That was fun. A lot of fun. Unless you’re Marc Bergevin, in which case that game was really, really, really, really, really not what you wanted it to be. Whatever the case, Auston Matthews returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the roster was tossed into a blender, ruckuses ensued, and the Leafs walked away with a 6-0 victory, their biggest against the Habs since 2013. Here’s what went down.

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.

Auston’s Rearrival

After four days off, Auston Matthews made his triumphant return to the lineup, which I suppose means that the trade (tongue placed firmest in cheek) fell through. Good thing, too, because he didn’t skip a single beat last night, scoring the two final nails in Montreal’s coffin.

This angle, unfortunately, crops out the fantastic between the legs backhand pass that Matt Martin gave to Mitch Marner before the Matthews finish, making for one of the most out-of-nowhere line combinations we’ve seen in a long time. Mike Babcock stressed after the game that it was a temporary measure and not a trio he plans on returning to. Now, it’s not my preferred option, but I didn’t hate it. It fits the displacement-playmaker-finisher mould, and all three players have a familiarity with each other. I could see it being a good fallback on tense nights if the Hyman-Nylander pair isn’t gelling with Auston or are better used elsewhere.

This one was pretty much all him, though. It’s crazy how this skate in, find the spot, and snipe from distance ordeal has become trademark for him; that’s the benefit of having one of the most lethal shots in hockey and the footspeed to find space.

Crunch Time

Emotions boiled over in this game. Nikita Zaitsev had his first career fight, Connor Carrick tussled with Brendan Gallagher, and all sorts of other pushing, shoving, and hitting occurred throughout. But nothing was more intense than this scenario involving Nazem Kadri. Max Pacioretty dumped him into the boards with a hit from behind, and without the chance to get direct retribution, Kadri went after Shea Weber, who had previously thrown a questionable hit on Zach Hyman.

You could probably give both players penalties and a strong yelling at for their hits (both were reckless and likely illegal), but the biggest offence was the response to Kadri afterwards. Jordie Benn grabs him from behind and throws him to the ground, at which point Weber starts to fill him in with punches. In a common-sense world, this is judged as Benn initiating and Weber jumping in as a third man.

Instead, Benn gets away without a penalty, Weber gets two roughing minors, and Kadri gets one. It’s the correct balance of calls (Montreal 2, Toronto 1), but the distribution makes little to no sense. Give Kadri the elbow (or similar), give each of Benn and Weber something for the scrum, and it looks much closer to reality.

Ron Breaks The Ice

Big congratulations are in order to David Clarkson, who scored his first goal with the Leafs since January 2015 last night!

…am I the only one who sees the resemblance? Anyway, Ron Hainsey finally got rewarded for a quarter season of being a good defensive soldier, getting the game-winning goal with a blast from the point. He’s surprised some, validated others, and at the end of the day, everyone is happier for it.

Fantastic Freddy

For the second time in his tenure with the Leafs (the first being January 23rd and 25th, 2017), Frederik Andersen has posted back-to-back shutouts in blue and white. Since November 8th, he’s put up a 4-0-0 record, stopped 143 of 147 shots, and has a 0.973 save percentage in that stretch. The result? His numbers are normal again! Never in doubt, but surprising that he pulled them back up to his career average so quickly. We’ll see if that holds for the rest of the year, but I’m optimistic that his groove is coming back.

Ceremonious

Away from the actual game, the Canadiens had a very nice ceremony at the start of the game to honour the Original Six, having representatives from all six teams come out in their jerseys for the ceremonial faceoff. Much to the annoyance of a few Leafs fans, we saw Frank Mahovolich wear two sweaters that weren’t blue, starting the ceremony in a Red Wings sweater before joining Hawks representative Denis Savard in switching to the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge to hype up the crowd.

Dave Keon was Toronto’s representative. Seeing Keon do anything for the Leafs is a lock to make me feel happy about the world; it’s great that hatchets have been buried to the point that he feels motivated to represent the team again. Also, I really enjoyed the crowd-led National Anthem yesterday; they even went full bilingual without any confusion, which is impressive.

Coming Up Next

Just like that, the Leafs’ tides have completely reversed and they return to the top of the chards. 14-7-0 puts them third in the NHL in points, trailing only St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Their next game is tomorrow night, against the Arizona Coyotes.

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