There were so many Toronto Maple Leafs fans in the arena, it sounded like they were playing in Buffalo.

Your game in ten.

  1. First, the bad news. Andreas Johnsson took a bad knee-on-knee hit and did not return. He could barely put any weight on it and appeared to be shaking his head as he was helped off the ice. This is not good news for the team and it could possibly alter their deadline plans. In his last 14 games he has 12 points, and that includes this game as he scored in the first period on a beautiful redirect off a Jake Gardiner point shot. You could argue he is the team’s best left winger right now (I would). Hopefully, the injury is not long-term – and after the game Matthews did say, “fortunately, it’s nothing too serious…” so we will trust him.
  2. Here is a clear look at the incident. The team was up 1-0 at the time and honestly, this should have been a 5 minute major and a game ejection. Instead, it was a two-minute penalty. The Knights scored shorthanded on a bad giveaway by Andersen (where the ref yelled at him to play it and he did, leading to a giveaway and easy goal) and then it was game on. The Knights actually took the lead shortly after. To me that is a really dangerous play and a bad missed call. Johnsson was on the ice for an extended period of time. This should have been a no-brainer.

  3. And speaking of Auston Matthews, he was lights out in this game. He played 18:30, scored twice, had an assist and six shots on net. In his first shift of the game he threw a nothing shot on net from the top of the circle with no screen and it was completely innocuous. But watching the play I thought: “Okay, he’s getting himself into the game putting a puck on net early, getting a feel for things” and he certainly was. Before the game he talked about the atmosphere and when he scored his celebrations definitely played up the crowd as he found Leafs fans and celebrated with them. The whole line was buzzing – they had a 72.73CF%, had ten scoring chances to three against and scored two goals. Matthews also ripped home a five-hole goal on the power play. The power play also continued to put pucks in the net with two more goals. The first was a high slot redirect by Johnsson on a shot by Jake Gardiner, a favourite play of Babcock’s. The second was the aforementioned Matthews goal. The Leafs are trying to mix in different looks, and one thing that happened on the Matthews goal was the spacing moving around a lot: shortly before the goal Marner had the puck all the way at the blue line, whereas he’s almost always on the half-wall. While the team did get predictable on the power play, and it caught up to them, I’ve been trying to watch other power plays across the league to see what they are doing, instead, and one thing that has stood out about the good ones is they move around a lot. If the Leafs go back and rewind the film of their struggles, one thing they’ll see is the simply stood around a lot, making static passes. Even the Matthews goal, he took the speed with and ripped it. The Kadri goal against Colorado where John Tavares one touched it to him from the goal line is another really good example of movement creating lanes. It was also noteworthy that Babcock used the second unit slightly more – Gardiner played over a minute more than Rielly on the power play. Marleau, Kapanen and Nylander led all forwards in power play time on ice.
  4. Connor Brown saw the promotion with Johnsson injured, and played 17:20 – his most since the Vancouver drubbing on January 5 (I was at that game and it was over in warmups). He made a nice pass on a 2v1 with Mitch Marner for a goal that effectively sealed the game, though he spent the increased primarily with Kadri and Nylander playing on his off-wing. Babcock has gone to this before and the guess is he will again if Johnsson is going to miss time.
  5. I think we can say William Nylander is officially back now. He had one assist and four shots on net, but it goes way beyond that. He is dominating with his speed and looks like he’s worked off the early rust from not playing:

    The play that actually stood out to me is in the second period he was on a power play and the puck was on the other side, Kasperi Kapanen had it, and he was looking around, and Nylander pointed with his stick to give the puck to Gardiner, who knew to give it right over to Nylander. It’s a small thing but he was not comfortable to do that kind of thing when he came back, whether that’s because he wasn’t in game shape or big contract stuff I don’t know, but he’s completely settled in now. The Matthews line was really good but have to think it’s only a matter of time until he’s reunited with Auston.

  6. Another game that the Leafs win by more than a couple of goals where Frederik Andersen played really well and honestly should get more credit than he should because the Leafs ultimately popped in six. I counted three breakaways that he stopped, including one on Max Pacioretty while the game was tied in the third period. The Leafs scored shortly after and never looked back. Andersen is second in the league in wins, and the guy in first (by two) – Marc-Andre Fleury – has played 11 more games. He’s also eighth in the league in save percentage for goalies that have played in 15+ games. He is having another really good season. What a franchise goalie he has become.
  7. Another star performance from Morgan Rielly – scoring the game winner, had four shots on net, picked up an assist as well and led all Leafs defender in ice time (Mitch Marner actually led the team in total time on ice).
  8. In the second period he also made a strong play to stop a breakaway and not take a penalty:

    Rielly played primarily against the Vegas top line of Smith – Karlsson – Marchessault and dominated with a CF% over 71 against them.

  9. Dermott shot to the wrong gap on the Golden Knights second goal leading to a clean entry and a goal in transition. He’s really aggressive in the neutral zone and that can lead him to putting himself out of position – like on this goal – so while he’s generally strong with the puck and does a lot of good stuff, this is the reason the coaching staff is generally playing him 6th on the team in tight games and when the team is leading.
  10. I mentioned this above with Matthews, but the atmosphere in the arena was great and the Leafs definitely played up to it. The team was buzzing and most players had a hop to their step on the night. Of course, the team can still play better (you almost always can!), but this was a good example of what the team can look like at times when they get their lines rolling and just come at you in waves, wearing opponents down and just taking over the game eventually. Andersen still had to make some huge saves as discussed, but the forwards in particular had themselves a night.

    Game Flow

    Shot location chart

Game Highlights