The Maple Leafs ran the wounded Anaheim Ducks out of the building with a 7-0 triumph that included six different goal scorers — only one of which was a member of the big four forwards — and a second consecutive shutout for Ilya Samsonov.
Your game in 10:
1. Anaheim opened the game with the first five shots, but it wasn’t long before the Leafs sliced them apart defensively for a couple of goals, including a goal on their first shot of the game.
The Ducks had some impetus with the puck in the first period, but they were completely switched off without it. The Leafs weren’t exactly dialed-in defensively in the opening period, either, as they did a fair bit of standing around flat-footed in their own end and were a little loose in their entry defense and defensive-zone coverage. 16 shots against and 1.36 expected goals against is not a clean period defensively for the Leafs regardless of the 2-0 score. Ilya Samsonov had to be quite sharp in the opening 20.
To illustrate the point, the Leafs already have five full games this season with fewer than 1.36 expected goals against at five-on-five. Through the first 20 minutes, it was pacing to be their worst game of the season by that metric outside of their visit to Vegas — the game in which they were completely dominated back in October — but they really cleaned it up the rest of the way, conceding just 12 shots and .60 expected goals for the rest of the game.
2. A couple of good plays with the puck from Conor Timmins led to the two Leafs goals in the first period — the first was an outlet pass to Pierre Engvall through the neutral zone leading to the Alex Kerfoot goal, but the second one leading to John Tavares‘ goal was more noteworthy. The little extra poise he showed on the blue line to take a pause and get his head up allowed him to identify Mitch Marner opening up for a pass in the high slot, and he put it nicely on his tape.
Timmins joined the Leafs with seven points in his first 41 NHL games, but he already has four in four with the Leafs after also grabbing the primary assist with the D-to-D pass prior to TJ Brodie‘s second-period 3-0 goal. He’s been a highly productive 5v5 defenseman at the junior and AHL levels, so the early signs are promising that he’s finding some confidence with the puck already in Toronto.
The people I talked to around the OHL about Timmins in his draft year were quite sure of his potential as a second-pair puck-moving defenseman who could play the power play once fully developed, but significant injuries during critical development time as a young defenseman (180 games lost over four years) can be huge obstacles to overcome. He’s a long way from realizing that potential at just 45 NHL games played by age 24, but things are off to a good start with his new opportunity in a better situation in Toronto.
3. One Leaf who was switched on defensively from the drop of the puck onward was Mark Giordano, who broke up a two-on-one in the first period and made a few nice shot blocks, including a painful one seven minutes into the second period.
It’s a Tuesday against the worst team in the league with the Leafs cruising, and yet Giordano simply doesn’t take nights off or make business decisions. More than just a veteran support piece, he’s become a real tone-setter and leader for this Leafs defense core/team as a whole. As Sheldon Keefe has become fond of calling him, he’s simply the ultimate competitor.
Jason Spezza was a fantastic veteran leader for this team, too, but what he wasn’t able to do was provide 18-21 minutes a night of this kind of leadership by example. We’re repeating ourselves in these game reviews at this point, but this has been a huge addition and signing for the Leafs.
4. The Leafs went on a 13-1 shots run during the first half of the second period, which included three unsuccessful Leafs power plays. The first two efforts were by no means poor from the first unit, but it was good to see Spencer Carbery throw the second unit a bone by starting it for the first shift of the third power-play, especially knowing Conor Timmins, Michael Bunting, and Pierre Engvall were feeling it in this game.
Currently, that second unit is composed of Engvall and Denis Malgin on the half-walls, Timmins at the point, Bunting in the bumper, and Joey Anderson at the net front. Anderson actually racked up five power-play goals in his first 21 games with the Marlies this season from that position on the power play.
5. The Leafs all but ended the game inside a four-minute span in the second half of the second period with two 5v5 goals. A theme of their offensive uptick during their recent run has been the persistent net-front presence and willingness to challenge the net aggressively.
On Saturday, John Tavares was visibly annoying the Flames’ defensemen all night by consistently setting up shop right on top of the crease, which is where he scored the 2-0 goal tonight.
Pontus Holmberg showed impressive strength on the puck and drove the net hard for a drawn penalty in the second period (Holmberg was on or around the puck a lot in this game both offensively and defensively and really deserved to get on the scoresheet with the three third-period assists).
On the 3-0 goal by TJ Brodie, Michael Bunting battled to establish positioning for a shot-for-tip in the slot, while William Nylander fought for positioning at the front of the net, creating the chaos in which Brodie’s shot took a bounce into the net.
During his nine-game points streak, Bunting has definitely found his element again in this regard. He battled in front, timed his push off of the defenseman nicely, and buried the 4-0 goal.
That off-the-puck work to battle for positioning, occupy defenders, open lanes, and generate traffic inside the prime real estate of the offensive zone has been a major key to the team’s significant five-on-five offensive growth over the past six weeks.
6. With a chance for the Ducks to get themselves back in the game, Ilya Samsonov stonewalled Max Comtois on a breakaway to keep it at 3-0 just before Bunting’s 4-0 goal that put the game to bed.
Samsonov made some big saves and looked pretty much unbeatable in this game. There was a moment a few minutes later where he stretched for a quick-reaction save off of a faceoff and seemed to be favouring his right leg afterward. We saw Samsonov stay in the game for a while when he tweaked his knee against Boston only to find out some bad news later on, but thankfully, Samsonov was good to continue after the second-period intermission.
Samsonov’s shutout streak now sits at 153 minutes dating back to the second period of the 3-1 win over the Sharks. Injury aside, he hasn’t missed a beat since arriving in Toronto.
7. For all the defensive plaudits he’s deservedly receiving, Mark Giordano also now has 20 points in 50 games since joining the Leafs after his primary assist on the 5-0 Alex Kerfoot goal. He started the initial breakout on that play, activated up ice, and made a nice feed into the slot from the wall. There is nothing about this man’s game that looks 38 years old.
Giordano is not seeing as much power-play time with all of the responsibility on his shoulders at 5v5/the penalty kill and his numbers are a little bit down as a result (eight points in 30 games), but he’s still right there with Sandin for second among Leafs defensemen in even-strength points with seven to go along with his shorthanded goal.
As for the scorer on that play, it took Kerfoot over 29 games to score his first even-strength goal of the season, and then suddenly he scored two. He entered the game with just two goals in 29 games — one on the power play and one empty netter, both against Dallas in separate games. Kerfoot’s 5-0 goal was much more impressively taken than his first where he got a little fortunate with a less-than-perfect launch on the one-timer. The second was on and off the stick and into the top corner in a flash. Confidence restored?
8. Speaking of players that were ice-cold to start the season but are starting to find their footing again offensively, Pierre Engvall now has three goals and five points in his last eight games after starting the season with two goals and four points in his opening 20.
Keefe mentioned that he considered keeping Joey Anderson on the third line rather than re-inserting Engvall there after his suspension, but he thought that Engvall seemed to be coming on offensively with his puck play and power-play goal against the Kings. Engvall proved him right with a nice primary assist on Alex Kerfoot‘s 4-0 goal as well as another nice curl-and-snipe similar to his power-play goal against LA — this time on his off-wing and at even strength — for the 6-0 goal.
It’s been a stat that has been making the rounds: The Leafs were receiving 66% of their offense from the big four during their winning run prior to tonight. Tonight, 86% of their seven goals were not scored by any of the stars.
9. With no Ducks power plays in the final 40 minutes, it provided an opportunity for the coaching staff to ease the load on Mark Giordano – Justin Holl for a game (around 18 minutes and change apiece in TOI), and we could also see the effect on the overall minute distribution of TJ Brodie getting back up to speed — he led the team with 21:05 in time on ice.
You can easily see the blueprint of how it’s going to come together on the blue line if all the Leafs’ D could ever remain healthy at the same time. Morgan Rielly slots in next to Brodie, Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren keep doing their thing, Giordano – Holl keep doing theirs, and Jordie Benn – Conor Timmins provide the depth options as the 7/8 “fourth pair.” It’s enviable depth with a lot of versatility among the mix, a good blend of youth and experience, and no one pairing is necessarily the designated first vs. second vs. or third on any given night.
10. The Leafs left no doubt in this one, refusing to let the Ducks off the mat by piling on the goals and staying committed to seeing out Ilya Samsonov‘s second consecutive shutout. Auston Matthews exemplified a 60-minute effort with a strong backcheck and puck recovery with 3:30 left in a 6-0 game. Zach Aston-Reese rang the cross-bar. Joey Anderson piled on a seventh Toronto goal (his first as a Leaf), picking up a rebound off of a Rasmus Sandin point shot.
These types of trap games have engendered dread in the fan base for the past few years, and the troubling theme continued into October of this season with the losses to Montreal, Arizona, San Jose, and Anaheim. But the Leafs have now won tidily over Anaheim, Buffalo, San Jose, and Detroit in the past few weeks as they continue to check box after box during this stretch of 15 straight games with at least a point (11-0-4).
Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts