I got a lot of very positive feedback on my “The Morning After” post from the Season Opener, so much so that I’ve decided to keep this going as an on-going post for the rest of the season. Sometimes it’ll be the night of the game, sometimes it’ll be the next day, but barring extenuating circumstances (which explain a lack of Game 2), I’ll have one of these up.

It’s funny; originally, I was happy to get away from the game recap lifestyle, but under this format, I enjoy them a fair bit more. Anyway, let’s get this show on the road, and talk about the Maple Leafs’ rally from a 3-1 deficit to win in overtime against Chicago:

Highlights

Spreads

5v5 Possession: Percentage of shots taken towards the net (Corsi, CF%) taken while the player is taken on the ice.

Game Score: A single-game performance metric created by Dom Luszczyszyn. Read about the methodology behind it here.

Good Sport

This is a very minor thing, but I really appreciated what Matt Martin does on this chase with Gustav Forsling in the first period. I know former Leafs GM Brian Burke is a big advocate of players going for “bear hugs” instead of finishing checks for the sake of checks, but if Martin goes all-in on this one, we’re probably talking about a very serious injury. Instead, he grabs onto Forsling and slows them both down, avoiding disaster.

It’s a good thing. Say what you will about his spot in the lineup (and trust me, we’re about two sentences away from that), Martin plays a hard-nosed game in a relatively clean way and does his best to respect boundaries.

#SupportBreeze2017

As great of a move that was, though, that doesn’t change my feelings toward that fourth line. Because man, having to watch Connor Brown do this:

and this:

and seeing Brown get his first point of the game by engaging his defencemen while his forwards watched:

and then, once getting a brief reunion with his former linemates, doing this:

Makes you wonder a bunch about what the point of playing this 3.33 line system is. Brown was Toronto’s second best player tonight behind Matthews, and pulled that off while playing substantial time on the powerplay and penalty kill.

Fehr played 5:35 of 5v5 ice time. Martin played 5:00. They were Toronto’s two weakest possession players on the evening, and this is the third time that Martin has played at least two minutes fewer than anyone else on the team in three games.

I don’t get it. I really, really don’t. The Leafs have the capability to run four lines, and they clearly don’t trust their grinders (who are legitimately decent, NHL-calibre players on most other teams) to play substantial amounts of time compared to their peers. What is being gained by being stubborn and effectively burning a line?

I’m just saying, a scoring fourth line is worth a try, and it’s not like they have to acquire from outside to pull it off. More than anything, I just want to see Brown continue to blossom with talent surrounding him; the current setup just feels like untapped potential.

Awesome Auston

Auston Matthews had an inexplicably dominant game tonight, making it fitting that he got the reward at the end. Toronto out-attempted Chicago 30-5 with Matthews on the ice tonight, and 20-3 at 5 on 5. In 10:55 of 5-on-5 play, Toronto gave up no shots against with Matthews on the ice, and only gave up two if you include 3-on-3 and 4-on-4. To show how dominant he and the rest of this line were, just watch this shift again:

There are a few near goals and a lot of Blackhawks skaters wondering what they can possibly do to solve the trio. Looking beyond point production, this may have been their most dominant line together, and Matthews’ most dominant individually.

Oh, and did I mention they were matched up against Hartman, Anisimov, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook for over 80% of those minutes? Out of this world. Just like that game-winning dagger of a shot, complete with the emphatic celebration.

Tough Call

I saw a little bit of controversy surrounding Andreas Borgman’s interference penalty on Twitter tonight. I don’t think it helped that Chicago got their third goal off the ensuing powerplay, but even before that, many were irate.

I’ve watched the sequence quite a few times, and I still don’t get the impression that Alex Debrincat makes contact with the puck to gain possession of it. With that in mind, you pretty much have to call this; that the closest-by referee didn’t isn’t an argument to the contrary, but an example of him failing to make (or being too lenient to make) the correct call.

If that’s Mitch Marner being hit by Brent Seabrook and it goes uncalled just in case his blade kind of makes contact with the puck, reactions would be much different. Staying consistent is key, but I’m in favour of calls like this being made.

Behind The Net

Just a bit of a minor observation here: the trapezoidal region wasn’t particularly kind to the Leafs tonight. Chicago abused it on both of their first two goals (with Morgan Rielly getting caught there on both occasions, though its hard to put blame on him), and Richard Panik’s “of course the ex-Leaf scores” tally came off an unbelievably lucky bounce off the barrier after a Gustav Forsling wide shot. Again, probably more coincidence than

Again, probably more coincidence than anything, but maybe something to keep an eye out for.

The Rally

At the 27 minute mark, Toronto and Chicago were tied 25-25 in attempted shots at 5v5 even strength. For the rest of the game, which did admittedly have ten penalties and a chunk of 3-on-3 overtime, Toronto out-attempted Chicago 25-2.

25-2. Even if you go all situations, the ratio is still pretty obscene at 46-15 after a 29-29 deadlock. Look, the Blackhawks aren’t what they once were, and re-acquiring players of the past isn’t going to change that, but they’re still a reasonably deep team that has some talent. Toronto took an up-and-down game, grabbed it by the throat at the midway point, and threw it against the wall.

They made it into men against boys, except the boys were doing the talking.

Three games in is a little early to be talking about passing of torches, but this had that vibe to it. Toronto were faster, more skilled, and more eager every single step of the way, and made a once-great team look like an also-ran before time was up.

Because of it, they sit 3-0-0 and lead the league in goals. Needless to say, not a bad start.

Coming Up Next

Toronto gets a day off tomorrow, before taking on the Devils on Wednesday night. New Jersey is seen to be a likely bottom feeder, but they’ve come out hot to start the season with an impressive pair of wins over Buffalo and Colorado. It’ll be interesting to see if they carry confidence, but the same can be said of this group.

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