Mike Babcock put up a new saying ‘Play fast and Play Right.’ Tonight the Leafs did just that.
Right from the puck drop the game was a real tit for tat battle. The Islanders and Leafs kept going back and forth and it grew to a who’s gonna blink first kind of start. This period was sponsored by the posts who made several appearances for both sides throughout the period. If shots hitting the post weren’t annoying enough, Josh Leivo had a shot on an empty net get deflected over it by Boychuk.
The Leafs would go on to have a powerplay but nothing really came of it but it was shortly after that a bad turnover by the Isles would leave the puck to land of Josh Leivo’s stick who tucks it home. The Islanders would continue to press after the goal but Andersen remained calm and made some back to back great saves on Quine and Bailey to preserve the lead. With less than a minute Matthews enters the Islanders zone with a strong shift. A pass by Nylander gets whiffed on by Kadri but lands on Zaitsev’s stick he rockets the shot and Kadri is there to knock it in. 2-0 heading into the second.
The Leafs came our roaring early on. They controlled the play and made it tough to play against. Lee hooked Zaitsev leading to a powerplay for the Leafs that couldn’t get set. They spent more time in their own end defending Tavares than they did generate scoring chances. This led to Marner hooking Cizikas and being sent off. Again the Leafs PK was strong but it was Andersen’s saves that really stood out. A lot of good chances but Andersen was ready. Andersen used every part of his body to make the save, even robbing Tavares from a for sure goal with his mask. Andersen would follow that with another great save on Quine. It seemed the Leafs would be going for a ride but then an innocent shot on nets by Kadri would hit Greiss and bounce into Nylander’s shin pad. Not the prettiest goal but a goal nonetheless.
The Isles would continue to press but a smart play by Rielly would halt Tavares on a 2 on 1.
A soft call on Polak by the ref, there will be much more of this later, leads to a powerplay for the Isles. Andersen again robs Strome and Tavares and just like that Freddy chants ring out across the ACC.
As the chants die down Marner springs JVR and Bozak on a give and go that goes on for just a little too long. A quick turnover leads Chimera on a breakaway. Chimera whiffs on the puck and the ref awards a penalty shot. Terrible call, Chimera would go on to score.
Almost the next play the refs again call a horrible hooking call on Kadri, this might be the worst back to back calls I have ever seen. The crowd cheers ‘Ref, you suck’ as the Leafs kill another penalty.
Hyman is an absolute beast on the PK and Andersen flashes the glove on Bailey.
Tempers are starting to flair and the period ends with a scramble in front of Andersen.
The third period is where Babcock’s ‘Play Right’ really shined. Early on the Islanders pressed but the Leafs constantly had the answer. They controlled the play and made the smart moves. A great shift by Matthews’ line drew a penalty. The Leafs set well, made smart passes and as the puck squeaked free, Matthews pounce and quickly converted. Right after the goal, Carrick levels Strome who had some choice words to say. This led to a tilt that was long and uneventful.
Marner strips Nelson of the puck passes it off to JVR who feeds an open Bozak who ever so gently, lifts it in.
The Islanders seemed deflated and the Leafs, well….they don’t stop. Rielly skates through their entire team but can’t convert. Andersen is always ready to make a save and Matthews steals the puck makes a beautiful pass to Brown who tosses right back to Matthews who snipes another one. It is with 6 mins left that Tavares really puts on a strong showing. He absolutely does everything he can to score, it was strong show of leadership but the Leafs were ready. It seemed all but done when Hunwick blast a shot on nets that hit something in front and went in. At first, it seemed like it was Matt Martin but it later proved not. Hunwick gets the goal and we have a touchdown.
This was one of the best efforts by the Leafs. They found their rhythm again and were able to close out a game stronger than ever. Let’s hope this team shows up tomorrow against Columbus. I’ll also note, Matthews was a sight tonight. Every shift in the 3rd was a treat. If you have the chance, watch it, it’s worth it.
Toronto Goal 11:36 J. Leivo (1)
Toronto Goal 19:28 N. Kadri (21) assisted by N. Zaitsev and W. Nylander
Toronto Goal 9:26 W. Nylander (15) assisted by N. Kadri and R. Polak
NY Islanders Goal 16:55 J. Chimera (14)
Toronto Goal 5:41 A. Matthews (26) (power play) assisted by L. Komarov and J. Leivo
Toronto Goal 7:16 T. Bozak (14) assisted by J. van Riemsdyk and M. Marner
Toronto Goal 11:51 A. Matthews (27) assisted by C. Brown
Toronto Goal 15:40 M. Hunwick (1) assisted by J. Leivo and B. Smith
SHOTS ON GOAL
MIKE BABCOCK POST GAME