If there was ever a game less representative of a team’s overall capability, it was Game 1 on Thursday night. That 1st period was one where I wish I had a dog I could take for a walk to clear my head. It has taken me nearly 2 days to convince myself Perry was completely innocent on that play(his skating path was questionable IMO).
Fast forward to Saturday night. Wayne Simmonds gets the first shift of the game and sets the tone for the rest of the matchup. After a quick breakdown from the Leafs in their own zone, an awkward rebound ends up on Kotkaniemi’s stick and the Habs go up 1-0. It was an unsettling couple of minutes. A great cycle by the 3rd line, a well-timed pinch by Bogosian and a timely shot from Spezza tied the game up 1-1.
From there it was all Leafs. Our top players all got on the scoresheet, our defense shutdown the Habs, our powerplay finally broke through and our bottom 6 created chaos during every shift.
Here are my Post Game Thoughts:
•AUSTON MATTHEWS. Do I really need to say more? After being held off the scoresheet in game 1, despite being all over the puck – he recorded a goal and 2 apples.
What I like is he’s doing a little bit of everything. This is a top 3 player in the world who knows how to elevate his game for playoff hockey.
You could argue if this wasn’t Gallagher, Matthews just skates past him. However he knows this is the Habs biggest pest and a guy who’s known for being a little bit of a dirty player. Inject that play into my veins.
On top of finishing checks, disrupting plays and controlling the puck, he chipped in a momentum shifting goal off a Justin Holl shot.
If Matthews continues to elevate his game like this as the Oilers struggle to generate anything against the Jets – he’ll be regarded like Mackinnon was last year. Which was suggesting that Mackinnon’s playoff performance propelled him past McDavid for the best player in hockey.
•If you follow me on twitter, you know I’ve been leading the Pierre Engvall charge. Mikheyev and Engvall have elite level chemistry together. At bare minimum they’re sum zero players. They don’t get much but they give up even less.
They play a keep away style of hockey, constantly cycling and never letting up. You can see how frustrated it leaves the other team.
You’re doing something right if you’re scratched for game 1 and in game 2 the first ballot HOF’er captain on the other team is chasing you down to take a boneheaded penalty.
Mikheyev and Engvall certainly have trouble finding the back of the net. They usually take low percentage shots and result in a puck hitting the chest of the opposing goalie and the play being whistled dead.
At bare minimum this keep the puck in the other teams zone, allows a rested line to come on the ice and makes sure the play doesn’t go the other way.
•I think we saw vintage Wayne Simmonds last night. He was an absolute wrecking ball. Simmonds effectively got under everyone’s skin who came into his wheelhouse. I mentioned earlier this year that Simmonds is the kind of guy who takes notes and gives out punishment accordingly.
Similar to earlier in the season when he absolutely destroyed Quinn Hughes after the Canucks delivered a bad hit earlier in the game. You never know when or how he’ll respond but rest assured he will.
Edmundson takes a cheap shot at Spezza earlier in the game. Simmonds took note. With a couple minutes left in the 3rd he does this:
This is playoff hockey, this is what is needed to win. This is the mental battle I’ve talked about all year. Do you think Edmundson has any idea Simmonds slashed him because he punched Spezza after a whistle 2 periods earlier? Of course not.
It was to Edmundson’s benefit that the refs got in between them. The Habs do not benefit from these scrums with Simmond’s, the Leafs do. Simmonds is a 4th line player who totaled 8 minutes in game 2. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much action packed into 8 minutes of play.
•I’ve been pretty anti-Kerfoot all year but last night he had a great game. Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Engvall has always played well together but last night they had a level of chemistry that was a momentum changer, every time they were on the ice.
•Special teams can be the difference maker in playoff series. Last night they were the game changer. The emergence of Sandin on PP1 is good for two reasons. The first is obvious – fixing a broke powerplay. The second less obvious but equally as important in my mind. It takes responsibility and stress away from Morgan Rielly, who can focus his game elsewhere.
•I’ll be the first to admit, I think Nylander has more to give and still shy’s away from physical play. However as a 2nd line RW he has had 2 great games and scored 2 important goals
•I think Foligno played admirably at centre. You could tell he laid back while Galchenyuk and Nylander played down low. Another game for these 3 to gel and I think you’ll see results.
Author: Josh Beleaf