Michael Hutchinson picked up his first win of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business in a back-to-back against the NHL bottom feeders on Saturday night.

Your game in ten:

1.  Anyone who thought this was, “no excuses for Michael Hutchinson tonight because it should be an easy win” were, to some degree, kidding themselves. I get the sentiment and why Hutchinson badly needed to win in these circumstances, but this is the Leafs in a back-to-back situation after all — and in the broader sense, it’s two NHL clubs, one of which played and traveled last night while the other has been resting since Wednesday. It wasn’t going to be a totally easy night, and the Leafs made that clear by giving up a clear-cut breakaway inside the first minute of the game, as well as three breakaways total in the first two periods.

2.  The Wings didn’t have a ton to offer offensively outside of catching the Leafs on the counterattack with a stretch play or a flip pass in behind the defense for Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, or Anthony Athanasiou to get on the end of, but Hutchinson wasn’t a passenger; he needed to be solid and come up with some timely saves. He also got an early break with the post on Larkin’s breakaway. Maybe he settles in after that anyway had the breakaway chance gone post and in, but it’s quite possible the walls would’ve caved in on him if the first shot went in on him again. A much-needed bounce went his way and he did the rest with some composed play in the crease.

The Leafs are far from out of the woods on the backup situation, but this was a step in the right direction and a crisis avoided for now.

3.  Overall, I thought the second period was a forgettable one from the Leafs and they gave up a few too many high-quality chances in the first half of the game. I also didn’t think the Leafs had their usual stuff of late in the offensive zone at 5v5 in terms of how dynamic they were in their movement inside the final third — a little less jump in their legs will probably do that. But the team found a way with an ugly breakaway goal from Zach Hyman, a power-play goal from Auston Matthews, and an additional insurance goal off the rush on a beautiful finish from Hyman. I thought there was some good coaching work from Sheldon Keefe to spark a flat team tonight as well, and the Leafs again looked confident and poised once in the lead. It never really felt in doubt in the third period.

4.  As Matthews – Nylander has generally been more inconsistent in terms of their engagement from night-to-night than Tavares – Marner over the past few seasons, we’ve often called in this space for the coach to bump Hyman back onto the Matthews line — a staple in their rookie season — as a mid-game adjustment when the team is need of a spark. It was good to see it tonight. Hyman is a sparkplug and is usually among the better Leafs in back-to-back situations because of his style of game and dependable work ethic. On top of that, Marner got shuffled up next to Matthews, which was a refreshing look — the 4-0 goal featured some good linkup play from all three forwards.

I don’t want to totally rewrite history here — Babcock showed more willingness to mix up the lines and make adjustments this season before he was canned, but it did often feel as though he went, “I know these are the best lines, and if they don’t work, it’s because the players aren’t working,” whereas Keefe takes more onus on himself to intervene during stretches of flat, uninspired play by sparking the team with in-game line-shuffling creativity. It obviously worked well tonight.

5.  The Red Wings’ top line isn’t exactly Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak, but it’s still pretty telling that Keefe was willing to play Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev with John Tavares without much concern about the risk exposure in the Larkin matchup. Those are two first-year players in Engvall and Mikheyev that he has a lot of trust in already as 200-foot players. That line gave the Leafs some solid minutes in the second half of the game and drew the penalty that led to the 2-0 insurance goal just after the Leafs got their kill at the start of the second period.

Engvall’s emergence and Mikheyev finding his October form again in December has been a major boost to the team’s overall depth up front — not just in terms of offense, but they both bring size, responsible play, and penalty-killing ability. That makes the Leafs a more rounded hockey team.

6.  Trevor Moore also has the ability to help round the Leafs out upfront with a dependable, defensively responsible, hard-working, competitive brand of game. His line flashed some promising signs tonight, and I’d like to see what Moore – Gauthier – Timashov looks like for a decent run of games now that Moore is healthy, but I don’t think Keefe is willing to leave Spezza out of the mix outside of back-to-back situations — so I’m curious to see if Spezza comes back in on the wing for Timashov, or if Gauthier sits at center. I’d assume it will be the former.

7.  The other plus to all of this line mixing in the last 15 games: Sheldon Keefe is going to have a full database of information in his head about how different players have looked together at different times that will serve the team well as the season wears on and especially once the playoffs arrive. I’m repeating myself from past reviews here, but that lack of line mixing/creativity hurt the Leafs at times in past playoffs, where the right adjustments can change a game/series and there is no time to sit on your hands waiting for your players to simply rediscover their spark.

8.  After a fantastic showing in New York, it was under 15 minutes of ice time for William Nylander, including just three shifts total in the second period (2:20) after he gave up on the play a little bit coming back on Dylan Larkin’s breakaway and also turned a few over in the neutral zone. With their speed up front, the Red Wings do pose some danger if you play slow through the neutral zone, turn pucks over and feed their transition game, so I see why Keefe went away from it — there is not a lot of natural chemistry on that line with Kapanen on it (in my opinion) and when there is no real jump present among the three, it was the right move to make at that juncture with the Leafs getting out-possessed for spells of the middle frame.

Now that Keefe has made this type of adjustment/correction on Nylander, I would like to see everyone move beyond the simplistic, “Babcock hated Nylander and skill in general,” narrative now and realize it’s not a big hairy deal that Nylander may need a kick in the pants now and again in terms of keeping his engagement level where it needs to be — it’s a back-to-back situation after a good night in New York and it’s a bad opponent coming into town, but that’s no excuse for a night off. It’s important to seize moments like this and hold players to account.

9.  It was a shame about the extra two minutes leading to the spoiled shutout for Hutchinson, but it was good to see Jake Muzzin take care of business against Anthony Mantha in the scrum after his hit and then for Justin Holl to step in when Athanasiou retaliated with a dangerous run at Alex Kerfoot. Even Travis Dermott losing it on the ref for spoiling Hutchinson’s shutout — as long as it doesn’t turn totally silly and lead to a costly lack of discipline in key moments in games, that kind of passion and caring for one another, in general, is a good thing and something this Leafs team definitely needs more of, not less.

10.  The Red Wings have terrible combined special teams, but the Leafs getting the early kill in the third with the score at 1-0 and then scoring their own power-play goal shortly after — on a night when they were in a b2b situation without their best stuff offensively at 5v5 — just underscores how important special teams (and backup goaltending, for that matter) are to sustaining winning streaks in the league. Under Keefe, the Leafs are 10-4-0, have the best power play in the league (Nov. 20 onward), a top-10 penalty kill, and they just picked up their first backup win of the season. Merry Christmas.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

Game Highlights: Leafs 4 vs. Red Wings 1