Up 2-1 in the series and on the second night in a row, many wondered how Sheldon Keefe would approach his roster decisions in Game 4.
It is understandable that more than a few eyebrows were raised by Rasmus Sandin out of range for Travis Dermott, even Riley Nash sitting outside, and Adam Brooks making their Leafs playoff debut (playing with a winning formula, etc.)
It didn’t matter. The Leafs continued to roll. Now up 3-1, they have a real opportunity to get home to finish the streak on a fairly short notice. Good teams that go deep almost always benefit from a quick series victory. If nothing else, it helps you rest and heal your roster, which is necessary in a long playoff streak, especially for a team that’s already missing. John Tavares and Nick Foligno.
Before we get a step ahead of ourselves, your game in 10:
1. The Leafs came out absolutely buzzing in this one, with Jason Spezza being stopped during a breakaway, followed by Mitch Marner get sidelined on a 2v1, and the Leafs gain a power play along the way.
On this power play, the Leafs generated a number of scoring opportunities, stemming from – all things – Marner shots. One created a big rebound up front, and there was a shooting pass to Matthews for a deflection. A lot of times when you go out hot and don’t score, for whatever reason, the other team seems to take the lead soon after. As things stabilized, the Leafs, like their MO, simply stuck and weren’t particularly shaken by Carey Price standing up.
The high danger odds favored the Leafs 5-1 in 5v5, the score was 0-0 and the Leafs seemed completely unfazed.
2. A few years ago, against the Bruins, the Leafs were shorthanded 16 times in the series. The Bruins have scored seven power play goals in that series. The penalty kill alone almost destroyed every chance they had to win it. It’s kind of like keeping a goal, where you take it for granted (to a degree) when you have it, but when you don’t, it’s a disaster.
The Habs have yet to score a power play goal in this series. While you might expect that in part – their power play is legitimately wrong and has been for years – it does make life a whole lot easier. After the Leafs jumped into the game to start Game 1 and failed to break through, the Habs had two power-play to end the period. The best chance on them was a Kerfoot and Marner 2v1.
I mentioned before the series and after Game 3 how the Leafs can be aggressive on the penalty spot thanks to their speed. This speed is at the origin of the crises of the Habs.
3. Entering this game, Alex Galchneyuk hadn’t done much with his playoff opportunity. He played 11:46 in his first game, and his TOI dipped to 9:23 in his second game. He was held without a shot and also took an unnecessary four-minute penalty on a face-off.
In the first period of Game 4, he landed his first net of the series. In the second half, he came to life with two unreal plays. On the first, he made a behind-the-back for William Nylander right on the board for a tap-in (after doing some real heads-up play to extend his leg and not come out of the side). On the second, he feathers a magnificent saucer pass from backdoor to Jason Spezza.
– Réchaud Maple Leafs (@LeafsNews) May 26, 2021
– Réchaud Maple Leafs (@LeafsNews) May 26, 2021
Galchenyuk’s revenge game was in full effect in this one, topped off with an empty net.
4. We’ve talked about the speed of the penalty kick in all the series, but it seems fair to note how it also sets the Habs on fire in 5v5. William Nylander just drove every series – his speed is noticeable in every game – and he shakes things up with it: getting to the pucks, catching the Habs and creating turnovers, getting to dangerous areas and scoring goals.
Same story with Alex Kerfoot since the first game. His speed gets things done, whether it’s intercepting pucks on the penalty spot, winning races at 50/50, or putting defenders on their heels and backing into the race. He recorded two assists on the evening, but both were excellent plays – in particular, the nifty little pass to Galchenyuk to help create the first goal of the night. This is an example of where Kerfoot’s speed cut through the neutral zone and supported defenders to create lanes.
On the third goal, Kerfoot did well to find the trailer.
5. The Habs tried to return to their normal formula in this one by facing the Tatar – Danault – Gallagher line with Chiarot and Weber against the Leafs lead line. They actually held them aimlessly and were ahead of them in attempts to shoot.
The problem for Montreal is that even without Tavares on the second line, William Nylander kill them. He has as many goals as his entire squad so far in this series, and he hasn’t even hit the 17 minute mark at TOI in a single game so far in this series.
6. Looking at the body of work by Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev – who were paired in the regular season and now again in the playoffs – I’m not sure you can justify their split (or sitting Engvall). They’re two big bodies that use their speed, chase the puck, and ride their bikes. Together, they maintained the advantage in shooting attempts at 16-13 while collecting most of their ice time against Caufield – Suzuki – Toffoli.
These are not sweet minutes. They are responsible, and their speed and size really stand out. We’ve noted that a bit throughout the series, but I really wanted to take a minute to re-emphasize that the Leafs are getting good minutes on these two.
7. The team’s overall defensive core goes a bit unnoticed on a night like this, but they just did their job. While on the ice with their regular partners, they were all equal or better on the 5v5 shooting part.
The escapes were clean and easy. The Habs need to establish forward control, a time zone and face the Leafs to stand a chance. The defense makes it seem so easy that it is hardly discussed.
They’re really good at beating pre-chess with dips and sticks, turning the other way, and getting out with ease. The Leafs love to use the middle of the ice and their crosses spin back to present a target, retrieve the puck and kick it out.
Going into the third period, the Leafs edged the Canadiens 35-26. Heading into this game, the odds out of the cycle were 37-11 in favor of the Leafs. The Leafs simply burst and control the middle of the ice at their end.
I feel the need here to mention Zach Bogosian because he’s actually good enough to beat the first forward controller and take out the puck. It helps bring that third pairing to safe minutes consistently.
8. I thought it was a much better third period for the Leafs compared to last night. Clearly, the Habs – losing 3-0 in the game and 2-1 in the series – had the advantage when it comes to scoring opportunities, but this was not a case where the Leafs would have locked themselves in. their end for long stretches like it was last night. . They did a better job riding the bike, pushing the Habs a little better on the outside, forcing dumps and doing well when they did.
He was a one-period snoozer if we’re honest, but going in 3-0 is exactly what you want if you’re the Leafs. The Habs had little dispute in this one. It was a little amazing to see.
9. Perhaps the best part of this game for the Leafs was simply the lack of ice time for their top players. You have to make your last players feel like they have roles and skin in the game. Last year against Columbus the fourth row was barely scratching five minutes at times, but in this game everyone except Adam Brooks was in double digits and none of the Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner, or Auston Matthews cracked the 20 minute mark.
I don’t think that has happened in any game this season. It was a full team effort, which is really important at all times (obviously), but especially on a back to back. If you win games without your best players carrying you, that’s a scary proposition for the opposition.
dix. If you’re Montreal, the hardest thing about that 3-1 deficit is that you actually held the Leafs’ top line scoreless, and still lost easily. In Game 2, the Leafs’ lead line and power play kicked off, so you can see how this one slipped out of their hands. In this game? The depth of the Leafs simply won out.
There is much more offense to their results with Pierre Engvall and Alex Galchenyuk inserted since the first game, and the Habs just can’t keep pace now. Jack Campbell had a shutout, and while he was good in that game, he wasn’t really off. Add to that the Habs can’t score on the power play to save their life, and there’s just no real formula for winning right now, unless it’s like a 1-0 or 2 game. -1 with Carey Price standing on his head.
Now let’s see if the Leafs can do business in Game 5. The Jets are waiting.
Game flow: 5v5 shot attempts
Heat Map: 5v5 fire attempts
Game Highlights: Leafs 4 vs Canadiens 0