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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Goal Analysis – Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets Play-In Game #3

The highlight package for this game can be found here.

Maple Leafs 1st Goal – Cody Ceci (Assist Kerfoot, Kapanen)

The Leafs find themselves on the penalty kill late in the first period. Cody Ceci and Justin Holl do a nice job of retrieving the puck from the Blue Jackets powerplay unit. Holl makes a nice outlet pass to Kerfoot, who is in the slot. Kerfoot and Kapanen play catch and head up the ice to kill the clock. Kerfoot breaks into the Blue Jackets zone and draws in three defenders on him. He drops the puck back to Ceci at the point, who unloads a one-timer on net that deflects off of Seth Jones and past Joonas Korpisalo.

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The Blue Jackets are in good shape here as Kerfoot enters their zone. He’s one-on-three, with Kapanen about one or two steps behind Werenski. When you’re on the powerplay, coaches typically preach two men on the puck at all times. In this play, one of Boone Jenner (#38) and Werenski needs to help Jones collapse on Kerfoot, while the third guy takes Kapanen, who will join the play shortly.

Instead this happened. All three Blue Jackets players collapse on Kerfoot, momentarily forgetting that Kapanen exists. The other two Blue Jackets players went for a change, hence why they re-joined the play late.

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When Ceci shoots from the point, Jones needs to get the heck out of the way. The point shot from Ceci was a low risk one, considering A. it was going wide, B. there was no traffic and C. Korpisalo had time to square up to the puck. Instead, he tries to block the point shot without squaring up to it, resulting in the funny pinball-esque bounce on net.

Maple Leafs 2nd Goal – William Nylander (Assist Marner, Matthews)

Leafs are on the powerplay as Tavares wins the faceoff back to Marner. Marner tee’s up Matthews for a one-timer that gets blocked. Matthews recovers the puck and sends it back to Marner at the point. Marner walks the line, finds a shooting lane and fires a dart down to Nylander, who does his best JVR impression and is able to spin and tuck the puck glove side on Korpisalo.

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In this screenshot, notice how the Blue Jackets are not in a box formation and that there are two guys covering Tavares in the slot. Boone Jenner is the guy in-front of Tavares and he should be out covering Tyson Barrie on the left point. Barrie is tee’d up for the one-timer here, which forces Werenski to have to creep up closer to Barrie so he can be ready to get in the shooting lane. Everyone knows the Leafs powerplay runs through Marner, yet the Blue Jackets (specifically Foligno at the top) give him a little too much time and space.

Nylander does what he has done all season. He hangs out around the net and uses his soft hands in tight to put the puck into the net. Nylander pulls off a pretty sick move. He receives the puck on his forehand, and in one swift motion does a 180 pivot to face Korpisalo and then tucks the puck in glove side. There is a reason why Nylander was one of the league leaders in goals around the net front this season.

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Maple Leafs 3rd Goal – Nick Robertson (Assist Kapanen, Kerfoot)

Kerfoot and Robertson battle for a loose puck at the Leafs blueline. Kerfoot retrieves the puck and sends an aerial pass up to a streaking Kapanen. Kapanen collects the puck, skates down into the corner of the Blue Jackets zone and turns back, hitting the trailer Robertson who squeaks a one-timer through Korpisalo for his first NHL playoff goal.

I’ve really like the Robertson-Kerfoot-Kapanen line in the four games we have seen them together. All three possess speed, skill and some sandpaper to them. The aerial pass Kerfoot sent to Kapanen is something I wish this line and the Leafs in general would utilize more often. Kapanen has speed to burn and this is a great way to stretch out the Blue Jackets defense.

When Kapanen skates into the Blue Jackets zone, Ryan Murray (#27) attacks Kapanen. Murray’s partner Markus Nutivaara (#65) shoulder checks the wrong way and does not pick up his man Robertson right away, which allows Robertson time to skate into position and get his shot off.

Robertson has a helluva shot for an teenager, hence why he scored 55 goals in the OHL this season. I haven’t liked a lot of the shots he’s taken so far but this one found the seventh-hole on Korpisalo.

Blue Jackets 1st Goal – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Werenski, Atkinson)

Leafs are at the tail end of their penalty kill as Kerfoot tries to clear the puck, but Werenski keeps it in at the blueline. Werenski walks in and shoots but Kerfoot blocks it. The rebound is collected by the Blue Jackets and the Leafs start to scramble and run around. Atkinson eventually takes a shot that gets blocked and bounces right over to Werenski, who sends a hard pass over to Dubois at the bottom of the right faceoff circle and he’s able to roof it up over Andersen to end the shutout streak.

All five Leafs defenders are caught puck watching here. Barrie has just returned from the penalty box and he immediately darts at the puck carrier, Werenski. Holl’s man in this scenario is Dubois and he has no clue that he is chilling all alone behind him. Werenski threads the needle and finds the open man Dubois.

I mentioned this in the goal analysis for the Leafs exhibition game vs. the Habs. Defending after a penalty kill is one of the hardest things to do. You not only have to go from playing zone defense to man-to-man, but the guy coming out of the box has little room for error to pick up the correct man. This only gets amplified if it’s a defenseman coming out of the box and he has to play forward for a bit. I’ve noticed in this series vs. the Blue Jackets the Leafs struggle mightily at this. Unless that puck gets cleared down the ice right as the penalty ends, the team usually gets hemmed in for a bit and just tries to hang out until they can get everyone sorted out.

Blue Jackets 2nd Goal – Seth Jones (Unassisted)

The Blue Jackets break into the Leafs zone but Kerfoot breaks up the play in the corner. He rims the puck up the boards to nobody and the Blue Jackets re-gain possession. Jones is able to walk in and fires a perfect shot up over the left shoulder of Andersen to make it a one-goal game.

Here are the Leafs as the Blue Jackets enter their zone. Defensively, they are in good shape. Kerfoot is pressuring F1, Nylander is covering Kerfoot in the middle and Kapanen is not far behind Nylander.

Everyone is going to immediately dump on Nylander because his man Seth Jones scored this goal. But it’s not just Nylander’s fault on this goal. There are a lot of small defensive breakdowns that lead up to this goal.

Let’s talk about why Nylander is in-front of the net. Simply put, he’s protecting the house. He sees that three of his teammates are fighting for the puck in the corner. He also sees that there are only two Blue Jackets forwards in the corner with his teammates. Whether it’s right or wrong, Nylander positions himself so that F3 for the Blue Jackets (Foligno) isn’t by himself in-front of the net. Ideally, Justin Holl should be in-front of the net to cover Foligno, which would then allow Nylander to go back to the LW boards.

Now let’s talk about what Holl could have done differently. He’s already committed to being behind the net on this play, so while Kerfoot is trying to dig the puck out from the corner, Holl has to be in Kerfoot’s ear, letting him know that he is behind him and wide open.

This is one alternative play that the Leafs could have done instead of what actually happened. If Kerfoot bumps the puck to Holl instead of rimming it up the left-wing wall to no one, the Leafs could have initiated a breakout with Kapanen and Nylander.

I get that Kerfoot is fighting for the puck and is under pressure. He has to either get his head up and find an open teammate, or his teammates have to communicate with him better. Holl has to also communicate and let his teammate know that he’s wide open and also behind him.

Regardless, in this scenario you have Nylander not in the best position, Holl in a less than ideal position and then to top it off, Kerfoot throws the puck away. Three small mistakes that all lead to a goal against. If one of these mistakes doesn’t happen, this goal probably doesn’t occur.

Blue Jackets 3rd Goal – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Assist Atkinson, Savard)

Robertson and Kerfoot lose a puck battle in the Blue Jackets zone. Dermott pinches down from the blueline but the Blue Jackets get the puck by him and go off on a two-on-one. Dubois holds, evades a diving Kapanen pokecheck and scores low blocker on Andersen to tie the game up at 3-3.

Moments before Atkinson chips the puck by a pinching Dermott, the Leafs are again in good defensive shape. Kapanen is up high and can cover Texier (#42), Robertson is on Dubois.

A few seconds later however, and the Leafs are now not in good shape. The puck squirts by Dermott, meaning he is now caught. Robertson stops skating and loses his man Dubois. Kapanen leaves his man Texier to go after Dubois who now has the puck. Dubois drops the puck down to his stick in the next frame and Kapanen goes to whack at the loose puck, but ends up missing, allowing Dubois to pull away from Kapanen.

As the lone defenseman back, Holl has to direct traffic for his backcheckers. In this case, I’m going to assume Holl pointing at Texier means that that is his guy and that he is leaving Dubois for Andersen/Kapanen. I’ve never been a fan of the way the Leafs play two-on-one’s, dating way back to the Randy Carlyle era. I find that they play them too passively and let the puck carrier control the play instead of trying to force the puck carrier’s hand.

On this play, Holl has to make a judgement call on if Kapanen can catch Dubois. If he thinks Kapanen can catch him, then he blocks the passing lane, if he thinks he can’t catch him, then he has to decide if he attacks the puck carrier or not. With the way Kapanen dove to try and knock the puck off Dubois’ stick, I would have liked to have seen Holl lay down on his stomach and try to poke the puck away from Dubois.

Around here is where I would have liked to have seen Holl stretch out and try to poke at Dubois. I think from here he could have both sealed off the passing lane and also gotten a stick on the puck.

Blue Jackets 4th Goal – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Assist Texier)

After dominating the Blue Jackets for much of the Overtime, the Leafs make one bad play and it costs them. Tavares receives the puck from Barrie in the offensive zone. He turns to shoot but has the puck poked away by Texier, who then sends Dubois off on a partial breakaway. Dubois skates in and roofs a backhand shot over Andersen’s glove to win the game and complete the hattrick.

Once again, the Leafs are in good shape here. I want you to watch what Morgan Rielly does from this screenshot to the next.

Notice how Morgan Rielly has taken five steps into the offensive zone? This is how Dubois gets that partial breakaway. When Tavares receives the puck from Barrie, Rielly starts to activate from the point. He was doing this all game long and was buzzing all night long. Unfortunately, the first bad time he tries to activate from the point costs them. Texier pokes the puck away before Tavares can shoot and the play quickly goes the other way, with Rielly now caught flat-footed.

As the play turns the other way, notice how Barrie pivots with his back to Dubois. I don’t think he sees Dubois because of this and ends up giving Dubois too much space. Barrie also never checks to his left at any point after pivoting backwards.

Closing Thoughts

The Maple Leafs played really good for the first 40 minutes of this game. Then they came out in the third and laid an egg. I don’t know what it is with this team, but they just love to shoot themselves in the foot far too often. We know they can play a full 60 minutes, hell they did it two days ago. It’s frustrating to see them do things like they did tonight, knowing damn well that they are fully capable of playing a complete game like they did in game two.

Auston Matthews has been a beast this series. He has been all over the ice, backchecking, forechecking, finishing his checks and generating scoring chances. His 200-foot play in this series has been superb as well.

Morgan Rielly is back to his old self once again which is nice to see. Rielly was essentially a rover for the Leafs tonight, wheeling around the ice, jumping up into the rush and pinching down into the Blue Jackets zone to keep plays alive and to also keep possession.

Also in typical Leafs fashion, of course Pierre-Luc Dubois scores a hattrick in this game.