The Toronto Maple Leafs turned in a disappointing effort as they fell to the Vancouver Canucks in an overtime loss on Wednesday night.

First Period

The Leafs came out of the game sluggish and not fully focused on the task at hand. The Canucks took advantage and applied pressure early, forcing Frederik Andersen to make some key saves early on.

As a result of the sustained pressure, the Canucks found themselves on the power play nearly four minutes in thanks to a slashing penalty from Jake Muzzin. While Vancouver had a few half chances, the Leafs did a great job limiting them and staying aggressive on the puck carriers to disrupt entries.

Mitch Marner was exceptional on the penalty kill and even generated a few good looks of his own.

Ron Hainsey also laid a big hit in open ice on Alex Edler on the first penalty kill of the game:

The successful kill seemed to go to the Leafs‘ legs as they began to make a bit of an offensive push afterward, establishing some cycle time and creating some offensive looks, including this nifty set-play sequence involving Morgan Rielly and Marner.

Before long, though, the Canucks grabbed back the momentum and were using their speed to get to loose pucks first and force turnovers in the Leafs own end as the Leafs defense struggled to move the puck cleanly against a dogged Vancouver forecheck.

It all came to a head in the dying minutes of the period where Vancouver poured it on with a flurry of chances that pushed the shot clock up to 15-8 in their favour. If it wasn’t for the strong play from Andersen, the Leafs would’ve been trailing deservedly after 20 minutes.

Second Period

The Leafs were more prepared to start the second and quickly grabbed momentum back. With a few line shakeups in tow, the Leafs were starting to get their legs underneath them.

The Leafs earned their first power play of the game and had some quality looks that ultimately didn’t materialize. Despite the lack of a PP goal, the Leafs were working their way into the game and the shot clock was balancing out.

In lieu of consistently clean and controlled zone exits, a lot of the opportunity the Leafs created in this game was the result of that kind of long bomb hockey where pucks were being put into areas and the Leafs were forcing the issue with their speed up front.

The Canucks eventually grabbed back momentum and forced the Leafs back to the penalty kill midway through the period. Like the previous kill, the Leafs were aggressively pursuing puck carriers and forcing turnovers.

A shorthanded goal came out of it this time:

This actually happened: Ron “Freaking” Hainsey cashed in on the two-on-one rush created by Marner on the PK. Hainsey did a great job of identifying his chance to go and Marner could not have worked the setup pass any better on the 2v1.

Moments later, the Leafs doubled their lead.

This was a strong sequence from everyone involved: Patrick Marleau did a great job closing down and getting a stick inside on the Canuck defender, freeing the puck up for John Tavares to round the net and thread a pass to the pinching Rielly, whose shot trickled through Markstrom to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.

After the 2-0 goal, the teams traded chances, although Vancouver eventually edged out the Leafs in quality scoring chances. Just like in the first, the Leafs didn’t close the period strong and the Canucks came close to scoring in the dying moments of the second.

This goal likely wouldn’t have crossed the line in time, but take nothing away from a save-of-the-year candidate from the Leafs’ MVP.

Third Period and Overtime

The first half of the third period was a mess from the Leafs perspective as the Canucks weren’t going away and really piled up the scoring chances. Roughly two minutes in, they finally solved Andersen and made it a game.

A release off the backhand like that can be hard to read, but that’s a shot Andersen usually stops. Give up enough quality looks and it’s bound to cost you eventually, though, and the coverage breakdown from Holl and Zaitsev created the opening.

Merely a minute after the goal was scored, the Leafs took another penalty for having too many men on the ice. On the ensuing power play, the Canucks tied the game thanks to a familiar face.

Every Leafs fan that wasn’t born yesterday knew that was coming as Josh Leivo showcased the wicked release we saw a fair bit of in Toronto over the years with the Marlies and Leafs.  Jake Muzzin was caught on an over-aggressive play at the line on the PK, something he also got burned for on the Leon Draisaitl goal versus Edmonton in late February.

The Leafs seemed to wake up a little bit after the 2-2 goal and followed it up by creating some zone time of their own, resulting in some great looks that Markstrom turned aside.

While there were brief spells of pressure at both ends as regulation wound down, the two teams played a little more conservative with the clock winding down, creating some half chances without much in the way of grade-A looks.

As a result, an overtime goal was needed to determine the victor of this game and it came after a sustained spell of keep-away by the Canucks against the Tavares-Marner pairing.

That’s a save Andersen usually makes, but it was no less than the Leafs deserved after an uneven 60-minute effort.

Clip of the Night

Notable Stats

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations

Post Game Notes

  • From the opening faceoff to the Alex Edler OT goal, the Leafs never took full control of this game. They were flat footed and played slower than the Canucks for much of the night, and the point largely came down to the heroics of Frederik Andersen in the first two periods. Vancouver lacks enough quality depth to be a playoff team at this stage of the game, but their team speed is apparent and they forced the issue on the forecheck against the Leafs’ undermanned blue line throughout the night, with the Leafs oftentimes struggling to move the puck out cleanly.
  • One of the few bright spots in this game was the overall play of the Auston Matthews line, which can be summed up as a step in the right direction after a few quiet nights. The line combined for a 63.64 CF%, an 80.00 SF%, an 80.00 SCF%, and a 100.00 HDCF% at 5v5. Based on the eye test, they were moving the puck well, generating chances off the cycle, and made Jacob Markstrom work to make saves. By no means were they game-breakers, but it was a solid bounce-back effort after putting in some video work with Mike Babcock following the Calgary game. Of course, in the big picture, we’re kind of just waiting for Nazem Kadri to come back to see if Babcock will slot William Nylander back in alongside Matthews ahead of the playoffs.
  • Entering this game, Leafs fans were curious about the new-look fourth line of Tyler Ennis, Nic Petan, and Trevor Moore given their mix of speed, skill, and tenacity while each standing well under 6’0” tall. The final results were less than stellar: At 5v5, the line generated a disappointing 42.86 CF%, a -1.07 CF Rel, a 33.33 FF%, a 33.33 SF%, and zero HDCF. After the game, Mike Babcock told reporters that he was less than pleased about how the fourth line looked (“nice players” but he “needs a line”), all but implying that Frederik Gauthier will return to the lineup on Saturday. One game isn’t a fair judgment of any line, but this trio likely had a short-leash from Babcock from the beginning knowing he wants a certain element from his fourth-line C as far as the defensive accountability and faceoffs, plus the size he likes in Goat.
  • Jake Muzzin finished the game with a 40.38 CF%, -6.39 CF Rel, a 42.11 SF%, a 35.71 SCF%, a 0.16 xGF, and a 0.69 xGA at 5v5. He was slow to react to the Canuck attacks at points, behind the pace a lot of the time in general, got burned on the Josh Leivo goal, and got caught out for some marathon shifts where he was sucking dirty pond water. The worst of it came during overtime where he struggled to move the puck up the ice and got hemmed in his own zone for an extended period of time. While the Leafs are shorthanded on their backend with Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott sidelined, Muzzin is struggling to fit in right now on a team that plays the game at a breakneck pace and likes “long puck” hockey. He’s also paired off with the player that has historically always — without fail — hindered his partners. You wonder if there might be an injury at play or if it’s just a case of having to adjust to a much different style of team while playing next to a inferior partner to Alec Martinez in LA.
  • Mitch Marner continues to sizzle as the season winds down. His assist on the Ron Hainsey goal gave him 82 points on the season, which is the most a Leaf has scored since Phil Kessel reached the mark during the 2011-12 season. When Marner gets his next point, he will tie Mats Sundin for most points from a Leaf since the turn of the millennium (83). It’s remarkable just how valuable Marner has become to the Leafs in all situations, with his PK minutes growing — he looks excellent there — since the departure of Par Lindholm.
  • On the subject of Ron Hainsey, he may have had one of his best games in a Leafs uniform ever. He was really noticeable in transition, made strong defensive plays, generated chances off the cycle, and even jumped up for a few rushes including the 2v1 with Marner for his goal. He and his defensive partner, Morgan Rielly, were the Leafs top defensive pairing thanks to a 0.53 xGF, a 51.43 CF%, a 59.26 FF%, and a74.68 xGF Adj at 5v5. While it seems obvious that Hainsey would be best utilized on a third pair with Dermott (once the roster is healthy), Hainsey deserves credit for really stepping up and putting together some of his best hockey of the season with a shorthanded roster.

Condensed Game