By Stan Smith

Well, so much for my good feeling about this game and my thoughts that Matthews and Marner would have a breakout game. 

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The Good

The first period was an exciting, entertaining brand of hockey. It was fast with lots of shots (33) and scoring chances (30). According to, the Penguins had an edge in the High-Danger Scoring Chances at 7-6, but the Maple Leafs had the edge (54%) of the Expected Goals.

Of the three goals scored in the first period, Toronto had two of them. The first was off of a faceoff win in the Pittsburgh zone by John Tavares. William Nylander dropped the puck back to Morgan Rielly at the point. Rielly skated deep into the zone to the left of the Penguins’ net and sent a pass out front of the goal. Tavares tipped the pass into Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry’s pads. The rebound came to Tyler Bertuzzi who banged it past Jarry. After a slow start to the season that saw him manage just three points in his first twelve games, Bertuzzi has scored six points in his last seven games.  

The second Maple Leafs’ goal was also off a rebound. This time it was Calle Janrkrok picking up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle in his own zone and skating it the length of the ice to the right faceoff circle in the Penguins’ zone before wristing a shot at Jarry. Jarry gave up a juicy rebound right to Matthews Knies, who scored his sixth goal of the season and third in five games. 

Matthew Knies, Maple Leafs

Matthews Knies

After having a rough outing in Chicago and being removed from the top line late in the game, Knies had a good bounce-back game in Pittsburgh. He had a season-high five shots on net and was a strong presence throughout the game. 

Related: Kieffer Bellows: Maple Leafs’ Tipping Point for the Future

The Bad

One of the problems the Maple Leafs have had this season is giving up a goal right after scoring a goal. That continued in this game. Just 24 seconds after Toronto went up 1-0, Rielly let Sidney Crosby get behind him in the neutral zone creating a 3 on 2 for Pittsburgh. Mitch Marner and TJ Brodie were the two Maple Leafs back. 

The Game Switches Back and Forth Between the Teams

As I have mentioned before, Brodie prefers to play the puck instead of the player. He uses his body and his stick to prevent shots and passes from getting through to the net and to opposing players. When it works it works. When it doesn’t, he can look really bad. This was one of those times when it didn’t work. A pass from Drew O’Connor to Jake Guentzel got through Brodie leaving Guentzel with a tap-in for a goal. Joseph Woll appeared to be expecting O’Connor to shoot the puck. 

The evenly matched play from the first period carried over into the second period. With 7:30 left in the second, the shots were 6-5 in the period for the Maple Leafs.  However, the rest of the period was spent in the Toronto zone. The Penguins outshot the Maple Leafs 9-0 during that time. 

After scoring to tie the game earlier in the period on a goal I will discuss later, Pittsburgh capped off the period with a goal on a point shot by Erik Karlsson with just 28 seconds left in the middle stanza. Woll was screened by Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe, and Jarnkrok and had no chance on the play. Jarnkrok made a feeble attempt at a shot block but failed miserably. 

The Maple Leafs Dominate the Third Period, But Can’t Score

I was going to put this next bit in the “Good” section but I ultimately changed my mind. After getting caved in late in the second period and going down 3-2 in the last minute of the period, the Maple Leafs dominated the play in the third. They outshot the Penguins 12-3 in the period. According to, the Maple Leafs had six High-Danger Scoring Chances to just one for Pittsburgh. They also had 91% of the Expected Goals in the period. 

The reason I put this in the “Bad” section is because they simply failed to score. Professional sports is about results, not just the process. Outplaying the opposition is wasted if you don’t produce. The Maple Leafs failed to produce in the first period in Chicago despite outplaying the Blackhawks and it came back to haunt them. The same thing can be said about the third period in this game. Lots of chances, but no results. 

The Ugly

I saved the second Pittsburgh goal for the “Ugly” section. As with all three of the goals against in regulation time in Chicago, the Maple Leafs once again gifted the Penguins this goal. The puck went directly off of the stick of a Toronto player, in this case, Brodie, right to the stick of a Pittsburgh player. Ex-Leaf Noel Acciari picked off an attempted pass from Brodie to Nick Robertson behind the Toronto net, took two steps backward to the side of the goal, and roofed a shot over Woll’s shoulder as Matt Nieto was creating a screen between Acciari and Woll. That is four times in the last two games that a puck has gone from a Maple Leafs player’s stick to an opposing player’s stick and then into the Toronto net. 

This was not a good game for Brodie. He was the main cog in two of the Penguins’ three goals. 

TJ Brodie, Maple Leafs

Late in the third period with Woll pulled for an extra skater Nylander gets the stick slashed out of his hands by Jeff Carter. This is a penalty the referees have been calling consistently this season but in this case, there was no call. At the same time, Marcus Petterson literally mugs Tavares. He grabs him around the neck and drags him to the ice in front of the Pittsburgh net. Again, no call.  

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs play three home games this coming week. Tuesday they line up against the Florida Panthers. Thursday versus the Seattle Kraken. And, then Saturday the Boston Bruins are in town. 

Despite only getting one out of a possible four points this weekend, as of Sunday morning the Maple Leafs are tied for fourth in the Atlantic Division. They are only two points out of second place with games in hand. The two Florida teams are presently tied for second. 

At the same time, they are only one point away from falling out of a playoff spot in the East Conference. Just six points separate twelve teams in the ridiculously close East conference. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits: Nylander, Timmins & Matthews

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