To be a truly great team in the eyes of the standings sheet, sometimes you have to win games that you absolutely don’t deserve. To say that yesterday was one of those for the Toronto Maple Leafs was an understatement; the Carolina Hurricanes skated laps around them for the bulk of their game, but somehow, the blue and white emerged victors in a 5-4 barn burner.

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.

Shellshocked

The Leafs have had issues with starting games on time over the past few weeks, but on this particular night, I’m pretty sure they slept completely through their alarm. They were outshot by nearly double (47-25), and every single player on the team was out-attempted at 5-on-5. There was a brief show of life in the second that coincided with a handful of their goals, but that’s the extent of the positive excitement. The Hurricanes beat them clean, too; not by intimidating a relatively sandpaper-less lineup, but by simply playing keepaway with their skate and stick blades.

Wave at Low Tide

Nikita Soshnikov was called up by the Leafs a couple of weeks ago in order to prevent the enabling a KHL loan-clause in his contract. It wasn’t without merit, given his fantastic opening month play with the Marlies leading up to the decision, but he definitely hasn’t lived up to that since. Once again, the Leafs were completely and totally exploited with him on the ice last night, with every single positive positive talent trait he has seemingly being a step behind or non-existent on the ice.

He’ll be a scratch against Washington tonight. Deservingly so, especially when you’ve got a recent playoff opponent returning to your building; all circumstances point to dressing Matt Martin instead being the logical call.

Freed Josh

On the other hand, I feel bad for Josh Leivo today. He looked quite good, and rather involved in the play, and even picked himself up a goal, firing an absolute laser at full speed past Cam Ward in the second period. He’ll also be out of the lineup tonight, with Mike Babcock mentioning that he has to keep working to earn his spot.

Of half-point-per-game players who have spent the majority of the past three seasons on an NHL roster, Josh Leivo has been given the fewest games to play by nearly 50%. In that stretch, he is eighth among current Leafs forwards in points per-game. I’m really not sure what else he can do at this point to show he’s earned a spot, save for somehow convincing the staff that typecasting might not always be the answer.

Wide Open

To actual game moments, I thought this was a really solid play and the best that the Leafs looked last night. Be it Nazem Kadri holding the line, Jake Gardiner’s patience, or Zach Hyman pushing to the net, a lot of correct decisions come together to create the game’s opening goal.

Now, Cam Ward also looks ridiculous, but anyone who is shocked by that is stuck in 2006. Toronto got pretty lucky by getting to face him yesterday.

Brotherly Love

It’s always fun to watch two siblings face each other in elite-level sports, and yesterday, James and Trevor van Riemsdyk faced off and were even line-matched on a few occasions. James seemed to get the best of him, though, managing to get a tally through direct coverage.

Luck of the Call

“The Leafs are getting screwed by referees” has been a frequent topic over the past few games, but I don’t particularly like how it gets phrased in a way that suggests that the victims aren’t coincidental. There likely isn’t a conspiracy against the team most likely to make the league obscenely rich with success; refereeing is just hard and mistakes get made across the board.

Like this one. Even this afternoon, I can’t justify Toronto getting a powerplay here, let alone one that leads to the game-winning goal. (Which was, admittedly, very nice)

Rough Zait

I’m as big of a Nikita Zaitsev fan as anyone, but I feel like we need to start an encyclopedia of every occasion that attemping to chip the puck out instead of skating it or passing it to someone more comfortable with doing so has come back to haunt them. It’s his worst habit, and getting out-battled in front certainly doesn’t help his cause.

Coming Up Next

Toronto doesn’t get a ton of time to rest now. A quick flight home will promptly be followed by a game tonight against the Washington Capitals. Puck drop is at 7:00.

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