Very rarely do we need an excuse to get pumped up for a showdown at the Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens. Not the typical Saturday night showdown we’re accustomed to, especially when Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher are out with injuries. Nonetheless you can always count on the Habs to want to play spoiler to the Leafs feel good narrative.
What is the feel good narrative of the night you might ask? Nothing too big, just a career backup/minor leaguer looking to set the new franchise record for most wins by a goalie to start the season. Jack Campbell is now the sole owner of that record. One more win against Ottawa on Saturday and that franchise record becomes an NHL record.
After a quick goal by Auston Matthews on his first shift of the game, things settled down after Corey Perry’s tying goal a minute later. The Leafs had no answer for the Habs in the 2nd period and if not for Jack Campbell chasing down a club record, this game could have gotten away from them. However the Leafs came out with a sense of urgency in the 3rd period and ended up winning 3-1.
Here are my post game thoughts:
•I know it doesn’t take a degree in mathematics and years of coaching at a professional level to know why a Hyman-Matthews-Marner line works. A grinding power forward, a generational goal scorer, and one of the most creative playmakers on the same line is a recipe for success.
If I were to pick one word to describe Zach Hyman it would be “relentless”. It’s one thing to be a power forward but Hyman is one of the most relentless puck pursuers in the league. Hyman is the ultimate line stabilizer, we’ve seen that time and time again this year. The HEM line deployed heavily in the 3 game Edmonton series was an absolute force to be reckoned with.
What Hyman does best right now is protect and help Mitch Marner do what he does best. An $11 million dollar superstar who with the puck on his stick is always a threat to score. However when Marner doesn’t have the puck in the offensive zone he will rarely be found in a corner helping on the forecheck, which is why Hyman is extremely valuable. These three also create beautiful plays like this one:
•I’m a huge fan of small little battles within the game that often go unnoticed or thought of as inconsequential. The unspoken mental battle that players deep down feel during the swings of a hockey game. You know the no touching your goalie after the whistle, he facewashes you, you facewash him and all that good stuff.
I’ve long thought John Tavares is constantly on the losing end of these small, mental battles. Letting a player cross check him repeatedly, not standing up for a teammate during a scrum,not throwing a big hit in an important moment. All little things that swing the momentum of the game.
I know, I know this guy goes to the dirty areas of the ice and that’s the cost of doing business. That’s fine if Tavares was on pace for a 35-40 goal season because game to game you could see the tangible result of all that abuse he receives. That’s why it was so refreshing to see him take issue with Danault:
That’s the exact tone a captain like John Tavares needs to show more of come playoff time. Those small battles, that keep snowballing until eventually it’s a jolt of energy that transcends down the bench.
•I think because of the nature of his game TJ Brodie goes a little bit unnoticed, but he has quietly been our most reliable defenceman all year. Without him I think we’d all be ready to ship Morgan Rielly out of town.
•Now I do think Montreal was the more physical team on Wednesday night but just like the 2 games before against the Flames neither team could enforce their physical will against us. Montreal especially loves to bully other teams. Neither team could do so because of our speed and skill.
Author: Josh BeLeaf