In their final tune-up before the start of the regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs flexed their offensive muscle with a dominant 5-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

First Period

The Leafs came out of the gates flying and grabbed the lead 29 seconds in on the first shift of the game:

Auston Matthews did a great job of reading the play to intercept the pass and create a fast-developing odd-man rush the other way, setting the stage for a nice finish from Andreas Johnsson in tight.

The Leafs excelled early on in getting their speed game going to create space for themselves and generate scoring chances, with Detroit simply unable to keep pace.

Throughout the period, the Leafs were also effective hunting down loose pucks and taking them to the scoring areas. No player did a better job of this than Ilya Mikheyev, who came close on this chance:

Spoiler alert: This is not the last time Mikheyev’s name will be mentioned in this review.

As the period progressed, so did the Leafs‘ relentless pressure on the Red Wings at both ends of the ice. The Leafs were able to stymie the Detroit attack and really get their transition game going.

Frederik Gauthier has progressed leaps and bounds beyond where he was when he made his NHL debut in 2016. His combination of positional awareness, improved skating/balance and puck-protection abilities tends to add up to positive possession play.

The play above put Toronto on the man-advantage for the first time. While they had some good looks, they were unable to capitalize on their chances as the period ended with the score at 1-0.

Second Period

The Leafs did not come through on the man advantage but there were some new wrinkles on display from Paul McFarland’s units.

The double-drop is something the Leafs did a little bit of later in the season and in the Boston series; this looks like a bit of a different take on things with Matthews swinging through and Marner charging across up the left side of the ice.

While there was no breakthrough coming on the man-advantage, the Leafs did not take their foot off the gas pedal one bit at 5v5.

Despite the stranglehold on the game from the Leafs, Toronto found themselves down a man nearly five minutes in after a questionable call on Jake Muzzin.

That didn’t slow the Leafs’ offense down, though — in fact, the Leafs generated ample shorthanded chances before finally burying one.

In addition to earning a promotion up the lineup to line three, Moore looks like he’s ready to become a real contributor shorthanded, where he wasn’t used initially after earning the call late last season and into the playoffs.

After extending the lead, the Leafs kept pressing for more and came close on numerous occasions:

The floodgates opened with a power-play opportunity roughly seven minutes into the period after William Nylander ripped a bullet that went in and out of the net off the back crossbar:

Nylander arguably looks for this shot too often when shooting for holes and rebounds might be more productive, but he likes that short side high angle and the power in his release is extremely impressive.

Detroit tried to challenge the goal for offsides, but the ruling was the goal stood due to the play being inconclusive. As a result, the new rules of an unsuccessful coaches challenge sent the Leafs to another power-play.

On the ensuing opportunity, the Leafs converted with another great snipe from the half-wall:

Matthews’ shot never fails to amaze, even after watching it for nearly four years now; largely because he’s able to score in so many ways from so many angles/sides of the ice.

Later in the frame, the Leafs found themselves on yet another power-play and again were able to capitalize. John Tavares was the beneficiary of an individual effort from Auston Matthews to beat a defender and free up space down low:

 

By period’s end, the Leafs were comfortably in control of the game with a large lead and 40 dominant minutes of play under their belts. To this point, the Leafs had limited the Red Wings to just 11 shots in the first two periods (!).

Third Period

With the game and pre-season more-or-less finished, both teams slowed the game down to a crawl in the final frame with minimal highlights worth mentioning.

This isn’t to suggest that there weren’t any, because a few notable plays stood out: Cody Ceci, who has been steady in preseason, came close to burying his first (unofficial) goal as a Leaf with a nice bit of patience with the puck and a cut back off the rush before ringing the cross bar:

One Leaf who truly made his mark on this game was Mikheyev, who was a workhorse at both ends of the ice all evening long. He showcased his work ethic, instincts, and strength on the puck while on the penalty kill, creating a quality scoring chance.

Later on, the big man showed off his elusive speed to gain separation on a Red Wings defender and generate another quality look.

He was a man on a mission in this game, cementing an already-secured role in the Leafs’ top-nine.

After 20 minutes of forgettable play from both teams, the horn sounded to mark the end of the 2019 pre-season with an easy 16-save shutout win for Frederik Andersen.


Clip of the Night


Notable Stats


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts


Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations


Post Game Notes

  • As previously mentioned, no player on the Leafs stood out more than Ilya Mikheyev. He was a force for good at both ends of the ice and made numerous strong plays on the puck despite not being rewarded offensively. At even strength, he recorded an impressive 76.47 CF%, a 76.92 FF%, a 53.57 SF% Rel, a 90.21 xGF%, and a 75.00 SCF% Rel. It’s the kind of performance that Mike Babcock will have all the time in the world for. It may be pre-season, but Mikheyev looks like the real deal so far.
  • As far as forward lines go, the Auston Matthews line was the most effective in terms of puck possession and scoring chances. He, William Nylander, and Andreas Johnsson combined to register a 52.25 CF%, a 66.67 FF%, a 71.43 SF%, a 62.18 xGF%, and a 55.56 SCF% at 5v5. For all sorts of reasons, we didn’t see as much of Matthews – Nylander last season (the contract holdout, Nylander’s subsequent struggles, maybe a little stubbornness on Babcock’s behalf, Nazem Kadri’s suspension). It appears the duo is ready to hit the ground running from the start of the year. Keep in mind that we never really saw the Tavares – Marner / Matthews – Nylander one-two punch at its full powers last season due to the Nylander situation.
  • Nick Shore and Egor Korshkov had a lot on the line in this game with the final roster cuts looming. Following Saturday’s win, both should feel pretty good about themselves for at least making the Leafs management’s lives a little more difficult in the coming 24 hours. While both didn’t play much (both recording roughly 10:30 of TOI), they were effective on the forecheck and gave the team safe minutes in the defensive end.
  • The Leafs’ blue line overall had another good night; the Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie pairing was pretty quiet in the final tune-up, though. At even strength, the two combined to record a 35.00 CF%, a 31.25 FF%, a 30.77 SF%, a 22.25 xGF%, and a 25.00 SCF%. Separate from each other, their numbers in the aforementioned categories drastically improved. Granted, this is a pre-season game, so this performance (like the other ones mentioned previously) should be taken with a grain of salt. But they’ll need to find the next level when the real games start after a just-okay exhibition season.

Condensed Game