Leafs Report Cards: Mitch Marner has emphatic bounce-back game, Frederik Andersen puts on a show to edge Bruins
By Ian Tulloch
Oct 19, 2019
Uploaded by: Martin Arnold
These Leafs-Bruins games never disappoint. Well, at least from an entertainment standpoint.
In a back-and-forth game that kept both fan bases on the edge of their seats, Toronto found a way to come up with two points against its biggest division rival, beating Boston 4-3 in overtime. It was an interesting game with a few questionable moments, so let’s try our best to break down everything in a rational manner — if that’s possible.
Key takeaways from the game
1. Mitch Marner’s back
We’ll break this down in more detail below, but Marner was flying in this game. It didn’t matter if he was playing with Auston Matthews or Alexander Kerfoot; he was making plays all game long.
2. Roller-coaster game
Tensions are always high in these Leafs-Bruins games, but Saturday night’s game had a bit of a playoff vibe to it. When you throw in Toronto’s polarizing play (strong in the first period, terrible in the second and then great again in the third), it resulted in one heck of a game from an entertainment standpoint. Now, I’m sure Toronto’s coaches would’ve liked to see more consistency from their players — and the officiating — which brings us to our third key takeaway …
3. Everyone’s favourite topic
No one likes talking about officiating; I can’t stand talking about it (even bringing it up makes me feel like a whiner), but it’s something we need to discuss in these Leafs-Bruins games. Much like Game 2 of the 2019 playoffs, it felt like a scenario in which Boston was getting away with a bit of extra physicality, while the Leafs would be given an offsetting minor for returning the favour. I’m glad it didn’t end up being the deciding factor Saturday night, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a factor.
Here’s a quick look at where each team’s shots were coming from, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
The Bruins generated more shots than the Leafs at five-on-five, although the scoring chances were much more even. When you throw in power-play time, though, this was probably a game Boston should have won. Luckily for Leafs fans, a few standout performances from their goaltender and $11 million star winger were the difference.
Game Ball 🏀: Mitch Marner (RW, No. 16) — Now there’s the Mitch Marner we’ve been waiting to see.
No. 16 was all over the ice in this game. He looked extremely confident with the puck on his stick, making creative passes to get his teammates into open space. Marner was also brilliant defensively, forcing tons of turnovers and making a huge impact on the penalty kill, which was a major component for Toronto in this game. I’ve always been a huge fan of his game, which is what has made the past few weeks so frustrating to watch. Here’s hoping he can get back to more performances like these moving forward.
Frederik Andersen (G, No. 31) -- The Leafs don’t win this game without Andersen, plain and simple. Any time you’re forced to make 42 saves to win a game, you’re getting into some dangerous territory. The Leafs probably aren’t too thrilled they needed a performance like this from Andersen to secure the victory on Saturday, but they’ll gladly take the two points.
Dmytro Timashov (LW, No. 41) — How can you not love Timashov? He finishes every check on the forecheck, moves the puck up the ice well and fired an absolute laser past Tuukka Rask for his first NHL goal.
I was glad to see him get some extra shifts in the third period of this game — he earned them.
Jake Muzzin (LD, No. 8) — I’m dangerously close to anointing Muzzin as my favourite Leafs defenceman (ahead of Travis Dermott).
One would think I’d be able to come up with something, so I’ll try my best.
Muzzin is so good at taking away space from opposing forwards. He closes his gaps well in transition, angling opponents toward the boards before aggressively shutting things down at the blue line, either using his active stick or laying the body. Now, he and Kerfoot did get caught puck-watching on Jake DeBrusk’s goal, with neither player picking him up in front of the net, but this was still an excellent all-around game from Muzzin, who’s been Toronto’s most well-rounded defenceman since being acquired from the Kings.
Justin Holl (RD, No. 3) — Has he always been this good? I remember watching Holl on the Marlies being convinced he was an NHL player (6-foot-3 right-handed defenceman who could move the puck), but watching him at the NHL level, I never got the sense he had the same confidence to make plays up the ice. Maybe that was a product of him not getting to play with consistency last season because he’s looked excellent over the past few weeks.
Coaching staff -- I found myself agreeing with most of Mike Babcock’s decisions Saturday, which is strange for me. (I tend to disagree with him on a lot of things, like most Leafs fans.) I loved the fact he tried Matthews and Marner together but was still willing to change things up depending on the situation. Down the stretch, I liked that Babcock was allocating minutes to players who had earned them (e.g., more ice time for Kerfoot, adding Timashov to the top nine after Johnsson went down). I’m still not a huge fan of hard-matching the Rielly-Ceci pairing to the best line in hockey, especially when you have Muzzin at your disposal, but hey, we can’t get everything we want as Leafs fans.
Alexander Kerfoot (C, No. 15) -- As we mentioned in the Muzzin section, he and Kerfoot lost DeBrusk in the slot on Boston’s first goal. Other than that play, though, Kerfoot looked great in this game. He was moving the puck up the ice really well, using his speedy and nifty passing to get the play going in the right direction. He’s also sneaky “gritty” in the corners, finding a way to come out of puck battles with possession. His ability to provide 80 percent of Kadri’s value was always going to be the key part of the Tyson Barrie trade, and so far I’d say he’s passed that test with flying colours.
Kasperi Kapanen (RW, No. 24) — I’ve really been liking his decision-making lately. We’ve criticized him in the past for poor shot selection off the rush (and rightfully so — he had a bad habit of ripping shots from the top of the circle), but lately he’s been doing a much better job of finding his teammates in transition. There were multiple times Saturday that I noticed him change his speed off the rush to find a passing lane to a more dangerous area. Those are the kinds of plays you want to see from a player with Kapanen’s talent.
Trevor Moore (LW, No. 42) — What else is there left to say about Trevor Moore at this point? I love his energy, thought he used his speed to his advantage in this game and liked some of the plays he was making offensively. He’s a top-nine NHL player, and I’m glad to see him get those kinds of minutes this season.
Morgan Rielly (LD, No. 44) — The stat sheet shows two goals, but that actually doesn’t have much to do with his four-star grade in this game. (Both of his goals were flukes if we’re being realistic.) The more impressive aspect to me was the fact Rielly was consistently getting the puck going in the right direction, making solid passes up the ice to keep Boston’s line of death out of Toronto’s end. Now, the Bruins’ line still ended up doing a bit of damage (like it usually does), but individually, I thought Rielly had a strong 200-foot game.
Tyson Barrie (RD, No. 94) — Keeping track of 18 skaters and a goaltender is never easy, but I like to think I do a pretty good job keeping track of things using my “eye test” along with the numbers. Then something like this happens …
Andreas Johnsson (LW, No. 18) — It’s hard to say much about Johnsson’s game, considering he left halfway through with a leg injury. I thought he was battling hard in the dirty area throughout most of the game (well, his game), and the good news is the X-rays came back negative.
Frederik Gauthier (C, No. 33) -- He could play a completely invisible game for 10 minutes and the coaching staff would be thrilled; that’s your job as a defensive fourth-line centre (play low-event hockey and don’t give up anything). It’s hard to say he didn’t fit that bill in this game.
Ilya Mikheyev (LW, No. 65) — As a card-carrying member of the Ilya Mikheyev Fan Club, I have no problem conceding that Saturday wasn’t his strongest game. He had that nice rush in the third period, and I really liked the play he made earlier in the game to make a cross-ice pass to Muzzin, but otherwise, he didn’t seem to be impacting the game as much as we’ve grown accustomed to, particularly without the puck.
Cody Ceci (RD, No. 83) — I’m still not quite sure why the Leafs keep playing Ceci against top competition, but it’s pretty clear he can’t handle it. I root for the poor guy, but his decision-making has been pretty questionable lately. Now, he did break even at five-on-five despite spending most of his minutes against the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line, but I would make the argument that had more to do with his linemates (Rielly and Marner) than Ceci’s performance.
Martin Marincin (LD, No. 52) — If Marincin were fun to watch in any way, I’m sure we’d find ways to forgive him for his frustrating play. Unfortunately, the guy looks like a Whacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man out there who can’t skate or handle a hockey puck, so we rip out our hair when he turns the puck over prior to Johnsson getting hit in the side of the leg with a slap shot.
He’s probably not as bad as most Leafs fans make him out to be (his good stick and strong transition defence do have value), but he definitely didn’t play his best game Saturday night. With that being said, we have to give him some credit for tackling David Backes after he crashed into Andersen — it’s something teammates and coaches love to see from a bottom-of-the-lineup player.
The bottom-six centres — It was a pretty quiet night for Jason Spezza and Nick Shore. They made a few decent plays with the puck on their sticks, but all things considered, it wasn’t a very impactful game for either player.
William Nylander (RW, No. 88) — There were certain plays I really liked from Nylander in this game (outmuscling Marchand for a loose puck, a strong shift on the cycle in the third period), but I’d like to see him drive play into the offensive zone with more consistency. Despite heavy criticism from the fan base, he’s actually been one of their best players at five-on-five this season, but he definitely didn’t reach that bar in this game.
Auston Matthews (C, No. 34) — This was a pretty underwhelming night for Matthews, especially when you consider he spent most of his minutes alongside Marner. Games like these help point out some of the steps Matthews still has to take at five-on-five to drive play as well as Tavares (winning puck battles in tight spaces, making quick passes in transition, defending in his own zone). He struggled in those departments against Boston and wasn’t able to make up for it offensively like he usually does.
Game score is a metric developed by The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn to quickly measure a player’s performance in a game.
It’s not perfect, but it can help give us a decent idea of how well players performed in a particular game based on their numbers (although I’d always recommend combining stats with video, since single-game numbers can be wonky).
Most important clip of the night
Maple Leafs Hotstove@LeafsNewsBabcock and Dubas aren't pleased with the Marincin penalty.
Tempers were hot on Saturday night, which they tend to be when the Leafs and Bruins play each other. So, who’s ready for another seven-game playoff series in 2020?!
Final grade: B