, taking away the bottom of the net and spitting out a bunch of second and third opportunities. Jake Gardiner beat him easily by finding the top half of the net late in the game. For whatever reason, the Leafs couldn’t seem to elevate the puck and hit the net at the same time.
8) This was a good segment on the Hometown Hockey broadcast in between periods — Mike Babcock on the kids:
— Hometown Hockey (@hometownhockey_) December 12, 2016
9) Here was Mike Babcock on Antoine Bibeau’s performance:
Mike Babcock says he felt "comfortable" with Antoine Bibeau in goal: "He was six (foot) three the whole game."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 12, 2016
Well, he’s already outdone Jhonas Enroth. Starting to seem like Mike Babcock prefers big goalies?
10) In addition to a season-high 52 shots on goal, this comes courtesy of James Mirtle: 99 shot attempts is the highest single-game total in any NHL game so far this season. Talk about a moral victory.
Game In Six
Mike Babcock Post Game
All Situations Shot Attempts