For the first time since his debut, the Toronto Maple Leafs were without Auston Matthews tonight. He played through whatever his ailment is (presumed to be a sore back) on Monday against the Golden Knights, but the Leafs drew the line for this one and gave him a night off. The result? A game where the Leafs didn’t particularly dominate the shot count, but finally got a star-worthy performance out of Frederik Andersen and just enough goal support to walk away with their second consecutive victory.

Highlights

Spreads

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

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

Blender Magic

Toronto’s lineup shuffle to fill the Matthews void was pretty interesting. Patrick Marleau was slotted down the middle between Zach Hyman and Connor Brown, the JVR-Bozak-Marner line was reunited, William Nylander was moved to the matchup line with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov, and a clear fourth line was made with Matt Martin, Dominic Moore, and Josh Leivo.

Some of it worked (like the Marleau and Nylander lines), some of it didn’t (maybe the Bozak line has worn its course), and the fourth just did fourth line things (Leivo and Martin played under 10 minutes at even strength).

Just The Tip

This goal changed scorers about seventeen times if you were to believe the broadcast, the NHL, the Air Canada Centre, and the official team app, but it was definitely Nazem Kadri’s. Could it have been Morgan Rielly’s or Leo Komarov’s if things went a bit differently? Sure, but it could’ve also been a save. Kadri’s redirection was a nifty one, though, and further confirmation that he’s making the front of the net his home a bit more this year.

On the other hand, you have Connor Carrick’s goal, which had no Leafs redirection involved in its placement but had many believing it could have been Matt Martin’s.

Nino Mercy

Nino Niederreiter and Nazem Kadri go way back, years back, to an exchange of words and a throat-slashing gesture from Kadri back in the 2010 World Juniors. Things have been scrappy in their rare matchups against each other ever since, and today’s example of that was this boarding penalty. Definitely reckless on Niederreiter’s part, though I guess the silver lining is that it got this year’s edition of the beef out of the way quick.

Life After Auston

The Leafs are now 1-0 without Auston Matthews in the Auston Matthews era. No, that doesn’t mean its time to trade him, but it is nice to see that they survived. Toronto has been super lucky to avoid having their best forwards fall out of the lineup for extended periods of time over the years, so it was jarring to hear that he was out, but it gave everyone a reminder that Toronto has a ton of supporting offensive talent that, you know, plays alongside him and for the 70% of the game that he isn’t involved in.

Mike Babcock says he’s unsure when he’ll return to the lineup; it’s been floated that another two games off this weekend would give him over a week of rest.

Flies On

We hear a lot about why it’s important to have a tough customer in the lineup; particularly because they protect the superstars. Now, I obviously don’t mind Matt Martin being in tonight; he’s been pretty good for the past few weeks, and I take him over Frederik Gauthier as long as I don’t desperately need a centre. But he didn’t stop Marcus Foligno from throwing this hit, and he didn’t really get near him in the sixteen seconds they shared ice together afterwards.

Not that I’d expect him to hop the bench and knock Foligno out (or, on their shared shift, give up on a play that led to a goal for the sake of a fight), but this is definitely an example of a star getting rocked in spite of “protection”.

Freddy Finds Form

Frederik Andersen was excellent tonight. He stopped 35 of 37, and the goals that Toronto conceded were both pretty clear defensive breakdowns that were somehow taken best advantage of by Jason Zucker, We were given a bit of a scare when Andersen got his arm caught along the net later in the game, but he was ready to play before the end of the TV timeout that followed. No doubt, he was tonight’s first star, finally delivering a game where he was a positive difference maker.

Coming Up Next

Toronto’s record is starting to look pretty good again! But let’s not get too carried away; they’ve got a big weekend ahead of them. They’ll be taking on the Bruins at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night, followed by a rematch in Boston on Saturday.

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