By Stan Smith
There was so much to dissect in this game. I think I could write three different articles for each of the Good, Bad, and Ugly. I will try to cover what I think are the most pertinent points.
I’m not going to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs should have won this game but they easily could have won it. According to Naturalstattrick.com in all situations, the Scoring Chances were 37 for Toronto, and 21 for Chicago. The High-Danger Scoring Chances were 20 for Toronto and 10 for Chicago.
The fourth line of Alex Kerfoot, Zach Aston-Reese, and Noel Acciari was by far the best line for the Maple Leafs in this game. Acciari scored his first goal in a Maple Leafs’ uniform and his 11th of the season to close the gap to within one late in the second period. The three players on that line were the only Maple Leafs’ players not on the ice for a single goal scored by the Blackhawks.
At five-on-five they were on the ice for only one shot against, while generating nine shots of their own. They did not give up a single Scoring Chance, or High-Danger Scoring Chance. They finished the game with 97% of the Expected Goals.
This line has been dynamite for two games now.
Before Morgan Rielly was hurt back on November 22, he was having an excellent season. He did not have a goal but had 16 assists in 20 games. We wrote previously about how he struggled when he returned from the injury, picking up just five assists in his next 15 games.
It is safe to say Rielly is back to his old self. He picked up two big assists in this game to give him seven points in his last seven games. His first assist was on an intentional pass for a tip from the point to John Tavares to tie the game at one in the first period. His second assist was on an intentional icing, bank pass, to Mitch Marner, who beat out the icing and scored a pretty goal to tie the game at three in the third period.
The biggest “Bad” in this game to me was Bad Luck.
On the 3-1 goal the puck crosses the line by what appears to be less than an inch before Holl was able to get his stick on it.
After Marner tied the game at three he rang the puck off the post on his next shift. Less than 30 seconds later with TJ Brodie jumping into the rush and giving the Maple Leafs a four-man break, David Kampf’s attempted cross-ice pass goes through the crease of the Chicago net missing everyone, bounces off the corner boards at such an angle that it sends Cole Guttman and Tyler Johnson the other way on a two on one rush. Guttman scores on the play to give Chicago a 4-3 lead.
One inch either way on the 3-1 goal or Marner hitting the post and the result is different. If Kampf’s pass hits any one of the five or six players in the front of the Blackhawks’ net or comes off the boards at a different angle there is no two-on-one the other way.
In their first game together last week when the Maple Leafs defeated the Blackhawks at home the line of David Kampf, Pierre Engvall, and Calle Jarnkrok had a terrible game. Saturday night against the Canadiens statistically they were the Maple Leafs’ best line. In this game, they were their worst line.
According to Naturalstattrick.com at five-on-five, Engvall and Jarnkrok were on the ice for only 12% of the Shots For, 33% of the High Danger Scoring Chances, and 38% of the Scoring Chances. Kampf fared a little better. He was on the ice for 27% of the Shots For, 43% of the High-Danger Chances, and 46% of the Scoring Chances.
There were a number of ugly things during the game.
Two Shots in 17 Minutes, Two Goals.
Patrick Kane scored on the Blackhawks’ 8th shot on net at 10:44 of the first period to make the score 1-0 Chicago. Kane then scored on the Blackhawks’ 9th shot on net to make the score 2-1 Chicago at 7:57 of the second period.
The Blackhawks did not get a shot on net for 17 minutes and 13 seconds from the 10:44 mark of the first period to 7:57 of the second period. The two shots they did get were both goals by Kane. To make matters even worse, Kane scored his third goal of the game 2:52 later on the Blackhawks’ 12th shot on net.
In my opinion, and from the sound of it in Sheldon Keefe’s opinion as well, Kane should have been sitting in the penalty box when he scored the goal to put the Blackhawks up 2-1. Just before the goal, Jason Dickinson chipped the puck into the Maple Leafs’ zone. As Justin Holl is going back to retrieve the puck, Kane hooks him on the knee with his stick, tripping him. No call. After Holl falls the Blackhawks were able to gain the puck and work it around the Maple Leafs’ zone before Kane gets it in the slot and slides it under Ilya Samsonov.
Coach Keefe, who has learned that getting mad and yelling at the referees in these situations only makes things worse, waited until his postgame to give his view on the play. He didn’t mince words:
“It is a 1-1 game. They get away with a very blatant trip that doesn’t get called. Instead of us being on the power play, now we are down 2-1.”
Then, in the third period, by my count, three more “blatant” penalties were not called. A Philipp Kurashev holding-the-stick penalty on Tavares, a vicious cross-check by Max Domi to the back of Ryan O’Reilly when O’Reilly was laying face down on the ice, and a Jake McCabe interference on Michael Bunting.
The Maple Leafs get today off before making the short trip to Buffalo to take on the Sabres on Tuesday night. They then get two days to get O’Reilly and Acciari some practice time with the team before hosting the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.
It will be interesting to see if Kyle Dubas has any more changes planned and what the lines look like when the Maple Leafs head out on their West coast trip next weekend.