By Stan Smith
This post, using the title “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” will be a regular feature on our new blog on Old Prof Hockey. After each game, long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith will put together a game revue using this template. Thanks to Stan for his regular contributions. The Old Prof (Jim Parsons)
A Game Review for the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 Loss to the Canadiens
I was worried about this game ever since the preseason ended. The Maple Leafs looked so good in their exhibition games, and the Montreal Canadiens were winless in the preseason.
On paper, this game should not have been close. The talent levels of the two teams are not even comparable. As this game proved, hockey is about much more than talent.
Part One: The Good
It is difficult to find many good things in this game.
There were some nice plays. Mitch Marner’s movement behind the Canadiens’ net and subsequent pass to Michael Bunting for the one-timer on the first goal. The three-way passing of William Nylander, John Tavares, and Denis Malgin leading up to the Malgin goal.
The poke check by Morgan Rielly to get the puck to Tavares and the following two-on-one that led to Nylander’s tying goal late in the third were all excellent plays.
It would have been nice to see Kerfoot score on the two breakaways he had in the game, the first when he was hooked, and the second on the penalty shot he was awarded. Despite that Kerfoot still played a solid game on the third line.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, he led the team in most of the 5-on-5 categories. He was 91.7% on Shots For, 79.8% in Expected Goals For, 75% in Scoring Chances For, and 66.7% in High Danger Scoring Chances For. While he didn’t figure into the scoring, he did register four shots on net in the game.
Mark Giordano and Rasmus Sandin
Mark Giordano and Rasmus Sandin posted the best 5-on-5 stats of the defensemen. They were both 77% in Shots For. Giordano was 69.7% for Expected Goals, and 75% for High Danger Scoring Chances. Sandin was 68.1% for Expected Goals and 66.7% for High Danger Chances For.
Denis Malgin had a good debut alongside Tavares and Nylander, scoring a goal, and finishing the night with a plus-two in plus/minus.
The Penalty Kill
The Maple Leafs Penalty Kill was perfect, going four-for-four while shorthanded.
Part Two: The Bad
The Maple Leafs made so many errors in the game, and there is so little space to write about it.
I thought Murray did not look great in his last exhibition game. Despite only giving up one goal, I thought he looked nervous in net, had trouble controlling his rebounds, and was overplaying his angles. He looked a lot the same in this game.
Murray did make some nice saves but seemed to lose his net a lot. When moving side to side he allowed himself to stray too far, leaving the other side of the goal wide open. That was most evident on the winning goal. All four goals Murray gave up were high glove side.
Offensive Zone Turnovers and Odd Man Rushes
Three of the four Canadiens’ goals were the direct result of turnovers in the offensive zone by the Maple Leafs and odd man rushes by the Canadiens. Head coach Sheldon Keefe called the team out for being careless with the puck in his post-season presser.
The Power Play
As effective the penalty killing was for the Maple Leafs, the power play was just as ineffective, going zero for four in the game. They had two chances to put this game away in the third period but failed to capitalize mustering only two shots on net in four minutes of power play time.
Part Three: The Ugly
After Nylander tied the game late in the third period, Justin Holl has the puck on his stick in the Montreal zone with 33 seconds left in the game. A simple dump into the corner would have been the smart and easy play to make in that situation and would have kept the puck 200 feet from his own net.
Instead Holl tried to force a shot towards the Candaiens’ net through Nick Suzuki. The shot bounced off of Suzuki’s skate to Josh Anderson and created an odd man rush the other way with Holl caught in Canadiens’ zone.
The original rush failed but Montreal maintained possession in the Maple Leafs’ end. Jake Muzzin blocked a shot from the point by Kaiden Guhle but then handed the puck directly to Suzuki, who passed it to Anderson in the slot. Murray over-slid from his left to his right giving Anderson the whole right side of the net to shoot at.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs head back to Toronto to host the Washington Capitals in their home opener tonight. Luckily for them, it is also a back-to-back for the Capitals. Washington lost 5-2 to the Boston Bruins in their home opener on Wednesday night.
At this point in time, the only lineup change for the Maple Leafs appears to be in goal, with Ilya Samsonov replacing Murray behind the pipes. The question is, “Can the team turn its game around?”