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Recap: Maple Leafs finish a dull game with passion; get their backup a win over Detroit – Pension Plan Puppets

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Are you ready to relive the game of the century? I’m sure you are, so let’s get to it.

Lines tonight are almost last night’s with Jason Spezza out and Trevor Moore (finally) reactivated from LTIR and on the fourth line. Timashov stays in the game.

First Period

Michael Hutchinson with the play of the game. Dylan Larkin got a breakaway when an Activated Justin Holl spontaneously fell down.

Leafs get an early power play when the evil Red Wings knock down Zach Hyman.

Plot twist! Calvin Pickard comes in for Jonathan Bernier who left for undisclosed reasons either a LBI or fear the Leafs might trade for him if he looked good. Tough spot for Pickard to come in cold on the PK.

Whoa! Pickard makes a save on the one-timer, but gives up a big backup rebound, and Marner nearly has a wide-open net.

Leafs let Larkin go for a slower rush, and this time Hutchinson actually has to make a save.

Travis Dermott with a heroic sliding block when a pinch goes awry. Er, sorry, an Activated Defender move results in the most probable outcome, er, I mean, when the system works as intended.

And a scoreless period closes. The Leafs have all the zone time, 58% Adjusted Corsi and 42% of the Expected Goals. Against the Detroit Red Wings.

Meanwhile in the AHL

The Marlies are playing in Belleville, and on my other monitor, as they help Greg Moore start his pro-coaching career. They have Joseph Woll in net, and you know what that means (they don’t, traditionally, offer up much defending in front of Woll). Pontus Aberg scored on the first shot of the game, giving Moore totally the wrong idea about this team, and then they did this:

This team needs some work. But it’s only 2-1 for the B-Sens, they can still come back.

Thoughts

Second Period

Auston Matthews carries the puck up the neutral zone with support, and he… dumps it in, and Kapanen goes and retrieves it, and he… cycles it back high personally, passes it to Tyson Barrie who is standing still in the centre of the blueline, and he wails on it like it’s the hardest shot contest at the All-Star break. Pickard with an easy save. This entire sequence was to hockey what Miracle Whip is to an aioli.

Red Wings get another chance on a two-on-one, and Holl comes to tidy up behind Hutchinson.

OMG. I’m writing a sternly worded letter of complaint to HNIC. “You might not know that Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan were teammates.” Yes, yes, that’s before everyone’s time, sure.

Hutchinson has to make another big save, so the Leafs try that shooting at the net thing, and Pickard comes up equal to the task.

Trevor Moore with a nice move, but he misses the net. He’s been working hard in his very few shifts tonight.

Yay! A penalty behind the play. I guess the number two ref was bored. And it’s Alexander Kerfoot, Mr Penalty, who is going off, but he’s taking Fabbri with him, so it’s four-on-four.

Matthews cheats so high on a four-on-four play, Phil Kessel is jealous, and what comes of it is not a lot, since he can’t actually out-deke four Red Wings all alone.

Golly, I hope he does the lacrosse goal, next.

The pace of the game is somewhere between glacial and film running in reverse. The commentary is reduced to enthusing over defensive Activation! while the ensuing opposing breakaway is already in progress.

Sheldon Keefe comes up with a line of Hyman, Matthews and Marner because this team, frankly, sucks worse than they did last night.

Hyman gets hauled down on a breakaway, and he bowls Pickard. The ref is a coward and calls a penalty, not a penalty shot.

No, wait, this might be a goal.

Yup, they’re calling it a goal (technically an own goal by the Red Wings)

1-0 Leafs

Matthews looked like he was legit thinking of try the lacrosse goal. How be you score one yourselves the old-fashioned way first.

Oh, cool. Jake Muzzin takes a tripping call with under a minute to go.

And that period ends with the Leafs having given away all of their shot share, and now have 49% adjusted Corsi and 40% Expected Goals, and again, they are playing a historically bad team that has CALVIN PICKARD in net.

As noted by Kevin Papetti, Nylander and Kapanen have been benched for a large part of the second period since well before the goal.

Meanwhile in the AHL

Greg Moore obviously has an effective intermission speech, since the Marlies played their second period very well, upping the shots on goal to 11-12 on the period, and crucially scoring two goals to Belleville’s one. They lead 4-3 in a game they don’t really deserve to be winning.

Thoughts

As long as you’re loose and having fun, really, what else matters? Anyone for some ping pong?

Third Period

Leafs open the period by killing the rest of the Muzzin penalty.

The Leafs immediately get their own power play because the Red Wings are that dumb.

Matthews isn’t out for the power play, and the Leafs have only four guys on the ice. Finally the bench notices.

And because you can look like a fool one minute and still be the hero, Matthews gets an old-fashioned goal on the power play.

2-0 Leafs

It’s possible Matthews realized he’d just narrowly missed being a gigantic idiot on Hockey Night in Canada on home ice.

Nylander and Kapanen are playing with Kerfoot in this third period, so maybe some messages have been learned all around. Engvall is with Tavares and Mikheyev, while the line that scored the goal, Hyman, Marner, Matthews is the other top line.

Red Wings get another odd-man rush, and the shot goes wide, and in the “there is no deserve in hockey” theme of the night, Hyman makes it 3-0 Leafs on the return rush.

Great shot and a great play, so it’s not like they didn’t work for the goal, but they’ve only worked for it some of the time tonight.

The Leafs look like they’ve twigged to the fact they owe their goalie some effort, and they’re spending a lot of time in the Detroit zone again.

All that hockey-playing pays off and Matthews makes it 4-0 Leafs.

And now there’s a not-fight in the corner. Mantha vs Muzzin, and this went horribly wrong. A wresting move where Muzzin takes Mantha down ends with the trainers on the ice, after Mantha hits his head on the ice.

I. Hate. This.

Muzzin reacted to being jumped by Mantha, but went way overboard. Muzzin gets a roughing and an unsportsmanlike penalty, and Mantha gets a roughing minor as well. Mantha looks bad, and yes he started it, but that was an unfortunate ending to say the least.

Detroit has a power play for the rest of the game.

Dammit. The Red Wings spoil the shutout on the power play.

4-1 Leafs

Dermott gets a game misconduct for slapping his stick on the ice from the bench to make a show of how much he didn’t like the extra penalty to Muzzin. I’m not clear what the extra penalty was for to be clear.

And now, here we go. Athanasiou takes a knee-on-knee run at Kerfoot, and Justin Holl goes for him. Good man, Holl, on that move, that was a dirty hit.

Athanasiou gets six or so penalties, including a fighting major, just to get him out of the game. Holl joins him.

And this dull, tepid, lackadaisical game comes to a limping close. I hope Mantha is well. Most of the rest of it was just stupid.

Meanwhile in the AHL

The Marlies can take a period or two off because they have a significant scoring skill advantage over almost the entire NHL. They upped the score to 7-3 in a third period that the B-Sens basically handed them. Sound familiar?

Thoughts

Every once in a while I think the Leafs should post the ticket prices the fans pay in the locker room. This game was one of those times. But maybe a fight forgives all sins?

Michael Hutchinson did his job, and eventually, so did the rest of the team. Let’s call this a teaching moment, I suppose as well as two necessary points in the books.

Please thank Omar for making this recap tell you a meaningful story with his gifs, and follow him on Twitter.

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Toronto Maple Leafs plan to grind their way to more offence in Edmonton Oilers rematch – TSN

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TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who practised at Ford Performance Centre on Thursday ahead of Friday’s rematch against the Edmonton Oilers.
 
The Leafs did a good job limiting Connor McDavid and Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl at even strength on Wednesday night​, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Oilers. ​​
 
“It’s tough,” said defenceman Jake Muzzin. “They got good players. You got to focus in on them and take away their game but, on​ the flip side, we got to focus on us too and make plays and maybe last night we focused a little too much on defending. I don’t think so. We got to continue doing what we’​re doing, but get a little harder, get more pucks to the net, bodies to the net.”
 
Following the game on Wednesday, Auston Matthews suggested Toronto played it too safe. 
 
“We got to play to win, not to contain two guys,” the centre said. 
 
The Leafs had the edge in shots (6-4), shot attempts (9-6)​ and goals (1-0) in the 12 minutes that Matthews and McDavid shared the ice at even strength, but ultimately fell 3-1. The Oilers benefited from a flukey bounce on their first goal before striking on the power play and adding an empty netter. ​
 
“Last night was a great example of how we were able to not get frustrated and not crack defensively,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I thought we stayed with it throughout and that gave us a chance to win the game even though we’re down 1-0 for the vast majority of the game. We stayed with it and that shows the discipline that we have that way.”
 
The Leafs have made improving defensively a top priority this season with an emphasis on limiting rush chances against.
 
“We need to find the balance,” said winger Zach Hyman after Thursday’s practice. “Just because we’re defending well doesn’t mean we can’t be attacking and playing well in the O-zone and taking the puck to the net … We need to attack the net a lot more than we have been. We can do a better job of getting to the inside.”
 
The Leafs have been outscored 9-7 in five-on-five play so far this season and Keefe has urged his players to push the pace on offence.  
 
“We have to really work and grind our way to getting some chances,” Keefe said. “When I say grind, it is not all about chipping and chasing and all of that. It is about challenging defencemen, moving your feet, competing for space, pushing them back and creating space for your teammates. It’s being connected and supporting the puck.”

Leafs aim to balance offence with improved defence

The Leafs discuss the importance of finding balance in their game by continuing to attack on offence, but making sure to maintain sound defence each and every night.

Generating offence will be even harder if Matthews misses Friday’s game. The 23-year-old left the ice before practice started after consulting with head athletic therapist Paul Ayotte. 
 
“No real update other than he wasn’t feeling great today coming off of the game yesterday,” said Keefe. “He is just going to take the rest of the day here and see how he is for tomorrow.”
 
Matthews logged 24 minutes and 14 seconds of ice time against the Oilers. 

Keefe on Matthews leaving practice early: ‘He just wasn’t feeling great’

After Auston Matthews left Thursday’s practice early, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe says the star forward “just wasn’t feeling great” coming off Wednesday night’s game against the Oilers.

Joe Thornton left Wednesday’s game after taking a hit from Josh Archibald in the third period. 
 
“He’s definitely going to miss some time,” Keefe said. “It is not a day-to-day thing.”

Just before the injury occurred, Keefe replaced Thornton with Hyman on the line with Matthews and Mitch Marner. 
 
“I like Hyman playing in that spot,” said Keefe. “Obviously, we used that a lot yesterday and will continue to use it at times.”
 
But at Thursday’s practice it was Jimmy Vesey who took top-line reps as Hyman skated with John Tavares and William Nylander
 
“With Matthews and Marner and the way they’re playing, they’re able to drive a line together and make it hard on the other team and it allows us to use our depth throughout the lineup,” Keefe explained. “I think Hyman can bring an extra boost to JT and Will.”
 
After producing at least four shots in each of the first four games, Tavares had just one against the Oilers. Nylander had two. 
 
“They’re two guys I’m really familiar with and I’m excited to get at it with them,” said Hyman. “I don’t know how much I played with them together, but I’ve played with them on different lines and there’s been some great chemistry with each of them so I’m excited to continue that.”
 
Wayne Simmonds moved up to the third line skating alongside Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot. 
 
“It’s going to be great,” said Kerfoot. “He’s really good with the puck down low so I think we just got to get it deep and work them down low. He’s really good around the net, really good behind the net protecting pucks. He’s a big body and we can use that to get open around him and use our speed to open things up a bit.”

How the Leafs are juggling lines without Jumbo

With Joe Thornton out, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe shares his thought process behind his decisions to juggle the lines ahead of Friday night’s game against the Oilers.

In a lineup littered with new faces and changing combinations, Muzzin and Justin Holl have been the one constant. They played together most of last season and put forward a sturdy effort against the Oilers on Wednesday night. 
 
“He’s a little more confident this year,” Muzzin noted of his partner. “We’re talking it out, coming up with plans against different guys on different teams.”
 
Despite being 28, the late-blooming Holl only has one full NHL season under his belt. 
 
“We can be a little better with the puck,” noted Muzzin. “If we’re a little cleaner, a little quicker then we can defend less. It’s an area we’ve been focused in on and trying to get better at.”

The entertainment value on Wednesday night left a lot to be desired, but Frederik Andersen didn’t mind the view from Toronto’s net. 
 
“I saw two teams that definitely locked it down pretty good defensively,” the goalie said. “I thought both teams did a really good job of that. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t go our way, but just a few tough bounces.”
 
Andersen is starting to get in more of a rhythm after allowing nine goals in his first two starts. He has stopped 46 of 49 shots (.939) in his last two outings. 
 
“The last couple games, I settled my game down a little bit,” Andersen said. “Just focused a lot on tracking and moving efficiently. That’s been good. They’ve been playing great in front of me as well making things simple and that’s going to help us eventually down the road. I know the offence will come so that’s not any concern.”


 
Following the loss on Wednesday night, Keefe fumed about the three penalties his team had taken. 
 
​”We had a hold, a high stick, a trip,” the coach said. “These are careless penalties that the other team is not taking.” 
 
The Leafs lead the league in penalties taken (24) entering Thursday’s games. They have drawn 19 calls and that minus-five differential is tied for 26th in the NHL. 
 
“We had a couple of power plays. We had a chance to score on those and didn’t,” Keefe noted. “We took some careless ones there that stalled our game even more. A power play like that is going to break through eventually. We gave them too many opportunities.”
 
The Oilers had the most potent power play in the NHL last season, but started slow this season. After going 0/10 in two losses to the Canadiens, they snapped out of the drought on Wednesday as Draisaitl​​ scored the game-winning goal on the man advantage. 
 
“We got to continue getting up-ice pressure,” said Muzzin. “I thought we did a good job last night. A couple reads down low that maybe we can get better at, but other than that pretty good … The best way to defend it is to stay out of the box.”

Masters: Keefe didn’t like Leafs’ careless penalties, felt lack of fans for first time

Mark Masters joins SportsCentre to take a closer look at Wednesday’s head-to-head matchup between Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, and discuss what the Leafs have to do against the Oilers on Friday as they look to avenge the loss.

Lines at Leafs practice on Thursday: 
 
Forwards
Vesey – Brooks – Marner 
Nylander – Tavares – Hyman
Mikheyev – Kerfoot – Simmonds
Barabanov – Engvall – Spezza 
Anderson 
 
Defencemen
Rielly – Brodie 
Muzzin – Holl
Sandin – Bogosian
Dermott – Lehtonen
 
Goaltenders
Andersen 
Campbell
Hutchinson 

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Canucks look like a team in serious trouble after loss to Canadiens – Sportsnet.ca

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VANCOUVER — For the first time since Travis Green was hired as coach, the Vancouver Canucks look dead in the water, truly stalled and in danger of foundering.

Hope that Wednesday’s wonderfully chaotic win against the Montreal Canadiens was a sign the Canucks were starting to move forward again was obliterated Thursday when Vancouver gave away a pile of goals, including two in nine seconds, and was embarrassed 7-3 by the Habs at Rogers Arena.

The seas are getting rougher and the Canucks already look capable of sinking. They no longer seem like a team trapped by circumstance in a slow start, but a team in serious trouble.

“We weren’t just giving up scoring chances, we were giving up goals,” Green, who is in the fourth and final year of his Canucks contract, said after the game. “We gift-wrapped probably four or five goals. It wasn’t a game where we were hemmed in our zone… it was just giving up breakaways. In this league, if you give up chances that are gifts, you’re going to lose bad. We did that tonight.”

After incremental improvements since Green’s arrival and a breakthrough season last year that included three rounds of NHL playoffs, the Canucks look lost.

Six games into 2021’s 56-game sprint, the Canucks have allowed 28 goals, easily the most in the NHL. And Vancouver’s minus-10 goal differential is better than only the Chicago Blackhawks’.

They’ve lost three defencemen to injury already and a fourth hasn’t played since testing positive for COVID. Another, veteran Tyler Myers, may face a disciplinary review for a late hit Thursday to the head of Montreal’s Joel Armia.

On Thursday, the Canucks’ power play was outscored 2-1 by the Canadiens penalty-killing and top forward Elias Pettersson, whose five-game scoring famine is the longest of his short career, was dropped from the first line after his second-period turnover led to one of Montreal’s shorthanded goals.

It is a mess.

“We look a little bit immature at times,” Green explained. “It could be when you have a little bit of success, and you win some playoff series, you come back and you forget how hard it is to win. We’re not a team that has ever won easy; we have to grind out wins. We’ve got to realize that and remember it’s hard to win in the league.

“We had that mentality last year. We’ve got to get back to that.”

When Canucks captain Bo Horvat was asked about Green’s observation, teammate Nate Schmidt, who was sharing the Zoom call with reporters, interjected.

A month before his October trade from the Vegas Golden Knights, Schmidt played against the Canucks in the playoffs.

“This group had a lot of jam… and didn’t give up on it,” Schmidt said. “They made it as hard as it could possibly be for Vegas to move on. It’s a series like that, you look at a team like this. . . (that’s why) there’s frustration in our group because you see how hard we can make it on teams to win.

“When I first got traded here, that’s something I thought was such a positive with the group. (It) was never going to let things like this go. It’s a reality check where we are. But the way I look at it, we know it’s there. I think that’s the reason why it’s frustrating.”

The Canucks defence had more kids in the cast than Sesame Street. With veterans Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic both injured on Wednesday and unable to play Thursday, Vancouver’s blue line included rookies Olli Juolevi (four NHL games), Brogan Rafferty (two) and Jalen Chatfield (one). Sophomore Quinn Hughes was the Canucks’ third-most experienced defenceman.

Of course there were going to be mistakes. And of course, another injury, as Chatfield, who was playing the best of the freshmen, failed to survive the first period.

But for all the concern about the defence’s inexperience, Vancouver’s biggest problems were some astonishingly poor plays from a few of its best players, including Schmidt.

With time and space and the puck in his own zone, Schmidt managed to whiff on a pass, then went to the wrong man after his turnover, leaving Armia with a shorthanded breakaway that he buried in the first period.

On a second-period Canucks power play, Pettersson’s nightmare start to the season got worse when his lateral pass at the Montreal blue line was picked off, leading to another breakaway and another goal for Tyler Toffoli.

When J.T. Miller’s shot bounced back off Canadiens goalie Jake Allen, as both Hughes and Myers were moving forward inside the offensive zone, Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko had the pleasure of another wide-open breakaway.

Demko managed to stop this one on Nick Suzuki, but the puck arced across the crease where Josh Anderson bunted it in after breezing uncontested past an exhausted Miller.

And Myers, the most experienced defenceman in the lineup, took three interference penalties in the first half of the game, then late in the second period turned over the puck along the boards in the Canucks’ zone and was slow to pick up his man as Armia scored again during the Canadiens’ three-goal outburst.

Nobody can win games when their “best” players are making plays this bad.

Horvat had two of the Canucks goals, Brandon Sutter the other. Armia finished with four points before leaving the game after getting crunched by Myers’ shoulder with 2:28 remaining. Myers was assessed a match penalty.

Armia’s linemate, Toffoli, scored twice and has five goals in two games against his ex-team.

Four points adrift of the Canadiens when they could have pulled even on Thursday, the 2-4 Canucks are in danger of losing touch with .500 heading into the series finale against Montreal on Saturday.

“We’re six games into it and we still have things to learn and things to clean up,” Horvat said. “Obviously, tonight wasn’t good enough. We know that as a group. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and we’re going to be ready to go here in the next couple of days.”

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Canucks’ Myers ejected after hit to head on Canadiens’ Armia – Sportsnet.ca

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