David Rittich was terrific as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost a low-scoring game to the Calgary Flames in a shootout.
Your game in ten:
1. The first period was quite boring, especially by the Leafs standards. Per Natural Stat Trick, there were just three high-danger scoring chances in the first 20 minutes, and the Flames held a 2-1 edge. Both teams only spent about 80 seconds on the powerplay, with neither coming close to scoring. It wasn’t “first period against the Islanders” boring, but it was a big change from what we’re used to seeing.
2. While the second period was far more entertaining, David Rittich was on his “A” game. He made a nice save on a Mitch Marner wrap-around just two minutes into the period and bailed his team out more than a few times. Toronto looked good on the man-advantage during both of their attempts, but Calgary scored the only goal of the period when Derek Ryan tipped-in Travis Hamonic’s point shot.
The Leafs nearly tied it up right around the halfway point, as Kasperi Kapanen fired a hard shot from the slot and Andreas Johnsson was robbed on the rebound. John Tavares later found himself with an empty net on the power play, but his shot could not get by Noah Hanifin’s stick. Frederik Andersen made a nice save on Mikael Backlund in the slot towards the end of the second, but most of this period was spent in Calgary’s end, and the Leafs deserved to be on the scoreboard. 1-0 Calgary after two periods.
3. With no shots in the first seven minutes, the Leafs third-period comeback effort didn’t get off to a great start. Thankfully, Kasperi Kapanen drew a Tobias Rieder holding penalty with 12:45 to play, and the Leafs finally found a way to beat Rittich. The top power-play unit wasn’t even thinking of coming off the ice at the one-minute mark, and Tavares found noted perimeter player, William Nylander, in-front for the tip. Nylander almost scored an absolutely beautiful goal just a minute later, but Rittich found a way to keep himself off of the highlight reels with a big save.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) January 17, 2020
With both teams tied at one with eight minutes to play, this felt like a “next goal wins” sort of game. Zach Hyman‘s offensive-zone interference penalty gave fans a bit of a scare, but the Leafs penalty killers were up to the challenge and the Leafs’ big players quickly jumped back onto the ice. With five minutes to go, Andreas Johnsson fed a perfect pass to Auston Matthews on a two-on-one and Rittich came up big yet again with a huge save. Neither goalie looked ready to give up the game-winner, and with this game headed to overtime, it felt like Rittich had stolen his team a point.
Now tied for 1st…?? https://t.co/VihSOK3eA5
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) January 17, 2020
4. The Leafs didn’t touch the puck for the first two minutes of overtime, with John Tavares and Justin Holl unable to get off the ice. Andersen stoned Elias Lindholm point-blank in the slot, but Calgary spent a lot of this time circling back and playing it safe. After the Leafs finally got it back with 2:50 to play, Kasperi Kapanen was robbed on two occasions: one on a hard wrist shot from the slot and another after a great cross-ice pass from Holl. Good saves on both ends, combined with Calgary’s “no fun” approach, took this game to a shootout.
Calgary’s second shooter, Matthew Tkachuk, was the only scorer in the shootout. None of Spezza, Matthews, and Marner could solve Rittich, who found a way to earn his team yet another point. The shootout is a horrible way to end a hockey game.
5. Kasperi Kapanen was one of the best Leafs forwards on the ice tonight despite the fact that he never found the scoresheet. William Nylander was great as well, breaking up a few passes in the defensive zone, scoring a key power-play goal, and nearly giving the Leafs the lead with a remarkable rush. Alex Kerfoot also played well in his second game back at center; given both his two-way game and chemistry with Kapanen, I wouldn’t move him away from that role anytime soon.
Keefe started with a third line of Johnsson-Kerfoot-Kapanen, then flipped Engvall and Johnsson halfway through. Either way, Toronto’s third-line looks strong at both ends of the ice lately. Calgary is one of the few teams in the league with the defensive depth to competently matchup against them, but they should be able to burn the majority of third-pairings around the league.
6. Rasmus Sandin played in his second game since the call-up and got off to a bit of a rough start, at least by his standards. His first-period penalty hooking probably shouldn’t have been called, but he had a rough turnover later on in the frame and didn’t really get much going offensively. Fortunately, it was a pretty uneventful first period, and he bounced back nicely in the second and third.
Sandin ended up with 15:45 of ice time despite the fact that the first unit ate up the vast majority of power play time. Keefe started the Sandin-Ceci pairing against the Mangiapane-Lindholm-Tkachuk line to open multiple periods, and he didn’t shy away from playing him in the final minutes of a tie game. The teenage defenseman certainly didn’t look overmatched physically — even against a heavy Flames roster — and he made a few nice passes on the breakout. He’s going to be pretty damn good, but this wasn’t one of the top few games of his short NHL career.
7. This was a solid game for the Leafs defensively. Both the Dermott-Holl and Marincin-Barrie pairings avoided being scored against in a strong night for each duo. Holl started for the Leafs in overtime and made a great individual effort with a minute to play. Both Dermott and Marincin broke up plenty of rushes with their stick. While Barrie remains a little bit too shot-focused on the powerplay, he looked like the best version of himself in the first period and it felt like it was only a matter of time until he found the scoresheet. Marincin and Barrie have played well together in both games; their opposite skillsets seem to complement one another quite well so far.
8. Once again, Sheldon Keefe took an extreme approach when it came to forward usage. Timashov and Gauthier both played under four minutes, while Toronto’s “big four” were all over 23 minutes. Tavares’ 26:23 was a season-high. On the power play, it felt like Toronto’s second unit was never going to touch the ice. Barrie topped six minutes of power-play time, while Sandin saw the ice for just 25 seconds. Watching this game, nobody could have possibly forgotten about Toronto’s coaching change.
9. If you include the shootout, Auston Matthews ended up with no goals on ten shots. He just couldn’t buy a goal tonight; Rittich just always seemed to have an answer. While the Leafs didn’t have the same level of offensive firepower as they normally do, it still felt like they deserved the win and Matthews’ game told the whole story. If you can find a way to get Matthews nine shots, you’re going to win the majority of those games.
10. The Leafs have now lost four of their last five and their lone win came against a weak Devils lineup. They lost two shootouts in that stretch, so they picked up a couple of loser points in the process, but their last game before the break sure seems big. The Leafs will welcome Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks to Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night, and these two teams always seem to play high-scoring games. I expect to win any given game at home against a non-playoff team. This result will dictate the narratives surrounding the team throughout the break.
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts
Shot Attempt Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts