The Toronto Maple Leafs continued to roll with a 2-0 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night, marking the first time in franchise history that the club has posted a shutout in a visit to Washington.
Your game in ten:
1) Looking at the tale of the tape, who had a low-scoring shutout resulting out of this matchup? There was some early frustration with good goaltending from Braden Holtby and several squandered scoring chances, but the Leafs stuck with it and ground out a no-frills win against a dangerous – albeit shallower than years past – Washington team, won on an ugly third-period goal from Connor Brown. Win ugly on the road against a good team when the offense isn’t blowing teams out of the water: Check. Get Frederik Andersen back on track statistically with a clean sheet: Check.
2) Here’s a Mike Babcock quote from when he first arrived (Oct. 2015) about good teams winning second periods with the long change:
We’ve got tonnes more to go. I’ve loved my job. I said this to Kenny Holland the other day when him and I were talking. I said, “sometimes in the second period, when the other team didn’t let us touch the puck and we turned it over, I didn’t like it that much” …. The good teams always eat up the other team in the second period.
The Leafs carried 69% of the unblocked shot attempts in the middle 20 tonight.
They carried 59% of the shot attempts in the second frame against Montreal.
Against New Jersey? 69%.
Against Chicago? 76%.
The Leafs are a good team.
3) When I advocated for rotating Connor Brown onto the JVR-Bozak line last Saturday after the Habs game, I wasn’t thinking of it as a way to send a wake-up call to Mitch Marner. Now that it happened, I should clarify: Viewing the swap as a “demotion” for Marner is looking at it the wrong way. It was more a function of the reality that there was no way Mike Babcock was breaking up either of the Kadri or Matthews lines (for good reason), which would’ve been necessary to split up Bozak and JVR. The easy move was to rotate Brown — a right winger and exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of supplying a jolt to that group — into Marner’s spot and roll the bottom six lines.
4) This was about shaking up an entire line more than it was about sending a message to one particular member of the trio, and it bore out in the time-on-ice numbers tonight: Remove the special teams time, and all six of Dominic Moore, Matt Martin, Mitch Marner, JVR, Tyler Bozak, and Connor Brown were between 9:50 and 11:10 TOI.
Marner, for his part, had lots of jump down on the fourth tonight but is still fighting it with the puck. He needs a bounce to go his way, but in the meantime, there is no shortage of players who would take four points in six games as a “slow start.”
5) A perfect Nazem Kadri stat line: a drawn penalty, 69% possession against Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, a nifty empty-net goal to seal the game late, 57% on the faceoff dot, four shots on goal — all while starting eight of 16 five-on-five shifts in the defensive zone and five in neutral ice (27% offensive-zone starts).
The two-way veteran savvy of Patrick Marleau has, predictably, elevated that shutdown line to new heights in the first six games:
|TOI||CF%||GF%||SCF%||OZ Start %|
|Marleau & Kadri Together||59:00||58%||75%||71%||45%|
6) Meanwhile, the duo of Auston Matthews and William Nylander continues to make up two-thirds of arguably the best line in the NHL over the opening two weeks. Below are some examples (it was difficult to pick out just three shifts) of the magic being created on a shift-by-shift basis by these two — the relentlessness without the puck, their defensive pressure just as great as their offensive pressure; the puck support; the skilled handoffs all over the offensive zone. It is Sedins-in-their-prime-esque in terms of how these two are connecting and tilting the ice so heavily in their favour all game long:
7) It can’t be said the Leafs shut the Capitals’ 30% power play down exactly – Alex Ovechkin had a clear look from his spot below the left circle early on the first PP opportunity and fired high, TJ Oshie went in alone and also missed the net a few seconds later, and there were some big scrambles on the second kill, too. But most importantly, the Leafs stayed out of the box for all but two and a half penalties (they took 23 minors in their first five games), one of which was a delay-of-game infraction to Kadri for closing his hand on the puck.
8) Speaking of the kill, Ron Hainsey is proving (not unexpectedly) to be a real asset in PK situations with his veteran poise and the ability to reliably send the puck 200 feet down the ice.
At 5v5, the Leafs have outshot the opposition 61-41 with Hainsey on the ice and outscored the opposition 7-5 through six games. He’s started more even-strength shifts in the defensive zone than any other Leafs defenceman (41 shifts, 36.9% OZ Starts).
9) As the coaching staff works their way toward a decision on who is going to be the regular 4C – Babcock has indicated that it won’t remain a rotation forever – it seems apparent to me that Dominic Moore has made it clear through three games that he possesses a superior skill set to Eric Fehr, who to his credit has worked hard and played well. What he gives up to Fehr in size, he more than makes up for with the puck on his stick.
10) If Calle Rosen was only getting about 11 minutes and change of ice time anyway, why continue the revolving door next to Connor Carrick after Carrick and Borgman played a quiet, solid game in Montreal? Would like to see Babcock allow a pairing to string a few games together in a row; I’m not sure the constant flux is helping anyone. Rosen is a little more polished with the puck on his stick, but it’s noticeable how that pairing struggles against a heavy forecheck without Borgman’s strength there.