Is there anything better than b2b games on Easter Sunday and the first Monday back at work after a long weekend? Especially when puck drops at 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm respectively? My sleep schedule certainly doesn’t think so. It also didn’t help that a jolt of adrenaline hit my body around 11:30 as the Leafs gave up a lead twice before quickly putting the game away at the midway point of the 3rd period.
I said it in my last post game thoughts intro that the Toronto-Calgary season series has been the most entertaining series for the Leafs this year. Last night did not disappoint.
Watching Campbell flash leather on Tkachuk late in the game right after Simmonds shows off his best Bryan McCabe impression was a thing of beauty. From start to finish the Leafs were the superior team and I almost, almost for just a second had a smidge of empathy for Flames fans.
Anyways here are my post game thoughts:
•Ladies and Gentleman if you value analytics over the eye test, stop reading now because Wayne Simmonds doesn’t care about what you stat nerds have to say. An aging player with miles of wear and tear on his body at just 32 years of age was obviously going to struggle for several games coming back from injury.
Adjusting to the pace of the game, especially in the heart of a condensed season is not easy to do. Especially for Simmonds who is trying to ease back into his instigator/agitator role. The last thing he wants is to jam his wrist up grabbing an opponent’s jersey and be questionable come playoff time.
However last night we saw flashes of the Simmonds we saw before his injury. Lucic is as tough as they come in this league and i’m sure some Flames fans would argue he is the toughest. Do you think that scares Simmonds? How do you analytically quantify this play and the impact it has on the game and his teammates.
It didn’t hurt that he chipped in with a goal as well from his knees while two Flames players were draped all over him.
Arguably Wayne Simmond’s greatest skill is that he polices the game when he’s playing. Other teams have to take note where Wayne is at all times. You can’t blatantly bully the Leafs without wondering if you’re gonna have to watch your back or answer to Wayne on the next shift. This is a presence the Leafs have been without for years.
•There’s a strong case to be made for pairing Matthews with Nylander and Marner with Tavares. I know it feels like forever ago but Matthews and Nylander had been linemates for the better part of 2 and a half seasons. Matthews early on his career had brief stints with Connor Brown before Willy became a staple on the right side of that line.
It didn’t take long for Matthews and Nylander to connect on a drop pass that found the back of the net. Jacob Markstrom never tracked this puck and Auston’s shot once again looks lethal.
Auston Matthews is obviously one of if not the best shooter in the league. William Nylander is no slouch either though. That forces the defender to hesitate briefly knowing he has to respect both player’s shots. What Nylander does really well here is creating separation for Matthews long before he drops the puck back to him. Willy subtly ties up the stick of the defender, giving Matthews that extra second he needs to pick his spot.
I think this would be a consistent trend if they were paired together. Both players benefit from slowing the game down and cycling whereas Marner and Tavares operate best attacking the net and weaving around the other team.
•The previous meetings with Calgary were a slow, physical grind. The games had a playoff like feel to it. What we saw Sunday and Monday night was a deflated team, with no answer to our skill and speed. They tried setting the tone early but quickly realized it wouldn’t work.
•Matthew Tkachuk looked absolutely invisible over the 2 game series. I had to force myself to find him on the ice. Neutralizing the league’s biggest pest and making him look like a bottom 6 player affirms what I mentioned above.
•The more and more I think about the grind of this season and what it took for the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup last year, the more convinced I am we’ll get a 3rd line centre and a depth defenceman. A Nick Foligno type player and a calming big body on the backend like a Luke Schenn(style only, not the actual player).
Author: Josh BeLeaf