It is with a heavy heart that I confirm that the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be the first team in NHL history to go 82-0. Maybe in a few years, when they finally decide that defence is for suckers and ice 17 forwards and Timothy Liljegren. But for now, there will be losses, like tonight’s shell-shocking defeat to the young, mobile, somewhat surprising New Jersey Devils, who remain undefeated thanks to tonight’s 6-3 result.
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.
Wake Up Calle
Calle Rosen had a rough, rough night. Shot differential did land in his favour, but besides that, two goals came at the hands of puck decisions made by him, and he looked out of place on many occasions throughout the night. He also took a penalty in the dying moments of the game, though it obviously didn’t make much of a difference.
In fairness to him, having to play on your opposite side in your third NHL game of your career is not an easy task. But at the same time, his maturity and ability to flip to the other end of the ice was part of the selling point on him. Knowing that Mike Babcock has a relatively short leash at times, I’d assume that Rosen has decidedly fallen behind Andreas Borgman in the defence core power rankings and that once Connor Carrick is back to 100%, he’ll be out of the lineup.
Was tonight enough to go all-in and demote him to the Marlies to do some catch-up work there? I’m not so sure, especially given the lineup implications that it creates for that team. But it was undeniably rough.
Two Man Disadvantage
The turning point of this game, no doubt, is the shorthanded goal given up by Toronto almost immediately after starting a two minute 5-on-3. These types of goals are exceedingly rare in today’s game; the last one scored by the Leafs was over six years ago by Tyler Bozak (Mike Richards has the all-time record with 4, scoring all of them before turning 25). Mike Babcock said after the game that he doesn’t recall seeing another.
While there were a lot of fingers being pointed on this play when it happened, it’s hard to put a distinct blame on anyone. Jake Gardiner has some tough luck with how that puck bounces off him. William Nylander, who plays right defence on the powerplay, stayed with the shooter. Perhaps Gardiner should have stayed with Brian Gibbons, but given the risk that would have gone the other way had he not scored, I doubt he was expecting a trailing pinch behind him.
Just a bad break on the whole, and one that cost the team.
Listen, I know the Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Marner line isn’t the best defensively. I know that JVR in particular arent the fastest. But I also feel like every single goal against or penalty against that happens with this trio on the ice involves somebody trying to defend by feverishly depositing their stick into the legs or abdomen of the opposing puck carrier.
Maybe this is something I’ll do the research on. But anectotally, it feels like a problem, particularly when Toronto is bleeding penalties against.
My favourite play of tonight’s game has to be this little sequence by William Nylander. Despite half of the Devils roster seemingly surrounding him, he finds a way to skate himself into a bit of a circle, fend them most of the way off, then get the puck to Nikita Zaitsev, who sends it up to Auston Matthews for the controlled zone entry.
It’s little things like this that make Nylander such a good neutral zone player, and I’m always here for them.
Though, if we can include off-ice plays, this was the real highlight of the night:
We all get bored at work sometimes pic.twitter.com/VdZIUesOCl
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 12, 2017
Not So Steady Freddy
I don’t particularly want to instil panic, because it’s very early in the season, but after a solid debut, Frederik Andersen has a 0.871 save percentage through four games. By comparison, he was 0.879 in his first four last year, and that was when everyone was half certain that he was still recovering from a summer shoulder injury.
Just saying, it might be something to keep an eye on.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 12, 2017
Dominic Moore played pretty well once again tonight, driving play, spending decent time on the penalty kill, and somehow sneaking onto the powerplay and scoring a goal as if it were 2009 all over again (which would, honestly, explain the loss). I wonder how long the see-saw between him and Eric Fehr will last, but I’m leaning towards Moore’s mobility and his success on the draw (I know, I know, shut up). That’s especially true if he keeps tipping pucks into the net.
Once again, Matt Martin played several minutes fewer than any other Leafs forward tonight. I’m going to do my best not to harp on this throughout the year, mostly because I think he’ll have some positive games to go with the confusing ones, but tonight was decidedly the latter.
Martin had his first fight of the season tonight, dropping the gloves with Stefan Noesen.
Noesen took offence to a somewhat late hit on Brian Gibbons, which was lucky to not be called as interference. Instead, Toronto actually gained a powerplay from this, as Noesen drew an instigator.
It’s the second situation that makes this all feel weird, though. Jesper Bratt was very lucky to get out of another somewhat targeted hit, and Martin sees absolutely no reason to fight Henrique, who has clear interest in doing so. It’s not an experience thing; Henrique had more pro and junior fights going into tonight. Is it a height thing? Is it Martin not wanting to be the guy who fights a skilled forward?
I don’t get what it really serves to accomplish by not saying yes. Either way, the whole thing turns into a dead play after the angry contingent can’t find their way over the blue line.
Remember the Name
Blake coleman, 5-2 Devils. Hands up if you've heard of Blake Coleman, Miles Wood or Brian Gibbons before tonight. … Come on….Be honest.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) October 12, 2017
Anybody who enjoyed what was possibly the American Hockey League’s most blood boiling and physically intense rivalry over the past two years knows exactly who this trio are. In fact, one of the things I enjoyed about tonight was that there were the number of graduates from the last two seasons of Albany Devils / Toronto Marlies playoff series between the two sides.
Coleman, Wood, and Gibbons were all part of the 2016/17 Albany playoff team that lost to Toronto in the fourth game of a first-round best-of-five, as was Steven Santini. Pavel Zacha and Damon Severson, two of New Jersey’s core pieces moving forward, played in the even crazier 2015/16 series, which was in the second round and went to seven games.
On the Leafs side of things, Toronto had Zach Hyman, William Nylander, and Connor Brown from the 2015/16 team, and would’ve presumably had Connor Carrick if he was healthy.
Coming Up Next
Toronto’s next game comes on Saturday night when they take on the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been years since the Leafs have beat the Habs in the regular season, but their roster is now better positioned than ever to do so and they’ll likely be looking for a rebounding statement after this one. Can they pull it off? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.