The most important thing is the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up another two points.

Was it hockey that will make them successful in March, April, May and beyond? No. But do they need points more than anything else right now? Yes. It’s not like they have breathing room to try other things out. They need points.

A win is a win, but beyond that, the hope is that Ilya Mikheyev is okay. He suffered a wrist laceration on a nasty skate cut and went straight to the hospital. The broadcast indicated he will be okay and we are definitely all thinking of him. Get well soon, Ilya.

Your game in 10:

1.  After an entertaining but kind of sloppy win against Carolina, I was curious to see how the team would respond riding a hot streak and playing against a weaker team, especially following the time off. The first few minutes were fine; the Leafs had a number of chances, including William Nylander and Mitch Marner in the slot. But a John Tavares turnover was capitalized on, giving the Devils the early lead instead. It marked the first time the Leafs have trailed in the first period with Sheldon Keefe as head coach.

In truth, the Leafs just generally outplayed them to start the game – they outshot the Devils 18-9 in the first period and probably could have been up 3-1 or 4-1 after the first.

2.  The Leafs had a four-minute power play in the first period and didn’t get a ton out of it, and then suddenly scored. The best chance up until their goal was probably Morgan Rielly, from the top of the circle, just missing on a backdoor pass to Kasperi Kapanen where he would have had a tap in. The second unit was the one that cashed in through Zach Hyman in front of the net:

We have wondered about Hyman as a net guy before; in this game, he cashed in there. That’s his game: greasy, battle-winning rebound goals. The second unit was much better than the first unit during that extended power play look.

Of note: When the Leafs did the drop pass breakout on the PP, there was only one player back instead of the two that they were starting the season with.

3.  There were so many things to like on the Leafs’ second goal. In particular, they actually lost the offensive zone faceoff, but Ilya Mikheyev and William Nylander were ready to go and were aggressive, skating right through their checks and causing a turnover. From there, they cycled it to the point, put the puck to the net, and benefitted from some good work in front to tip the puck.

It’s noteworthy that the Leaf who put the immediate pressure on the Devils, Mikheyev, was the one who got to the net at the end of the play to score the goal. Nylander was the one who actually reclaimed the puck and he was dancing throughout the first period. We’ve seen this type of response from him after being demoted before. He ended up with a three-point night and three shots on net in a little over 16 minutes of ice time.

4.  A game that started to feel in control for the Leafs began the second period with a penalty and then a delay of game penalty while shorthanded. The Devils tied it immediately. There wasn’t much they could do on the goal itself – a shot from the point deflected straight to a Devil on the side of the zone, leading to a relatively easy goal. When it went back to being a 5v4, the Leafs got a little cute on the penalty kill and almost got burned by it.

First, it was Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev getting caught in the offensive zone; Engvall had a nice backcheck, but a sharper team would have had a 3v2 rush to try to capitalize on. Mikheyev went for a change on that play and on came Kasperi Kapanen, who gave it away in the defensive zone trying to make a pass to a tired Engvall instead of just shooting it down. The Devils worked the puck around and had a few good chances after that.

5.  This website for the past few weeks has been noting that Kasperi Kapanen is a right winger. We have seen enough evidence for the time being that he cannot play left wing in the top six. Two coaches have tried it now. Back on the third line on the right side, he scored a great goal showing him at his best, flying down the right wing, protecting the puck wide and using his shot — which is great.

It’s also worth mentioning that he was back on the half-wall on the power play on his one-timer side. He has kind of bounced around on the power play playing every role except defense at one point or another. Kapanen actually played almost 20 minutes on the night – only Tavares, Marner and Matthews played more than him among forwards on the team.

6.  Tyson Barrie complained right after the Devils’ tying goal, but he was way too nonchalant playing the puck and paid the price. Seconds before, he helped to kick start the partial 2v1 rush for Devils by pinching without real support, but Marner hustled back to help break it up.

After the goal, the Leafs put out the Muzzin – Holl pairing with the Gauthier line; they got outplayed (after an initial shot attempt by Spezza) and had to ice the puck on the shift. I wonder how many more times we will see that line get used after a goal against after that. Nobody on the line played over seven minutes on the night and this doesn’t seem sustainable to have basically a non-existent fourth line that isn’t making any impact.

7.  It’s not Tyson Barrie’s fault on the next goal (a 2v1), but he also could have played it better. Anytime the pass gets through, the defense is of note on the play. All your job is in that situation is to take away the pass; if the goalie is beat clean on the shot, there isn’t much to say. The goal was primarily on Kasperi Kapanen, though, as he got way too cute at the offensive zone blue line and got burned.

That was three goals in about ten minutes for the Devils — the second straight game the Leafs were sloppy for an extended period of time and got burned. To the Leafs’ credit, they did respond with a good run of offensive shifts. Engvall got robbed, Tavares missed a tap in, and the Leafs had three shifts in a row of a strong offensive push.

Tavares put seven shots on net in this game, by the way, as he was all over the place making plays.

8.  Before the Leafs scored on the power play to tie the game, it was a 4v4 and in order to preserve the top power-play unit for the man advantage time, Keefe went with Kerfoot – Kapanen / Muzzin – Dermott. I think Rielly was just getting some rest there because he was just on the ice (he doesn’t play top power-play unit right now).

The strategy worked — the Leafs put their top unit on once the power play started and they tied the game relatively easily. Nylander made the pass to Tavares for an easy goal (for him anyway). This isn’t particularly surprising, but of all Leafs playing their off-wing on the power play half-wall, Nylander seems the most comfortable. Matthews has a kind of awkward one-timer, but Nylander does not.

Matthews had a really awkward one-timer in overtime on the power play that led to a zone clear for the Devils. When it was 4v4 again with a little over a minute to go in a tie game, it was the same four Leafs that were trotted out for the 4v4 shift again.

9.  Before the Leafs tied it, Michael Hutchinson made a big save on Jack Hughes, who got in all alone in front of him. It wasn’t a banner night for him – he let in four goals – but none of them were awful. The criticism of him has been pretty simple to this point: While every goal is not exactly bad, he has to make a save at some point. Ultimately, he picked up his second straight win and this is kind of where it’s at with this team: If he makes one or two big saves and doesn’t let in anything awful, he has a chance to collect a win.

10.  I legitimately have no idea what Damon Severson was thinking on his own goal to end the game, but it was a somewhat fitting way for it to end as the game was pretty loose and messy overall. It was a nice play by William Nylander to create the turnover, but he was the one that turned it over in the first place for Hughes to take possession. At times over the years, we have seen Nylander turn those pucks over and not work to get it back, so it was nice to see that second effort from him — he was rewarded accordingly.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New Jersey Devils


Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New Jersey Devils


Game Highlights: Leafs 5 vs. Devils 4 (OT)