The Toronto Maple Leafs just can’t seem to solve Thatcher Demko.
Thanks to some stellar goaltending and a pair of goals on the power play, the Vancouver Canucks were able to defeat the Leafs by a final score of 4-2.
It looked as though the Leafs might hold onto the 2-1 lead they’d built in the first two periods, but thanks to some opportunistic scoring (and a few rough turnovers by Mitch Marner), the Canucks were able to climb back with three straight goals.
To help guide our thoughts on this game, let’s go through every player individually. It’s time for some report cards!
Game Puck: Zach Hyman (RW, #11) — He really is taking this whole “driving a line” thing seriously.
zach hyman is a monster pic.twitter.com/ua9e09rCLq
— dylan (@dylanfremlin) March 7, 2021
For those of you who were too lazy to watch the video, he singlehandedly created two wrap-around chances and a slap shot on the same shift. Anyone who’s watched Hyman play before knows how much energy he brings on the forecheck, which is why he dominates the puck below the goal line.
At 5-on-5, the Leafs out-chanced the Canucks 11-2 when Hyman was on the ice. It was that kind of night for him.
John Tavares (C, #91) — The Tavares-Nylander combo was lethal at even strength. Both players did a great job of quality chances, although it was Tavares who found the back of the net.
It was only a matter of time before Tavares started finding the back of the net at even strength. He and Willy Styles were buzzing all night long.
William Nylander (LW, #88) — This would’ve been an easy 5-star grade had it not been for his puck-over-glass penalty.
Nylander had a team-high seven shots from the slot in this game, but I’m sure this the only thing some people will remember. It sucks that Vancouver scored on the ensuing power play, but if we’re being honest, that’s a pretty flukey play.
I tend to like evaluating all of a player’s shifts and try to add up whether the pros outweighed the cons. At the end of the day, he led the team in shots and chances, didn’t register a point, but probably should have. I’d say that’s a pretty darn good game, dumb penalty aside.
Alex Kerfoot (LW, #15) — His one-touch pass to Tavares was a great little play to get a world-class shooter in open space. I also really liked how hard Kerfoot was battling for 50-50 pucks along the boards, although his hit on Jordie Benn might’ve crossed the line.
Jimmy Vesey (LW, #26) — That man is on fire!
Is now the right time to mention that most of Jimmy Vesey’s goals look like this? Finishing talent is obviously important, and it’s one that Vesey possesses. That said, I think Zach Bogosian could score on a few of these.
All kidding aside, it’s great to see Vesey playing with more confidence. He looks more confident skating the puck up the ice with possession, which is a positive trend for him.
The Muzzin-Holl Pair — Quietly and effectively, they got the job done. Jake Muzzin is so good at tilting the ice by breaking up plays early in the neutral zone. It’s not something that’s “fun” to watch as a fan, but he positions himself well and gets in the way, mucking things up at the blue line.
His partner, Justin Holl, is also quite good at this. Holl tends to prefer using his stick as opposed to playing the body, but then again, he lost his stick and literally threw an opposing forward down with both hands. If you’re wondering why a penalty wasn’t called, those didn’t exist for the majority of this game.
Holl also had a few great breakout passes, most notably his stretch pass up to Kerfoot on the Tavares goal, as well as Marner on his little 360 off the rush.
Jason Spezza (RW, #19) — He just keeps producing. Spezza was able to find Brodie in the middle of the ice with a beautiful spin pass, which led to the backdoor goal by Vesey. At even strength, I thought Spezza was the best player on his line (again), driving the bus offensively with his passing.
TJ Brodie (RD, #78) — There were a lot of highs and lows for him in this one.
- High: Jumping up in the rush and finding Vesey backdoor (primary assist!)
- Low: Allowing a backdoor pass to Brock Boeser on the PK (goal against)
- High: Picking off a pass on a 4-on-2 rush
- Low: The game-winning goal bouncing off of his stick, breaking it, and landing in the slot
Hockey is chaos, especially when you’re a defenseman.
Good But Not Great — We’re going to group a few guys in here tonight.
Ilya Mikheyev showed off a few flashes of skill here and there, even generating a bit of his own offense in the third period. Travis Dermott still looks great going back on loose pucks, but he needs to find a way to get shots through in the offensive zone.
Frederik Andersen was actually having a really great game until he let this one in.
You’d like to see him fight through that screen better. When it comes to the goal that came after this, Nils Hoglander fired such a perfect shot that it fooled the referee. We could blame Andersen a bit for that one, but just keep in mind how many times he robbed JT Miller from the slot earlier in the game.
Thornton-Matthews — We’re going to give Marner his own section at the end, so let’s talk about his linemates here. Joe Thornton looked a bit off for a second game in a row, making me wonder if the 41-year-old could use a bit more load management this season. He’s still setting up behind the net well in the OZ, but there were a few passes tonight that were way off, especially on the breakout.
Auston Matthews didn’t look like himself either tonight. When I think of an elite scorer in their sport (i.e. Michael Jordan in the 90s), that killer instinct comes to mind. Wanting to create your own shot and finding a way to make it happen.
Matthews had a few great passes in this game, but he was actually turning down looks from good spots on the ice. Maybe it’s the wrist injury still bothering him, maybe it’s just one-off game, or maybe…Auston Matthews Has Hit A Wall?
I’m sorry, you can stop reading now.
Worst Player On Their Line — As much as I loved watching Hyman play in the offensive zone, it was frustrating when the puck landed on Pierre Engvall‘s stick in board battles. For example, he got pushed off the puck by JT Miller late in a shift where Toronto was pressing offensively. As always, Engvall was defensively responsible, but those turnovers cost you puck possession, which matters.
Despite his infamous PDO bender, I didn’t love Travis Boyd‘s game again tonight. This is a few games in a row where he’s making a limited impact. I’d like to see more from him, especially as a passer in the offensive zone.
Zach Bogosian (RD, #22) — He got burned by Miller on a PK entry, leading to a backdoor pass for Boeser on the power play. Now, Bogosian did make a few strong plays with his stick in front of the net to prevent a few quality chances, but I’m not sure if it was worth getting beat in transition defense multiple times.
Morgan Rielly (LD, #44) — I love Morgan Rielly the breakout artist. I love Morgan Rielly the power-play quarterback (when he’s not looking off Matthews on a 5-on-3). I love Morgan Rielly when he’s jumping up in the play at 5-on-5.
I do not love Rielly defending the rush.
This happens way too often for a player who’s getting #1D minutes on a contender.
I’m not breaking news to anyone when I say breakaways are bad, but with the way Rielly seemingly neglects the importance of preventing them, maybe it’s something we need to bring up. We could say the same thing about 2-on-1s.
In his defense, he ran into some pretty bad luck on Vancouver’s game-winning goal.
That’s obviously not a great look, but when a puck slides through your hands, breaks your partner’s stick, hits your skate, and ends up in the back of the net – maybe it’s just not your night.
The more concerning trend to me is Rielly’s inability to defend the rush.
Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — Woof.
Every player has a nightmare game once or twice a season. This was Marner’s.
That’s not great.
It was one of those games where none of Marner’s fancy passes seemed to be connecting. You could say he was getting a little “too cute” with his back-heel passes off his skate or spin-o-rama in the neutral zone, but at the same time, would you go up to a world-class playmaker and say “don’t be creative?”
Simple can be death in this sport, which is why I love it when I see new and innovative ways to create offense. That said, you want those creative plays to work. Marner’s just weren’t tonight, which was frustrating, to say the least.
Here’s a quick look at where each team’s shots were coming from at even strength, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
The Leafs controlled 60 percent of the shots and 62 percent of the scoring chances at even strength. It was their penalty kill that let them down.
Tweets Of The Night
After rewatching Vesey’s goal, I couldn’t help but notice Tyler Myers’ defensive stance.
— Cindy (@Cindyxshi) March 7, 2021
I guess that’s what $6 million x 5 years gets you on the open market.
The Travis Boyd PDO Tracker keeps on humming.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 7, 2021
He refuses to regress to the mean. You have to respect it.
believe it or not, you aren't the first one to posit this theory tonight Adam
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 7, 2021
Calling them a “juggernaut” was the kiss of death, CJ. How could you?