Toronto Maple Leafs 1 at Vancouver Canucks 4 – 2023-03-04 recap

Alright, let’s write about hockey again, shall we?


It’s been a while since I typed up any games. While my goal once I’d caught up at the All-Star break was to stay no more than two days behind live play, I had to deal with some offline stuff last week, which was poor timing with the trade deadline and all. I’d like to get in a few words at some point about why the Maple Leafs chose to deal Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall over the other options.

Saturday’s Canucks-Leafs game seemed like an ideal point for me to jump back into writing. I know both teams well or… at least I thought I did. There has been a lot of player movement over the last week and both teams have a few players that I don’t know really well.

First, the Canucks, especially on defence, are a lot more mobile and better at passing than the version of the team we saw earlier in the season. I don’t know whether this has to do with Rick Tocchet, or the fact that some of the team’s worst defenders at exiting the zone, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Luke Schenn, and Ethan Bear (yes, Ethan Bear) are out, while Craig Wolanin, Guillaume Brisebois and Noah Juulsen are in. Unfortunately, neither of the latter three are at the age where you could talk about them as being legitimate future NHL options. Wolanin especially has been a bit of a revelation, even as I was skeptical about him from the get-go because I had so much experience watching him as a proverbial AAAA player (excellent minor league player, has something holding him back from the majors) in Ottawa, but he’s looked great since being called up.

On the Leafs side, the deadline activity saw two lifetime Leafs leave the organization in Engvall and Sandin. Engvall was one of the last remaining players from the 2018 Calder Cup run, with Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren as the last two remaining players from that team. Sandin was also an ex-Marlie and a lifetime player in the Leafs organization. Of the 20 players dressed by the Leafs Saturday night, 11 are newcomers from this offseason or later, meaning they joined the organization after I left it. We’re approaching “group of guys” territory with Toronto, where past players that established continuity with the team are out, replaced with a collection of random parts like Sam Lafferty and Noel Acciari. I don’t really have reads on these guys.

So both teams were looking a little different after the flurry of activity over the last week, and the game was pretty good from an aesthetics standpoint. You’ll see in the numbers below (and I’m not putting them behind a paywall for today) that the Leafs were a little better, but probably not as much better as they had to be. In my view, this game came down to three things:

  1. The Leafs were unable to finish their early chances. At 5v5, the team had 6 scoring chances before the Canucks got their first one, which wasn’t until early in the second period.
  2. The Canucks had three quick-strike goals. Obviously, two came on the one penalty kill in the third period and another came as a result of a quick shot after a turnover late in the game.
  3. Canucks puck-management, which has been very solid of late, held up again against a good forechecking team in Toronto. The defence especially did a wonderful job avoiding that first man and not allowing easy recoveries or chances as a result.

And here are the numbers from the game. (No paywall this game, but it’ll go up for tomorrow’s post about the Canucks-Preds game):

Shots and scoring chances

5v5 team stats

Shots and chance totals:

Team
Shots Chances
Att Taken On Net Att Taken On Net
TOR 55 49 22 23 17 8
F 36 31 16 20 15 7
D 19 18 6 3 2 1
VAN 41 38 21 16 14 9
F 24 21 15 13 11 8
D 17 17 6 3 3 1

As I said above, the Leafs were a bit better, but they probably should have been a lot better. That’s fine though, the Canucks usually play pretty hard for this game, and while this game means a lot to Vancouver fans, it doesn’t really mean as much to Toronto. I’m not entirely sure of what mechanism exists that keeps the Leafs from winning in Toronto (they won just twice in eight years here during my time with the team) but it doesn’t really have anything to do with the team being outplayed.

Shots by type:

  Shots Chances Goals
  TOR VAN TOR VAN TOR VAN
Rush 8 4 3 2 0 0
Transition 6 9 2 4 0 0
Forechck 9 7 5 3 0 0
Faceoff 5 2 0 0 0 0
Cycle+ 21 16 7 5 0 1

There was just the one 5v5 goal Saturday, and I have it counted as a cycle goal, rather than a forecheck goal, since I have Aman’s marker coming five seconds after the Schenn turnover, not the prerequisite four.

It’s tough to credit either team for its defensive work despite the near shutout at 5v5. Both teams picked up scoring chances in every situation, but the goalies were good. Demko early, and Murray in the second.

Leafs:

#
Player
P
Taken Setup
Shots Chncs Shots Chncs
15 KERFOOT L 2 1 0 0
34 MATTHEWS C 6 2 4 2
16 MARNER R 3 2 4 2
88 NYLANDER L 3 2 2 0
91 TAVARES C 5 1 0 0
19 JARNKROK R 4 2 0 0
58 BUNTING L 4 2 2 0
90 O’REILLY C 3 2 0 0
28 LAFFERTY R 0 0 1 1
52 ACCIARI C 0 0 0 0
64 KAMPF C 1 1 0 0
44 RIELLY D 4 1 1 0
2 SCHENN D 2 0 0 0
55 GIORDANO D 3 1 0 0
3 HOLL D 3 0 0 0
22 MCCABE D 2 0 1 0
78 BRODIE D 2 0 0 0
56 GUSTAFSSON D 2 0 2 2

Some new-look lines, first with Aston-Reese out of the lineup and then with O’Reilly out for the third period, the lineup was basically a bit more random. I liked the early look of the Bunting-O’Reilly-Lafferty line, but unfortunately we won’t be able to see that when the team is at full strength because they didn’t go out and get that needed winger. Despite how much people are wishing that Morgan Rielly become a winger, I don’t think that’s the proper response.

Canucks:

#
Player
P
Taken Setup
Shots Chncs Shots Chncs
96 KUZMENKO L 1 1 0 0
40 PETTERSSON C 4 4 1 1
72 BEAUVILLIER R 2 1 0 0
34 DI GIUSEPPE L 4 1 0 0
9 MILLER C 2 0 1 0
6 BOESER R 0 0 2 1
81 JOSHUA L 1 0 1 1
88 AMAN C 2 1 0 0
8 GARLAND R 0 0 2 1
91 KRAVTSOV L 2 0 0 0
15 DRIES C 2 2 0 0
92 PODKOLZIN R 1 1 1 1
43 HUGHES D 5 1 0 0
47 JUULSEN D 2 0 2 0
55 BRISEBOIS D 0 0 0 0
57 MYERS D 4 0 0 0
86 WOLANIN D 4 2 1 0
44 BURROUGHS D 2 0 0 0

Elias Pettersson was the best player in this game, again, with five scoring chance contributions. While Auston Matthews has been a good player this year, I’ve seen Pettersson take over games more often than Matthews this year, in a way that Matthews did last season when he won MVP. That’s a compliment to Pettersson’s two-way ability, who just isn’t surrounded with the linemates that take advantage of how good of a season he’s having.

5v4 team stats

Team
Shots Chances
Att Taken On Net Att Taken On Net
TOR 14 13 9 8 7 6
VAN 5 3 2 2 0 0

The Leafs powerplay obviously gave up those two rushes but was otherwise pretty good, getting 7 scoring chances in a little under 7 minutes of action. The Canucks were held without a chance in 5:19, though got as many powerplay goals as Toronto did (Hughes’ initial shot that was tipped by Kuzmenko would not be considered a chance, and I consider shots to be deflection-agnostic).

5v5 offensive zone entries

Controlled entries:

Team
Entries Chances
Att Ctrl Fail Ctrl% Fail% Total Rate
TOR 78 29 20 37% 26% 12 0.4
F 63 21 15 33% 24% 6 0.3
D 15 8 5 53% 33% 6 0.8
VAN 64 18 6 28% 9% 7 0.4
F 53 12 5 23% 9% 5 0.4
D 11 6 1 55% 9% 2 0.3

The Canucks D really held up against the Leafs rushing forwards, forcing a failed entry 26% of the time. Whether that was the Leafs being sloppy for the Canucks being aggressive at the line, both teams had an equal rate of chances per entry, so the Canucks aggression didn’t cost them if they failed to make the play.

Meanwhile, the Canucks weren’t really attempting for controlled entries and had a low Ctrl% even with a low Fail%. Still, they made their entries count when they did go in, thanks in part to a couple of breakaways (I believe), they had more chances than they usually do following controlled entries.

Dump-ins:

Team
Dump-ins Chances
Total Rcvr Rcvr% Total Rate
TOR 27 12 44% 4 0.1
F 25 11 44% 2 0.1
D 2 1 50% 2 1.0
VAN 37 17 46% 6 0.2
F 33 15 45% 6 0.2
D 4 2 50% 0 0.0

As noted, the Leafs were held to 44% dump-in recoveries, more excellent work from the Canucks D. The Canucks got a few more chances following dump-ins than Toronto did.

Leafs:

# Player P Att Ctrl Fail Chncs
15 KERFOOT L 6 3 1 2
34 MATTHEWS C 4 3 0 1
16 MARNER R 5 3 1 0
88 NYLANDER L 7 5 1 2
91 TAVARES C 5 3 2 1
19 JARNKROK R 8 2 1 0
58 BUNTING L 6 1 2 0
90 O’REILLY C 1 1 0 0
28 LAFFERTY R 12 2 3 0
52 ACCIARI C 3 0 2 0
64 KAMPF C 6 0 2 0
44 RIELLY D 3 2 1 3
2 SCHENN D 1 0 1 0
55 GIORDANO D 2 0 1 0
3 HOLL D 1 0 1 0
22 MCCABE D 3 3 0 0
78 BRODIE D 3 2 0 1
56 GUSTAFSSON D 2 1 1 2

Nylander had a big night, and the only other notable Leaf performance was Sam Lafferty, who had the puck on his stick a lot and kept it moving the right way, but they couldn’t really establish a forecheck so many of those dump-ins went for naught.

Canucks:

# Player P Att Ctrl Fail Chncs
96 KUZMENKO L 4 1 1 1
40 PETTERSSON C 2 1 0 0
72 BEAUVILLIER R 6 3 0 2
34 DI GIUSEPPE L 8 2 0 1
9 MILLER C 5 2 0 1
6 BOESER R 5 1 0 0
81 JOSHUA L 4 2 1 0
88 AMAN C 8 1 0 0
8 GARLAND R 6 1 2 1
91 KRAVTSOV L 1 0 0 0
15 DRIES C 0 0 0 0
92 PODKOLZIN R 4 1 1 0
43 HUGHES D 3 1 0 0
47 JUULSEN D 1 0 0 0
55 BRISEBOIS D 1 1 0 2
57 MYERS D 3 1 1 0
86 WOLANIN D 3 3 0 0
44 BURROUGHS D 0 0 0 0

No Canuck had 4+ controlled entries in this game, but I do commend players with a big number of entries but no failures, such as Di Giuseppe, Aman, Miller, Beauvillier, and Boeser.

Entry Defence

Leafs:

#
Player
P
Entries Against Chances
Att Ctrl Fail Total Rate
44 RIELLY D 8 3 1 0 0.0
2 SCHENN D 4 0 1 0
55 GIORDANO D 5 4 0 1 0.3
3 HOLL D 7 2 1 2 1.0
22 MCCABE D 6 3 0 0 0.0
78 BRODIE D 5 2 0 0 0.0
56 GUSTAFSSON D 6 2 1 2 1.0

This was the best I’d ever seen the Leafs work a bench with 7D, which never seemed to work when I was in Toronto. Probably helped by the fact that McCabe missed the first period.

I thought McCabe looked good (this game was my first look of him in blue and white) and he and Brodie did an excellent job containing. Rielly also did well in transition, though he had issues elsewhere. I’ll be interested to see of Schenn’s entry defence stats hold up in an environment where the forwards are a lot better at slowing down rushes before they start.

Canucks:

#
Player
P
Entries Against Chances
Att Ctrl Fail Total Rate
43 HUGHES D 11 7 2 4 0.6
47 JUULSEN D 10 5 2 0 0.0
55 BRISEBOIS D 10 4 3 0 0.0
57 MYERS D 12 8 2 7 0.9
86 WOLANIN D 11 3 5 0 0.0
44 BURROUGHS D 10 2 3 0 0.0

The Leafs got results basically whenever they targted Tyler Myers. Oddly, the four non-regular defencemen the Canucks have were their best defensively, both in terms of preventing controlled entries and containing rushes. Wolanin, like I said, has been a bit of a revelation and has played great, certainly a better run of games than Stillman ever gave them, making the decision to give up a pick for Stillman after the preseason ended a little more curious.

5v5 defensive zone exits and touches

Team
Exits     All DZ touches
Exit Ctrl Ctrl% Touch Trnv Trnv% Pass%
TOR 67 41 61% 167 17 10% 68%
F 34 20 59% 63 6 10% 58%
D 33 21 64% 96 10 10% 73%
VAN 52 25 48% 128 14 11% 53%
F 30 12 40% 56 6 11% 30%
D 22 13 59% 67 8 12% 67%

The Canucks D held up when it came to exiting the zone, though the forwards dumped it out quite a bit. I did find, though, that earlier in the game, both teams were exiting at roughly the same rate, so it was score effects-induced that saw the Leafs finish ahead via both positions.

Both teams also limited the turnovers, though there were two on the shift leading to the clinching goal, one by Rielly and one from Schenn.

Leafs:

#
Player
P
Exits All DZ touch
Exit Ctrl Touch Tnvr
15 KERFOOT L 4 2 5 0
34 MATTHEWS C 3 3 4 0
16 MARNER R 2 2 7 0
88 NYLANDER L 6 2 6 0
91 TAVARES C 4 3 9 3
19 JARNKROK R 1 1 3 0
58 BUNTING L 3 1 9 1
90 O’REILLY C 2 0 4 0
28 LAFFERTY R 6 4 8 1
52 ACCIARI C 2 1 5 1
64 KAMPF C 1 1 3 0
44 RIELLY D 4 3 13 1
2 SCHENN D 5 3 9 1
55 GIORDANO D 4 1 14 2
3 HOLL D 8 5 17 0
22 MCCABE D 4 3 16 1
78 BRODIE D 4 2 12 2
56 GUSTAFSSON D 4 4 15 3

Lafferty had the puck a lot, and he did the work to get it to himself in the neutral zone. Rielly and Schenn each only made one turnover, but they were critical and costly, which might be something that I’ve forgotten about by the time I load these numbers into my database.

Canucks:

#
Player
P
Exits All DZ touch
Exit Ctrl Touch Tnvr
96 KUZMENKO L 1 1 2 0
40 PETTERSSON C 2 1 6 2
72 BEAUVILLIER R 4 1 8 0
34 DI GIUSEPPE L 3 1 3 0
9 MILLER C 4 1 8 1
6 BOESER R 4 3 6 0
81 JOSHUA L 1 0 2 1
88 AMAN C 2 1 4 0
8 GARLAND R 2 1 2 0
91 KRAVTSOV L 1 1 4 1
15 DRIES C 4 1 6 0
92 PODKOLZIN R 2 0 5 1
43 HUGHES D 11 5 21 4
47 JUULSEN D 2 2 8 0
55 BRISEBOIS D 1 1 7 1
57 MYERS D 2 0 9 2
86 WOLANIN D 4 3 9 1
44 BURROUGHS D 2 2 13 0

Big night for Hughes, who loves to carry the puck, though he was also the only D (he and Myers, I guess) that were disrupted by the Leaf forecheck. Wolanin, Juulsen, and Burroughs all handled themselves well (Brisebois gets an incomplete grade from me) and Saturday’s game, perhaps completely by accident, was the best the defence looked all year.


Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed it, please consider subscribing, or donating to this project (a donation form can be found at the bottom of the About page). This website will never display ads, and will ideally be funded by hundreds of subscribers like yourself to keep this project going so we can all learn a little bit more about hockey.

%d bloggers like this: