Toronto Maple Leafs 3 at Carolina Hurricanes 1 – 2022-11-06 recap

The Leafs may have found a combination of depth players that works, and win back-to-back games in strong fashion against good opponents.

The TSN crew of Gord Miller and Mike Johnson, properly, gave a lot of credit to the Leafs fourth line of Zach Aston-Reese, David Kampf, and Denis Malgin at the end of Sunday’s win in Raleigh. Neither player scored or recorded any points, but you can still watch a game and appreciate the impact a strong fourth line can have.

In three games together now, this new look 4th line has a corsi percentage of 70%. They’ve only scored the one goal, but the Maple Leafs do not win this game without a strong shift by this group midway through the third period.

I have it all down in my notes here: this line forced two turnovers, hemming the Hurricanes in their defensive zone for 33 seconds. When the Canes finally exited the zone, they weren’t able to really establish control in the neutral zone, and Andrei Svechnikov attempted a sloppy zone entry with no support right next to the Leafs bench. The Leafs were able to get everybody off by virtue of playing on offence, and John Tavares made a quick pass forward to Nicholas Robertson 8 seconds after the Hurricanes exited the zone, but before Brett Pesce, who was replacing Calvin de Haan, the Hurricanes left D stuck on the ice (furthest from the bench), could establish himself on the ice. Robertson worked the puck to Mitch Marner and Pesce, still turned around, couldn’t track Tavares to the net and Tavares was wide open in front for an easy goal. They don’t get much more automatic than that.

I often talk about players creating the conditions necessary for offensive production. Sometimes that happens when players aren’t even on the ice. If you can work your opponents so they’re tired when you get off, you’ve given the line following you out onto the ice favourable conditions to work. It’s as good as an offensive zone entry. While this play doesn’t work if Svechnikov simply gets the puck deep, allowing de Haan to change without any drama, the Leafs took advantage of this mistake and scored the winning goal.

Games like this often require capitalizing on mistakes. Carolina held a territorial edge throughout the game, but they’re a team that benefits off disrupting their opponents, not creating their own chances. The proper way to play this team is likely to reduce the amount of time you spend defending players like Svechnikov, Aho, and Necas in transition. Don’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone or high in the offensive zone. Let them go low-to-high, and bat pucks to the wall rather than letting them pounce on rebounds in the middle of the offensive zone. And all teams make mistakes, so make them pay.

Midway through the second period, Michael Bunting cleared the puck from his own defensive zone into the offensive end. De Haan misplayed the puck, allowing Pierre Engvall to take a quick shot, 30 feet to Frederik Andersen’s right. The scoring chances at that point were 4-3 for the Leafs, and they were ahead in chances the rest of the way. The Hurricanes controlled the game territorially, but the Leafs avoided making that crucial mistake causing them to give up a goal.

There was a lot to like about this Maple Leafs performance. Some stuff to dislike, but a lot to like. Most importantly, it seems like they’ve found a 4th line that will work for them going forward, that’s been able to give the team three strong games in a row.

Subscribe to get access

Subscribe for $5.99/monthly to get Maple Leafs stats and analysis you can’t find anywhere else.

%d bloggers like this: