Montreal Canadiens 1 at Toronto Maple Leafs 5 – 2023-02-18 recap

Another “make right” game after a poor effort last week in Columbus.

Not a lot of time to write about last night’s game but I wanted to get something up before the team’s game in Chicago. The real story was Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari making their Maple Leaf debuts. Both played pretty well, but we’ll have to see how the Leafs handle better competition, since they’ve played four games against pretty lousy teams coming out of the break, and have a fifth tonight. Buffalo, Minnesota, and Seattle will provide better tests next week.

One thing that was interesting to me about this game is that usually when the Leafs play Montreal, they’ll dominate the neutral zone and get lots of controlled entries, but the Habs are pretty good at shutting them down in the zone. That didn’t happen this time, with the Leafs generating 0.4 scoring chances per zone entry (right around average) though they were hovering at about 0.6 midway through the game. They cycled well and got lots of chances that way, but also had some decent rush attacks.

They were a little sloppy in their defensive zone (Giordano in particular had some sequences I didn’t like) but it didn’t really cost the team since they spent so much time in the other end of the ice. Sometimes that’s the best defence.

One other thing: I’ve recently begun to think one of the reasons Toronto struggles against bad teams is because those bad teams want to beat Toronto, and will get up to play them and play a little harder: closing more gaps, blocking more shots, playing at an effort level that they wouldn’t have against, say, Columbus or Dallas or whoever. This game, the Leafs matched that effort, whether it was thanks to rest or getting a spark from Friday night’s trade.

Anyway, like the Chicago game from Wednesday, this one wasn’t really close, no matter how you look at it.

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