The Toronto Maple Leafs put together a much-needed 60-minute effort against a tired San Jose team on Friday night, picking up a 4-1 win after limiting the Sharks to just 17 shots and scoring all four of their goals in the final 20:02 of the hockey game.

Your game in ten:

1.  It will go down as another game in which the Leafs gave up the first goal and were outscored in the first period, but the start was much better from Toronto.

There was lots of urgency right off the hop from the Auston Matthews line to initiate a short cycle and apply puck pressure all over the ice, eventually leading to a (phantom) high-sticking call that went in the Leafs’ favour. They put the first four shots on goal and nearly scored on a tic-tac-toe power-play passing play, followed by William Nylander walking out in front and firing wide in alone on the goalie later in the PP.

Back at even strength, a line of Timashov – Gauthier – Mikheyev kept the pace up and the pressure on, leading to a grade-A chance on the doorstep for Morgan Rielly. A few shifts later, Alex Kerfoot broke through the middle with a good burst of pace for a chance in alone on Martin Jones. Cody Ceci also dropped a Sharks forward at the defensive blue line with a solid hit.

All in all, that’s the tone you want to set to start a game against a good team on home ice. Much better.

2.  Speaking of that post-powerplay unit Babcock has been putting together with Dmytro Timashov, Frederik Gauthier, and Ilya Mikheyev: When the Leafs PP didn’t convert tonight, they were really good at going out and keeping the momentum in the team’s sails. Early in the third, following a Leafs power play, Timashov had a great shift where he threaded the needle to Mikheyev for a half-chance off the wing, and then dug in for a relentless backcheck that led to a turnover and a penalty drawn after his saucer pass to Matthews was whacked over the glass by a Sharks defender. The team is getting really good minutes/utility out of all of the above-mentioned players early in the year.

3.  On that note, I can’t see Timashov going anywhere. Goat isn’t going anywhere. I think they’ll want to keep Shore for 4RW plus his ability to play center and take draws as a righty. When the injured players come back — and I’d assume they bring Hyman back around the same time Tavares returns — that likely means all of Spezza, Petan, and Marincin are going to be waived, while Gravel will be reassigned.

We could also see a trade in advance of waivers. Ottawa needs bodies down the middle with Colin White and Artem Anisimov out injured, their power-play could use any help it can get, and they were interested in bringing Spezza back for a twilight tour in the summer. The teams have been frequent trading partners in the past (no source on this — just speculating).

The above scenario leaves the Leafs with zero extra bodies on D, but I don’t see another option at the moment.

4.  Thought it was a tough week for William Nylander but a good bounce-back game from him tonight. In addition to the assist on the Rielly goal, he was much more competitive on the forecheck ; we saw a couple of strips from him on defenders down low that turned into instant offense, including a point-blank grade-A for Matthews early in the second period. Matthews was far more competitive in that area of the game as well; combined with the consistent motor of Johnsson, the line dominated the run of play tonight to the tune of 71% possession, including nearly 80% in the five-and-a-half minutes against the Logan Couture line. Their one bad moment was on the goal against, which wasn’t a bad breakdown as much as it was the result of a turnover at the offensive blue line after Nylander couldn’t corral the puck.

5.  Combine the Matthews line’s play with Morgan Rielly’s night, and it was the first time in a while you could say the Leafs’ best players were their best. Rielly’s game-winning goal reminded me of so many he scored during his big career (to date) year last season — started it with a good play defensively to win a puck battle and initiate the breakout, tore up ice, took a pass following up on the play, and buried confidently.

6.  The Sportsnet broadcast and the post-game radio show called the Matthews hit a good hit on a player who was admiring his pass. While Matthews does need to be more aware about protecting himself there, I’m not sure about it being clean:

Brenden Dillon hit on Auston Matthews

It wasn’t a 100% head blow, but the chin looked like the principal point of contact. You could see the evidence on Matthews’ face afterward, too.

7.  Liked Jake Muzzin’s situational intelligence late in the second period. Almost no time on the clock and the puck battle is in the corner — may as well head to the front of the net and see if something springs loose. He’s been the Leafs’ most consistent defender this season hands down. In his seven-plus minutes up against the Couture line, his pairing with Barrie didn’t allow a 5v5 shot against.

Two goals and eight points through 12 games, seven at evens and one shorthanded, is quietly really solid production in addition to being their steadiest defender and a PK workhorse.

8.  Not a big plus-minus guy, but when it stands out like this it can be interesting: Ilya Mikheyev was on for all four Leafs goals and is now a team-leading plus-nine through 12 games. A goal (empty netter) and an assist (second assist on the Muzzin goal after he tossed the puck down low) gives him nine points as well. What an ace-up-the-sleeve addition this has been for the Leafs’ depth.

9.  The Leafs’ power-play executed a couple of the double-drop entries nicely tonight, but the breakouts that were frustrating were the ones (and this has been a pattern) where they seem to sort of mosey up the ice at half speed and execute a highly-telegraphed drop pass everyone in the rink is anticipating. It does very little to back off or scramble the PK forecheckers and set the stage for the trailing player receiving the drop pass. The lead player should break into the neutral zone with more pace and disguised intent, and make a call based on the forecheck whether to keep or drop. That way, either he gains the zone himself, or the PK forwards aren’t still in position with their eyes up the ice ready to angle off the trailing receiver.

10. Overall, this was a tightly-contested hockey game that the Leafs found a way to stick with, stay patient during, and grab the two points at the end of. There wasn’t a ton of space out there through the neutral zone, Martin Jones was dialed in, and shots on goal were between 5-7 apiece in the first 40 minutes. A break went against the Leafs against the run of play for the 1-0 goal, but they didn’t cheat for offense and lose all detail in their game defensively, as we’ve seen too often early on this season. They just stuck with it, outlasted a tired Sharks team, and found a way in what was a pretty complete 60-minute effort.

Now it’s onto Montreal, where the Leafs will try to repair a 0-2-1 record in the second half of back-to-backs. The question is, after a 17-shot workload for Frederik Andersen, will it be Michael Hutchinson in net? I don’t think the Leafs are going to deviate from the plan here with the stretch drive + playoffs in mind.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. San Jose Sharks

Game Highlights: Leafs 4 vs. Sharks 1