Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Goal Analysis – Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens Exhibition Game

Welcome to a new post-game series! In this series, I will be reviewing every goal for and against, trying to provide analysis on what went right or wrong, what they could do differently next time and more. The goal for this series is to try and provide an alternative and detailed explanation on things from my point of view. This series isn’t meant to be a dumping ground for players mistakes.

For those who use reddit and browse r/Leafs, I actually started this series at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. You can find the last one I posted on reddit here.

I would highly suggest watching the highlight package first and or to also follow along with it. The highlight package can be found here.

Maple Leafs 1st Goal – Ilya Mikheyev (Assist Tavares, Rielly)

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The Maple Leafs roared out of the gates in this one, scoring 33 seconds into this contest. Ceci rims the puck up the right-wing boards to Marner. Marner collects the puck and chips it to Rielly in the middle, who then sends the puck up to Tavares. Tavares and Mikheyev enter the Canadiens zone on a two-on-one rush. Tavares delays to open up a passing lane and he slides the puck over to Mikheyev for the easy tap-in goal.

If you watch the video again, notice how Ben Chiarot (#8) tries to pinch down on Marner as he receives the puck, but is late getting there. Brendan Gallagher (#11) recognizes Chiarot is pinching in and cover’s Chiarot at the blueline. At this point the Habs are in good shape.

The first breakdown occurs when Gallagher starts to puck watch and misses Tavares blowing the zone. Gallagher instead gets sucked into chasing after Rielly, who is now able to make an easy pass to Tavares. As Tavares and Mikheyev enter the zone, watch Shea Weber (#6) as he glances at Gallagher, the backchecker to see if he can catch Mikheyev. Weber decides Gallagher can’t catch Mikheyev and stays in between Mikheyev and Tavares. While this is happening Tavares pulls the puck back to both prepare for a shot and to also change the angle of his passing lane, allowing him to pass through Weber and onto Mikheyev’s stick.

Maple Leafs 2nd Goal – Alexander Kerfoot (Assist Kapanen)

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The Leafs find themselves on the penalty kill before this goal is scored. Gallagher and Weber play catch on the left-side of the ice with Kapanen pressuring them. Gallagher passes to Tomas Tatar (#90) in the middle, who is acting as a bumper guy. Kapanen and Kerfoot collapse on Tatar forcing him to turn the puck over. Kapanen gets a partial break and generates a scoring chance that Carey Price kicks out into the slot. Kerfoot arrives right on time and roofs the rebound over Price’s glove.

The first breakdown on this goal starts with Gallagher’s pass to Tatar. If you watch the initial pass, you’ll notice Tatar has his stick set on the left side of his body. Gallagher passes the puck to Tatar’s right. This forces Tatar to have to re-adjust his body to take this pass. This extra half second allows Kapanen and Kerfoot to collapse on Tatar and pressure him.

The second breakdown occurs as a result of this bad pass from Gallagher. Tatar starts to panic, as he see’s Kapanen closing in on him so he tries to throw a hail mary; a no-look behind the back pass to Nick Suzuki (#14) on the right point. Tatar doesn’t know that Kerfoot is blocking this passing lane and Kerfoot is able to intercept the pass.

Kapanen is able to use his speed to create some space for himself from Suzuki and Weber. This extra space allows him to get a low shot off that Price rebounds out into the slot. Kerfoot beats Tatar (the backchecker) to the rebound and he is able to bury it.

Canadiens 1st Goal – Tomas Tatar (Assist Suzuki, Gallagher)

The Maple Leafs penalty to Mikheyev just ends as Gallagher drops the puck to Suzuki on the right-wing boards. Suzuki delays to give Gallagher time to get to the front of the net. While this is going on, Tatar slides down from the left-wing boards unnoticed and receives a perfect backdoor pass from Suzuki for the tap-in.

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Transitioning from penalty killing to even-strength defense is tough. I say this because whoever is coming out of the box has to quickly figure out what position they are covering and where the open man is.

Here is a screenshot right as Mikheyev enters the play. Right now, the only guy being covered by a Leafs player is Gallagher. That means the other four Canadiens players are all open, including the guy with the puck.

Here is the simple solution to fix these coverage issues. Mikheyev enters the zone from the penalty box and heads towards Weber on the left point. Kerfoot and Rielly both collapse on the puck carrier Suzuki, taking away his time and space. You’ll notice I have a second arrow for Kerfoot that is pointing towards Petry. This is because if Suzuki sends the puck back to Petry at the point, Petry becomes Kerfoot’s man.

It’s easy to pin the blame on Ceci for this goal because the guy behind him ends up scoring. But Ceci has already engaged and committed to boxing out Gallagher in front of the net. Kapanen HAS to recognize this and also see that Tatar is wide open (watch Kapanen’s head, he never shoulder checks for where Tatar is) and that he is the next closest guy to grab him. I do believe Kapanen knows he has to cover Tatar in this play. Watch Kapanen go down on one knee to block a passing lane. This suggest to me he thinks Tatar is behind him, when in reality he’s three-feet to his left.

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At even-strength, Ceci would be boxing out one of Tatar/Gallagher and the center would be taking whoever Ceci doesn’t. In this play, Kerfoot (who is the Center) is in the wing position due to being on the penalty kill. Mikheyev enters the zone and covers Kapanen’s man Weber. This means Kapanen is now the “acting” center based on his positioning on the ice.

Credit where credit is due, Suzuki makes a helluva pass to Tatar as well. One little thing Suzuki does that helps him tremendously is he pulls the puck away from his body and fakes a shot. This freezes Rielly and forces him to turn his body as he prepares to block Suzuki’s shot. However, this little delay by Suzuki opens up a passing lane to Tatar.

Maple Leafs 3rd Goal – Alexander Kerfoot (Assist Rielly, Robertson)

Nick Robertson gets his first NHL assist (yes I know it’s preseason) on this goal! Robertson recieves the puck from Kerfoot and goes D-to-D to Rielly on the right point. After passing to Robertson, Kerfoot heads to the net and is able to redirect the Rielly point shot up and over Price’s blocker.

The play starts with Robertson carrying the puck up the boards towards Rielly at the left point. With Robertson up high, Rielly slides over to the middle of the blueline. Gallagher pressures Robertson and forces him to send the puck down low to Kerfoot. Gallagher steps away from Robertson, which allows Kerfoot to send the puck back to Robertson who is now at the left point. Rielly calls for the puck as he is wide open on the right-side, thanks to the brilliant work of Cody Ceci.

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While Robertson and Kerfoot had the puck, Ceci (#83) starts to wander down from the right point towards the slot. Tatar is the winger on that side of the ice and his man should be the right defenseman. Technically that man is Ceci but the minute he skates down to the slot, Ceci becomes Philip Danault’s (#24) man. As you can see in the screenshot, Danault is chilling in the slot, covering no one.

The other breakdown takes place on the redirect by Kerfoot. Victor Mete (#53) tries to box out Kerfoot as he skates towards the net. The problem though, is that Kerfoot is able to get inside positioning on Mete, allowing him to get his stick free to redirect the Rielly point shot. And don’t forget. Cody Ceci is one of the main reasons this goal is scored.

Canadiens 2nd Goal – Paul Byron (Assist Chiarot, Kotkaniemi)

Ben Chiarot takes a shot from the left point on Andersen that he kicks aside easily. Zach Hyman (#11) grabs the rebound and tries to slide the puck over to Nylander. Kotkaniemi breaks up this pass and Gallagher beats Nylander on the loose puck retrival. Weber sends the puck back over to Chiarot who shoots low again and Andersen kicks it aside again. The difference this time is Paul Byron (#41) dashes to the net and bangs home the rebound.

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A lot of puck watching and coasting by the Leafs on this goal as the Habs plain and simply outworked the Leafs here. Hyman collecting the initial rebound was good, his pass to Nylander was not. Nylander has to win that puck battle against Gallagher (I know it’s an exhibition game, but this goes back to the intensity thing Keefe has talked about with Willy). When Chiarot shoots again, Byron skates past both Nylander and Rielly (Rielly doesn’t even notice Byron skate behind him). Shoutout to Andersen for the second effort on the Byron rebound shot. He almost caught it with the glove.

Maple Leafs 4th Goal – Morgan Rielly (Assist Hyman)

Gallagher skates into the Leafs zone on the powerplay and turns the puck over. Hyman skates into the Habs zone one on two. Tatar covers Hyman as he drives the net and Weber posts up in the slot preparing to cover Marner as he enters the zone late. Hyman turns back and hits the other trailer Rielly. Rielly one-times the puck on net as Drouin comes to cover Rielly. Rielly gets his own rebound and slams it home.

Bold strategy by the Leafs on this goal. After Gallagher turned the puck over, he falls and I guess that’s the signal for all four penalty killers to jump up into the rush.

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The early perk of no fans in the arena’s is the ability to hear the on-ice chatter. As Hyman drives the net, you can hear Rielly yell “HEY, HEY!” to let Hyman know he’s behind him. Hyman does a nice little turnback and sends the puck back over to Rielly. Drouin flies in to cover his man Rielly, but he is only able to check Rielly from the right side. Rielly’s initial shot on goal is kicked out by Price on Rielly’s left side allowing him to grab the rebound uncontested.

Closing Thoughts

The Habs outshot the Leafs 29-23 but I didn’t think they tested Freddy all that much. Both team’s had rust and were very sloppy at times (especially on the powerplay) but the Leafs skill shined through all that rust tonight.

This is a series that I plan to do for every Leafs game for the foreseeable future. With that being said, if you have any feedback, suggestions on things to add, change, remove please drop them in the comment section or replies to the social media post! I’ll try to take a look and reply to as many as possible.