It wasn’t a 6-1 game, but after the first period, the Toronto Maple Leafs also didn’t deserve to win.
Toronto put 15 shots on net in the first and only finished with 28 total. This is also now back-to-back games where the Leafs scored only one goal through 60 minutes, with the offense often looking stagnant and unimaginative.
This team needs work, and that is very clear. When Mike Babcock was fired and Sheldon Keefe came in, the team loosened up, won a few games, and there seemed to be this feeling that all was fixed and all was well; that is simply not the case here.
However, as much as there was overreaction to those wins, the same will hold true for overreactions to the last three games. Mitch Marner is returning and that will help – on many nights the last two seasons, he was the team’s best player. But there are still questions about their depth up front (the Matthews line was their only notably dangerous line on the night), their defense is still weak defensively, and they don’t have a backup goalie. A coach can only mask so much.
To the game in 10:
1. There was a bit of line shuffling for Sheldon Keefe to end the first period as Pierre Engvall moved up with Alexander Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen, resulting in a dominant shift with Justin Holl and Kapanen getting chances in tight. He followed that up by putting Hyman back beside Tavares and Mikheyev, presumably to have a bit more of a defensive presence to end the period on the road (they actually got outplayed and Frederik Andersen made a nice save on Morgan Frost). I don’t think this was on purpose, though, as I rewound the game and Andreas Johnsson collided with a Flyer accidentally and went down pretty hard before getting right off the ice. Might have stumbled onto something, though.
2. It didn’t result in anything, but on the shift right after, Cody Ceci had the puck on the wall with a few seconds left in the period and had a second to make a decision. He could have put the puck up against the wall and ate the clock to end the period; instead, he tried chipping the puck out to Matthews, fanned on it, and the Flyers had a shot attempt. That is just really poor game management considering the clock and situation. This pretty well sums up his night:
Cody Ceci's 5-on-5 results horrendous again tonight.
1% expected goals
7% scoring chances
With him on the ice. And he's second in D in ice time and facing tough comp.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) December 4, 2019
3. Ceci did block a 2v1 in tight against Claude Giroux and Frost in the second period that looked like a sure goal on the way, so that’s an important note, too. Only Rielly played more than Ceci tonight and Muzzin played the fifth most among the group. The Leafs steadiest pairing right now is arguably Muzzin – Holl and they are not really being played accordingly. I mean, Rielly – Ceci led the Leafs defense in total ice time and they were out attempted 18-3 at 5v5 on the night. At some point, what are we talking about here? Seems like it’s every night at this point. The Leafs have a lot of defensemen that they need to “hide” defensively right now.
4. Justin Holl did a good job defending the initial rush from Kevin Hayes on the Flyers goal and he tried to be physical, but he and Matthews did not communicate on the “hand-off” defensively, leaving Hayes to have a second to look up and position himself to make a move. Matthews was clearly hoping for a quick strip and to go back up ice at that point. Once Hayes got a step, he kind of bullied his way to the net against Matthews. Just have to communicate better on defense in the first place.
5. To end the period, Keefe put together Tavares – Matthews – Nylander in search of a goal. They drew an icing after some initial pressure, and while nothing noteworthy resulted from it, it’s a nice idea to try to spark the team. I wonder what that will look like once Mitch Marner returns. I also wonder if we will ever see them try four forwards at 5v5 to end a period in the final minute. High risk, high reward.
6. It was a strange game in terms of the Leafs out shooting the Flyers for most of the game, but the Flyers seemingly felt in control for most of it and produced way more quality. Andersen is probably furious as he strung together a pretty strong game for the most part and gave the Leafs a genuine chance to grab point(s). Look at the heat map of this game – the Leafs gave up a ton of quality in the house.
Final shot map of the game. pic.twitter.com/7Y1lvEMBSR
— Toronto Maple Leafs Game Bot (@MapleLeafsBot) December 4, 2019
The Flyers also hit a number of posts and failed to convert on quite a few odd man rushes. On the night, the Flyers out attempted the Leafs 53-40 and owned 58.9% of the expected goals (at 5v5).
7. After the Leafs tied the game — on a bit of a flukey goal no less — they did not record a shot on net for the rest of the game. Dermott’s goal came with 11:22 left in the period. On the second shift after they tied the game, the Matthews line with Rielly and Ceci got dominated and the Flyers promptly took the lead back. From there, the Leafs had no real push, either, to try to tie the game, and Matthews took a really dumb penalty with under six minutes left and the team trailing. That is an easy call to make. After the game, he called the team out for quitting, but during the game, he was nowhere on the eventual winner and took a bad penalty late. Matthews led all forwards in the game in ice time, playing over 21 minutes.
8. It was interesting that Hyman was the one that was moved down, not Mikheyev. Presumably, it was done to get him acclimated to new linemates a little earlier knowing that Marner will replace Spezza alongside Mikheyev and Tavares. Hyman has had a slow start since coming back from injury – he has three points in 10 games and doesn’t have a shot on net in his last two games. He was also fifth among all Leafs forwards in shorthanded time on ice.
9. If you are looking for a positive on the night, the Leafs went 3/3 on the penalty kill. Keefe mentioned they have made minor adjustments and from what I can tell, they are collapsing a bit more to protect the house, playing as a tighter unit, and the defensemen are not as active chasing play. They also got a bit lucky as the Flyers generated a number of chances and simply didn’t convert.
Holl led all Leafs defenders in penalty killing time on ice followed by Rielly, Ceci, Muzzin, and then Dermott. Barrie did not get any penalty killing time, and while he did play on the first unit power play time, the Leafs only had one power play, so it was tough to evaluate that unit. Barrie did have a one-timer on it, though, and that was kind of new to see from the point on the Leafs.
10. After the game, Keefe went into the dressing room to address the lackluster effort to end the game – in a vacuum, it makes sense, but it seems at least a little eyebrow raising for the brand new coach to already have to do that six games into his tenure. You can only do that so many times before players tune it out. The coach getting fired a few weeks ago was supposed to be the wakeup call and here we are a few weeks later with another wakeup call, apparently.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how they respond to this game tomorrow night – not only did they end this game in some embarrassment, but Nazem Kadri is coming home and I can’t imagine the Avalanche are happy about their recent loss to the Leafs (I thought the Avs deserved better that night, to be honest). A lot of eyes will be on the backup goalie, but can the team play with some emotion and string together a strong game?
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts
5v5 Shot Attempt Heat Map