Maple Leafs report cards: 3 disallowed goals give Toronto an advantage in wild win over Devils – The Athletic

All in all, it was a pretty good night for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They snapped one of the longest win streaks in NHL history at 13 games and none of their remaining defenceman got hit in the head with a beer can (at least that I saw).

It wasn’t pretty in the second period — they had only four shots on goal — and they weren’t great in the third. But, a win is a win.

Let’s get to the grades.


First Star

Matt Murray, his posts and the players who touched him in the crease

Admittedly, this was an odd game to hand out stars for. Each period was wildly different and the Leafs were lucky to hold on in the end. But, there were some players we can comfortably put in these slots, so let’s do it.

Is it ridiculous that the Devils had three goals disallowed? Sure.

Did Murray get saved by his posts a few times? Yes.

Did he maybe, accidentally, on purpose knock the net off after the Leafs were pinned into their own zone? Maybe!

I will say, I agreed with the first and the third disallowed goals. You can’t kick the puck in, and you can’t go skate to skate with a goalie who’s about to push across to make a save. Regardless of how you feel about the calls, I’m not going to deduct points for goals that the refs called back.

Now that that’s out of the way, I thought Murray had a great game.

The Devils had 3.42 expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick, and only got one past Murray, who made 34 saves on 35 shots.  The only goal he let in — that counted — was a high-danger chance on the doorstep by an unchecked Dougie Hamilton. He made every low-danger save (17) and only allowed three rebounds as tracked by Natural Stat Trick.

huge stop from Murray pic.twitter.com/MwamF4FpVz

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

The Leafs were lucky to win this one, in part because of the refs, but Matt Murray was a big help, too.

Second star

Pontus Holmberg 

Holmberg didn’t play a ton — only 9:19 — but his first NHL goal was:

  1. Very nice. 
  2. The game-winning goal.
  3. Ended the Devils’ 13-game win streak.

Gold (second) star!

they grow up so fast pic.twitter.com/k1hpX0p2Kd

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

Third star

Mark Giordano and Justin Holl

Expected goals, shot share rates and GSVA didn’t love these guys tonight, but I don’t really care. With Morgan Rielly out, Jordie Benn in and out of the locker room and Mac Hollowell making his NHL debut against a very good Devils team, the Giordano — Holl pairing stepped up huge.

Holl (25:03) and Giordano (24:43) led the team in ice time and were not on the ice for a goal against. Giordano had six blocked shots and Holl had one at a great time in the third period.

Mark Giordano pic.twitter.com/TbnUoQSXAR

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

Their underlying numbers weren’t great, and they spent a lot of time in their own zone, but I think it’s important to consider the fact that they were consistently starting in the defensive zone and playing tough minutes against top competition. They played over ten minutes in all situations against Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

Mark Giordano is 39 and playing for $800k.

He played 24:43 tonight.

He’s been on for just 5 goals against at five-on-five through 21 games.

No defenceman in the NHL with 200+ minutes has been on for less goals against per minute

— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) November 24, 2022

When you’re constantly eating tough minutes against a tough opponent, your numbers might not look great. I thought they did good stuff in their own zone, and at the end of the day, weren’t on the ice for a goal against. As much as we care about expected goals these days, sometimes not being on the ice for an actual goal matters.


Player reports

A

Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren

These two were rated better by all metrics than the Giordano and Holl pairing, and very well could be the real third stars of the game. Yell at me if you want, that’s fine. I agree!

When Sandin and Liljegren were on the ice together at five-on-five, the Leafs out-chanced the Devils 13-9 and had 62 percent of the expected goals. They were on the ice for both Leafs’ goals, but also the Devils’ lone goal. On that one, a tip from Hamilton, Sandin left the net front empty and Hamilton unchecked. I assume he thought that Yegor Sharangovich was going to rim the puck around the net and left to gain possession. It was the wrong read and the Devils scored. But I still thought these two had a great game.

Dougie Hamilton brings them within one pic.twitter.com/lP2CjqCjN3

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

Without Rielly (and Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie and sometimes without Benn) the Leafs really needed these two to step up, and I think they did.

A-

John Tavares 

Once again, Tavares looked good with Marner and scored off his teammates’ efforts on the boards in the first period. He had a great chance at the end of the game to seal the win — off another Marner play — but Vitek Vanecek made an impressive stop. Tavares was the best centre in the face-off circle for the Leafs tonight (52 percent) and took most of his faceoffs in the neutral zone (⅔) and the defensive zone (5/13), though he wasn’t as sharp with the latter.

His line with Marner and Nick Robertson was the only trio to out chance the Devils at five-on-five and carried a team high 81 percent of the expected goals, despite mostly starting in the defensive zone.

Mitch Marner

Marner may have had the prettiest forechecking effort I’ve seen in a while. First, he made the stick check to poke the puck from Jonas Siegenthaler, then he took the hit from Hamilton and made a nice back-handed pass from his knees to Tavares on the doorstep.

JOHN TAVARES 🚨

Mitch Marner fought for that assist pic.twitter.com/iff7hnuS7N

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

The goal opened the scoring for Toronto and set the tone for the rest of the first period — the only frame where Toronto looked at all in control of the game at five-on-five.

B-

Mac Hollowell

I don’t know if Hollowell is quite NHL ready, but to step into a game against a team that’s running through opponents like New Jersey and not make — to my eye test — too many egregious mistakes is a win. He’s a great skater, and we saw some smart first passes off his stick to get out of the zone. He got pinned in a few times after not making the right play quick enough, but did alright. Not sure what else you could reasonably ask of him right now.

C

Nick Robertson

After sitting in the press box for five straight games, Robertson got to this one with a ton of jump. He made something happen on his very first shift with Marner and Tavares and did well throughout the game to hunt pucks, get involved in the play and be in on the forecheck. He made a great play in the second period on the second power-play unit to a streaking Engvall, too.

what a feed from Robertson pic.twitter.com/wfk7tULFHE

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

There was the bad turnover on the power play that led to New Jersey’s third overturned goal, but, do we ignore that? Because it didn’t count? I probably have to, since I did with Murray. But, Robertson will need to be better in his own zone if he wants to stay in the lineup. Still, I would like to see him get a few more consecutive runs next to Marner and Tavares. There could be something there.

Pierre Engvall 

I feel like I’m somewhat harsh on Engvall and tonight he was totally fine. He created some scoring chances on the power play and at five-on-five and led all forwards with 0.40 individual expected goals.

David Kämpf

Kämpf led all forwards in ice time on a penalty kill that didn’t allow the Devils to score on three power-play opportunities. He created absolutely nothing on offence, but that isn’t really what’s expected of him.

C-

Auston Matthews 

One first-period play summed up the season so far.

Matthews was on the power play with Nate Bastian, essentially, mirroring his every move so that he couldn’t get an open lane. Eventually, Matthews got open inside the dots, got a shot off, but was blocked.

Although it was on the power play, where a lot of Matthews’ production has come, it looked a lot like what’s been happening with the Leafs’ star centre at five-on-five this season. Opposing blue lines are doing their best to take away his space and time in the slot, and when he does get that room, he’s missing wide, the goalie is making a play or a D is blocking the shot.

At five-on-five, Matthews has generated 6.33 individual expected goals, but only scored three. He is not finishing in the way we know he can. It’s probably more bad luck than anything, but it was another one of those nights for Matthews.

William Nylander

Nylander made a smart play early in the first period to read off the aggressive New Jersey attack and sneak out of the zone early for a quick outlet pass. The read led to a solid chance off the rush (and a save from Vanecek) but was a nice example of Nylander creating early in the game.

great breakout pass from Bunting pic.twitter.com/eWpSazfmrJ

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

He had a few other chances in the third period but didn’t finish them off.

what a save by Vanecek

Nylander robbed pic.twitter.com/yI1eSZ7khR

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

Overall, Nylander and the top line weren’t particularly impactful. He was also pulled off the power play in the third. Now, was that due to performance? Or because Sheldon Keefe wanted someone who could play defence if the Devils got a short-handed chance? I’m not so sure. But something to keep in mind when grading Nylander’s game.

Michael Bunting

Bunting, like Nylander, had some chances in this game but didn’t get on the scoresheet. He was alone in front of Vanecek in the second period with a chance to make it 3-0 and sent the puck sky high. Weird lack of finish from the Leafs’ No. 1 line tonight.

what a chance for Bunting, sends it high pic.twitter.com/P6MGUY92pU

— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 24, 2022

Alex Kerfoot

I had Kerfoot in MIA territory through two periods. He barely played — only had 3:48 in the second — and didn’t do a whole lot. But, when the game got tight, Kerfoot was out there more, especially in the final few minutes of the game to help protect the lead. That typically means something from the coach, so I’ll slide him out of MIA. Although I still don’t think he did much.

MIA

I didn’t really notice Calle Järnkrok tonight, and that might be because he played 8:49 at five-on-five and didn’t get many special teams looks — although he did play on the power play in the third period, which was funny. It might also be because he does things that don’t really pop on screen and come through on a stat sheet. Zach Aston-Reese was more noticeable on the forecheck at the end of the game, but I didn’t see much from him either. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Low event hockey against a team like the Devils is just fine.


Game Score

gamescore card 3 2


Final grade: B-

The Leafs beat the hottest team in the league, that result counts for something.

The process? It wasn’t great. Toronto had a solid first period and got out to a lead that they managed to keep, but boy did they white knuckle it in the end. The Devils put the pressure on in the second period, out chancing Toronto 29-9 in all situations. New Jersey turned it up in the third with a 33-11 shot share. Over three periods the Devils carried 63 percent of the expected goals and threw 16 high-danger chances Toronto’s way.

There were three disallowed goals, some lucky posts hit, and a lack of finish from top-line players, but at the end of the day, Toronto won. They’re now 6-1-3 in their last ten games.


What’s next for the Leafs?

They’ll head to Minnesota for Game 2 of a four-game road trip on Friday at 2 p.m. on TSN4.

(Top photo of Pontus Holmberg: Ed Mulholland / USA Today)