Toronto Maple Leafs 4 at New Jersey Devils 3 – 2023-03-07 recap

The win was gutsy, sure, but that doesn’t mean the Leafs were bad.

I try not to watch Canucks or Leafs games live, especially when I’m behind on my tracking. It’s difficult to catch up since it’s hard to track more than 5 periods in a single day, and since Sportsnet’s video player makes it impossible to track games live, I’d rather not double up my viewing of these games, with only so many hours in the day.

Tuesday night, my focus was on the important Islanders-Sabres game, but I flipped to the late, close game between two good teams when the other game was in the second intermission. I saw roughly the final 10 minutes, from the time it was 2-2 to when it ended. The Leafs won, playing very well defensively in the final sequence with the net empty, and earned two points. After the game, there was discussion about just how badly the Leafs were outplayed and how Ilya Samsonov stole the game for the Leafs.

The shots on the scorebug at the end of the game read 33-25. The expected goals were 4.0-2.2 on Natural Stat Trick (in favour of the Devils) and 4.4-2.7 on Moneypuck. The Devils hit 69.4% on the Deserve to Win O’Meter.

Coming away from that game, I didn’t think that the Leafs were hanging on by the skin of their teeth late, and after rewatching the game Wednesday afternoon, I’m not even entirely sure the Leafs were the second-best team.

Like, Toronto wasn’t dominant, and definitely gave up good early looks and Samsonov had to be sharp since unlike the Leafs, the Devils were putting their scoring chances on net. By the end of the game, I had the scoring chances at 17-15 for the Devils at 5v5, plus an 8-3 edge at 5v4.

But, again, this isn’t a game that the Leafs had to scratch and claw and were the worse team for the entire game and were very lucky to come away with two points. They did a lot of good things: they counter-attacked very well, especially against a top team that has been elite at defending in transition this season. They forced the Devils defence into making bad passes and turned those into scoring chances. They won more battles in the neutral zone and held a slim advantage in zone entry differential. They were a little on their heels at the start of the game, but after the first commercial break, the game was at least even, and then possibly in the Leafs favour from there on out.

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