The Toronto Maple Leafs made it 3-0-0 in the season series against the Senators with their first win in Ottawa since January of 2018 last night on HNIC.

Your game in ten:

1.  This quote from DJ Smith (below), followed by Nikita Zaitsev going off the glass to no one on his second shift of the game, followed by the play coming back down his side of the ice, Zaitsev stumbling into his own D partner, and Auston Matthews burning him wide for a goal against — priceless.

2.  His work prior to the Jake Muzzin 2-0 goal was everything William Nylander hasn’t been appreciated enough for — the strength on the puck to hold off a defender before laying the puck off to set up the zone, followed by going straight to the front of the net and applying the screen on Marcus Hogberg. He didn’t get an assist on the goal, but he was instrumental in laying a lot of the groundwork that allowed for it to happen. Later, he took up a perfect support position in the offensive zone, stole the puck in the middle of the ice, and went to the front of the net for his 3-0 deflection goal. Shouldn’t need to be said, but the Perimeter Willy narrative really has no basis in reality, whether it’s the eye-test or by the numbers.

3.  The Leafs had one go in on them in the final frame and allowed a 3-0 lead to become 3-2 with 10 minutes to go, but this third period was not like the others — it was the team’s best of the night in terms of expected Goals (76%) at five-on-five and they could’ve easily put the game away at 4-1 or 5-1 if not for some heroics from Craig Anderson. I thought the Leafs’ first period was by far its worst, as the Senators probably deserved a 1-1 goal based on the run of play, including a 20-4 run in shot attempts in the first 13 minutes of the game.

There were some prolonged o-zone shifts from the Matthews and Tavares lines early in the third, while Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman both broke in alone on the goalie and couldn’t bury. They didn’t secure their lead until the Mitch Marner empty netter, but the process was mostly right in terms of continuing to push offensively. As we saw vs. Montreal (among other instances), this is not a Leafs team that should be attempting “shutdown” third-periods a la the Dallas Stars — it has to do its defending at the other end and pad its leads.

4.  There was also a crazy scramble in front (below) that Craig Anderson somehow kept out in the third period, and it all started with a good example of the Leafs patiently dissecting the Sens’ neutral zone. Both Jake Muzzin and Sheldon Keefe talked after the Dallas game about the finding the balance between building up the ice patiently with numbers and “going fast”:

It is a real balance. At times, you want to go real fast, but you’re going real fast into a wall.

They used multiple regroups and stayed patient in possession before Rasmus Sandin hit William Nylander with a nice blueline-to-blue line pass to break the zone. A flurry of chances ensued:

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5.  Interesting contrast in this game between shot attempts (i.e. our publicly-available possession proxy) and actual clocked zone time per Sports Logiq. At the start of the third, the Leafs trailed in shot attempts, 34-21, and led by nearly five minutes in o-zone time, 18:15 to 13:42 (that only widened in the first minutes in the final frame). This is where Corsi can be deceiving — the Sens were throwing everything at the net, while a much more offensively talented Leafs team is more methodical with its shot selection and tendency to hang onto pucks and make plays.

6.  It’s still early days, but Jack Campbell continues to be just what the doctor ordered for the Leafs (3-0-1, .919 save percentage). He’s making difficult saves look pretty routine because he’s putting himself in good positions with his reads. He’s also absorbing pucks and killing plays effectively, which makes everyone’s life easier defensively and breathes confidence into the group. As a fan looking on — again, early days — I haven’t had this much confidence in a Leafs backup since Curtis McElhinney, and Campbell has a quieter presence in the crease than McElhinney.

7.  It’s no secret neither are excelling on the defensive side of the puck this season, but in terms of fluid puck movement coming out of their own end, you’d expect a Travis Dermott and Tyson Barrie pairing to be more consistently sharp than they have been given where their strengths lie as players. The Connor Brown 3-1 goal was pretty unfortunate due to Barrie hitting the ref’s skate, but there were several sequences in the game where they made more work for themselves than necessary when executing those kinds of D-to-D plays. Liljegren and Sandin haven’t been perfect by any means, but they’re more sharp and synced up as far as getting the puck moving north efficiently.

8.  Since Morgan Rielly went down, Dermott and Barrie are getting by with a positive goal differential (8-6) in 131 5v5 minutes together, but they’re at 47% in 5v5 possession share despite a pretty heavy tilt in offensive-zone starts (62%). That goes along with a 44% shot share, a 45% in scoring chance share, and 48% in expected Goals. This is obviously where Rielly is missed — even if Rielly-Barrie often made you cover your eyes in their defensive-zone coverages, they were much more effective at moving the puck and tiling the ice in the team’s favour. Rielly has taken a lot of flak this year for his defensive warts, but this part of it is going under-recognized. Rielly and Barrie were well over 50% in all of possession, scoring chance, and expected Goal share despite fewer o-zone starts.

9.  Glad to see both Egor Korshkov and Mason Marchment recalled today for a few reasons — fresh legs for a team that has been battling illnesses and is in the thick of a busy schedule makes sense, and the team also should be taking these opportunities to sort out its bottom six. Tavares, Marner, Nylander, Hyman, and Matthews seem to be able to combine for three or four goals on many nights between even strength and the power play, but the lack of bottom-six scoring of late (and momentum-tilting shifts from their bottom lines) shouldn’t be a problem the Leafs sleep on. I’m not sure both Korshkov and Marchment will play tonight in Buffalo, but a bottom-six with the combined size of Clifford, Korshkov, Marchment, and Engvall would be a really interesting and different dynamic to take a look at.

10.  We were wondering before the game if Sheldon Keefe would keep the minutes managed more tightly than he did over the two games in last weekend’s back-to-back given the result in Montreal. In both games (vs. Anaheim and Ottawa), the team lead by multiple goals in the third period, but this time, the Leafs held onto the lead and Keefe managed to keep the minutes more in check — no forward broke the 20-minute mark. The distribution on defense was less balanced due to the fact the leash remains tight on Timothy Liljegren, who played just 11:40 but was on for two goals for (one assist). Hopefully, a more rested Tavares/Matthews/Marner/Nylander pays off in the back-to-back tonight.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators


Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempt Locations

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators


Game Highlights: Leafs 4 vs. Senators 2