Sheldon Keefe and the Toronto Maple Leafs were back at it on Saturday night for Keefe’s second game behind the team’s bench and once again his team put on quite the performance for their new coach.
The Maple Leafs came out on the winning end of an eight-goal affair against the Colorado Avalanche, with the blue and white tallying five of the eight goals. While it was a nail-biter late in the game, the Maple Leafs got the job done – earning another two points in the standings and another win for Keefe.
With that, here’s a look at what we can take away from the Maple Leafs 5-3 win over the Avalanche.
Familiar Face in New Places
Some players in this one might’ve got lost on their way in as former teammates met for the first time since being traded in the offseason. On one side, the Maple Leafs saw Nazem Kadri for the first time in an Avalanche uniform, while both Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot took on their former club in this one.
While Kerfoot was the only one of the three not to register a point in his return, they all had pretty good games against their former clubs. Kerfoot did take a second period boarding penalty against Erik Johnson and had three blocked shots in nearly 13 minutes of ice time.
Kadri filled the scoresheet, with two assists, a holding penalty, four shots on goal and two hits while winning 69 percent of his draws in just over 23 minutes of ice-time against the team that drafted him. That included almost four minutes of power play time for his new team.
As for Barrie, he had a power play goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs to go along with four shots on goal with nearly 16 minutes of ice-time. He spent time on the Maple Leafs top power play unit with just over two minutes of power play time.
Maple Leafs’ New Look Power Play
Speaking of the new look power play, the Maple Leafs went with William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly and Barrie on the point. The team had just two opportunities with the man advantage on Saturday night, but did register one power play goal – that coming when Barrie pinched from the blue line and put one top shelf while down on one knee.
The Maple Leafs recorded just two shots on goal with the man advantage, but showed some good puck movement inside the offensive zone. Given the opportunity might prove helpful to getting Barrie going this season – especially if he continues to see time with this unit.
An Opening Frame for the Ages
While the Maple Leafs did still give up the first goal of the game – a struggle they seem to be having on a nightly basis – they did battle back and put up four first period goals against Philipp Grubauer and the Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs fired 15 shots on Grubauer in the first frame and managed to get four past him leading the Avalanche and coach Jared Bednar to pull his starting goalie following the first period.
It was the first goal – deflected in by Nick Shore – that seemed to get the Maple Leafs going. They fed off the momentum shift and just over a minute later Matthews tallied his 16th goal of the season to give the team a 2-1 lead.
From there, they continued to find ways of putting the puck in the net, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do have to find ways of not giving up the first goal – especially in the first minute of the game like they did on Saturday night.
That Shutdown Kind of Defence
As always, there were still things the Maple Leafs could’ve done better throughout this one. While they were able to take a three-goal lead into the second period, they were very quick at almost giving up that lead.
The Avalanche battled back scoring one goal midway through the second period and another just seven minutes into the third to make it a one-goal game, before the Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman fired one into the empty net to secure his team the win.
While the Maple Leafs outshot the Avalanche in the first period 15-8, the Avalanche finished the game with 37 shots to the Maple Leafs’ 28 when the final buzzer sounded. The Maple Leafs relied heavily on Frederik Andersen again to make some big stops down the stretch and they were lucky that he was up to the task.
That said, with the team sitting back on a 4-1 lead, it was a good example of just how quickly things can change in a game in today’s NHL.
Maple Leafs’ Depth Dependency
Still, we have to look at what the Maple Leafs did well on Saturday night and their depth showed in this one. Eleven players had a point for the Maple Leafs against the Avalanche, including multi-point performances from Barrie (1-1) and Matthews (1-1).
However, they also got points from Hyman, Jason Spezza, Kasperi Kapanen, Shore, Pierre Engvall, Nylander, Justin Holl, Jake Muzzin and Travis Dermott. In fact, only seven player didn’t register a point for the Maple Leafs, excluding Andersen.
And it seems the Maple Leafs go in the same direction as the performance of their depth players. The more they get involved offensively – obviously – the better it is for the team overall. And this was a perfect example of that for the club.
Also Worth Noting…
Dmytro Timashov was a healthy scratch for the second time in two games under new head coach Keefe. While we won’t read into it too much just yet, it should be taken into consideration moving forward.
Shore got the start as a native of the Denver area. Keefe wanted to get him in the lineup as “he’s obviously got connections” in the Denver area and he felt it was “important to get him in the lineup,” according to TSN’s Mark Masters.
Engvall tallied his second point in as many games under his former Marlies’ coach. That said, he played just over eight minutes for the Maple Leafs and had the third lowest ice-time of any player on the team.
The Maple Leafs now have three days off as they prepare for their next game against the Red Wings on Nov. 27 in Detroit in the hopes of keeping their streak alive.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.