Last week the Quebec government announced that fans would be allowed at the Bell Centre by May 29th. This meant that if the Canadiens could force the series to go at least 6 games, they would get 2500 die-hard fans in their building as a reward. Clearly, the Leafs have no intention of letting any Habs fan get a sniff of live playoff hockey for at least another year because yet again, they ran the show throughout game 4 and now have a chance to close the series out on home ice. Practically every Leaf played well, Soupy got a shutout, and even Joe Thornton scored a fucking goal, Jumbo Joe!
It was indeed the ideal performance for the Leafs, and they showed that even without John Tavares, they are a still a legitimate contender to bring the Cup home. They didn’t need to rely on Matthews and Marner to win them the game; role players stepping up is huge in the playoffs. For the most part, they limited the impotent Habs offence to low danger chances, and they got the goaltending/special teams when needed. Sheldon Keefe has talked a lot all year with the team about Stanley Cup habits and what that actually means, and I think that the focus on that is showing in the Leafs’ play. The Canadiens aren’t near the Leafs’ level, and they’re making sure everyone knows that. Here’s a little poem, I guess? I’m not exactly sure what to call it, but it’s cool. In game 4, William Nylander scored his 4th goal as the Leafs won by 4 and have given up just 4 goals in 4 games. Okay, maybe not as cool as I thought, anyway, let’s get into the positives, negatives (if there are any), and some questions!
1. Depth Offence: If you had told me before the series that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner would have just 1 goal combined after 4 games I would’ve fallen into psychosis. But, here we are, and as good as Matthews has been all series, he has gone pointless in 3 of 4 games, and the Leafs lead the series 3-1. Game 4 showed yet again that the Leafs are a team filled to the brim with skilled players that can make things happen and combine that with the oh-so-hot right now Willy Nylander, and you’ve got yourself some secondary scoring.
Jason Spezza and Alex Galchenyuk specifically deserve some extra credit. Spezz has been fantastic all season and he’s really carried the bottom 6 for a while. The 37-year old is so intelligent and an amazing passer; if he wants a lifetime contract, he can have it. For Gally, it hasn’t been as simple. He’s had some inconsistency issues with the Leafs that have also sort of been the story of his career. But when he’s on it, he’s ON it, and tonight he was a menace from the word go. He made a lovely slip pass to spring Nylander and Kerfoot for a 2 on 1 in the 1st, and this pass below, I mean not to go full Pierre McGuire, but you can’t teach that at hockey school. That’s just flat-out skill and game awareness.
Now, just imagine if Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev knew how to shoot the puck at an NHL level, we’d be unstoppable.
2. Soup! x2: He put to rest any doubt that the previous 2 games were just luck or circumstance. Game 4 showed that Jack Campbell is THE guy. We can talk all we want about depth scoring, or limiting chances, or controlling play, but in the end, it all comes down to whose in between the pipes. The Habs have Carey Price, who has been getting a ton of praise for his play this series, despite giving up 9 goals in his last 3 games. And the Leafs have Jack Campbell, who again showed zero signs of weakness, or nervousness, as he was flawless throughout. The dude was just tracking the puck all night and never lost his crease. Here he just calmly picks the puck out of the air to prevent any more chaos.
So happy to see him succeed, and man does it feel good to have such an unphased, steady tendy back there.
3. Big Game Bill: He’s just so great. I cannot fathom not loving Willam Nylander, but that must suck pretty hard. What a player, what a series.
1. Sloppy turnovers: The only thing I didn’t like from that Leaf performance (other than their odd-man rushes) was the number of giveaways in their own zone. Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Zach Bogosian combined for 8 D-zone giveaways, and many of them led to chances for the Habs. Thankfully, the Habs offence is as unthreatening as a 12-year old poodle, but against the Jets or the Avs even, those opportunities won’t go unfinished. Need to clean that up.
Why take out Rasmus Sandin?: Yeah, I don’t really understand this one either. I mean, I have a few possible answers, but I still don’t like the move. I think Keefe saw that he had a chance to give Travis Dermott some ice with the back to back and took it, and I’m hoping it’s not anything more than that. I love Dermott, but Sandin is just better, and he runs the 1st power play, get him back in for game 5. I hope they keep Adam Brooks in though, I loved his game again tonight, and he has some natural chemistry with Spezz.
Word of the Night: Commanding. Yup, ever since the horn blew on game 1, the Leafs have commanded this series.
Number of the Night: 12. The number of shot attempts that Engvall, Simmonds and Mikheyev had last night. That line is going to explode one night. Just you wait. Their cycling is unstoppable.
Let’s close this thing out at home, boys.