Is this thing on repeat? For the 2nd time in as many games, the Leafs came into a game that you have to win if you’re planning on being a playoff team, this time against a tired Detroit Red Wings team, playing their 2nd game in as many nights and 3rd in 4 days, and missing arguably their best player in Dylan Larkin. For the 2nd game in a row, the Leafs came away with a dominant 4-0 win.
Early in the first, after a Nazem Kadri backcheck broke up a Red Wings rush, the Leafs set up a cycle in the Wings zone for what seemed like forever, as the Matthews line played keep away from Detroit. The Wings finally got possession of the puck and Jonathan Ericsson looked poised to clear the puck and get his team a much needed line change, when Auston Matthews reached out and stole the puck from him, cut to the right, and launched a backhand over the shoulder of goalie Petr Mrazek. It was a gorgeous goal, and one that speaks to Matthews’ background playing on a tiny rink in Arizona. He took the puck in a tight space, made one move, and buried it. The first period would end 1-0, as the teams would combine for just 12 total shots.
The Leafs game out on fire early in the 2nd period, peppering Mrazek with shots, however the Czech netminder stood tall, keeping the score at 1-0 until Roman Polak, playing in his 600th career game, scored on an absolute rocket from the point that deflected in off of the aforementioned Ericcson, who was not having a spectacular night. The other major highlight for the Leafs in the 2nd was a spectacular defensive play by Nazem Kadri, whose tires the Sportsnet crew were pumping for the Selke trophy tonight. With the Leafs on the powerplay, Kadri dove in attempt to keep the puck in the Red Wings zone, he was unsuccessful in doing so, which created an odd man rush for the shorthanded Wings. Kadri however, managed to get up, race down the ice, and make a diving play to break up one of the Wings’ best scoring chances of the evening. Polak’s goal was the only one of the frame, making it 2-0 Leafs after 2.
This Leafs team has managed to blow a few multi goal leads in the 3rd period, and in other instances, they’ve sat back and allowed the opposition to dominate play, giving fans plenty of anxious moments, even in games they’ve hung on to win. More and More lately though, it seems as though that team is starting to disappear, and is being replaced by a better version of itself. Tonight’s game was a great example of that as early in the 3rd period James Van Riemsdyk banked a bad angle shot from behind the net off of Petr Mrazek and in to make it 3-0 Leafs. At that point the Wings did start to get the better of play for a while as Frederik Andersen battled to keep his shutout intact. In addition to that, Andersen managed to pick up an assist as he played the puck up to Nikita Soshnikov, who wired a shot from just outside the right faceoff circle past Mrazek for his 2nd goal of the season, giving Andersen his first assist of the year. The Leafs also managed to survive injury scares to Auston Matthews, who took a shot off the inside of the knee, and Andersen, who was run into by Darren Helm. Tomorrow night marks the final game before the All Star Break, where Auston Matthews will represent the Leafs. The break will provide a good chance for injured Morgan Rielly to heal up and the Leafs to come back rested and at full strength.
By The Numbers
Goals By Period
Shots By Period
Skaters At A Glance
Chart Data via naturalstattrick.com
— Bell Let’s Talk (@Bell_LetsTalk) January 26, 2017