Game One: Old Habits Die Hard

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The evenings are starting to get shorter, leaves are falling to the ground, there is a buzz in the air, and the Habs took 7 to 10 business days to get their season opener started. That can only mean one thing; hockey is back, baby! The Leafs opened their 2022/23 season on the road at the Bell Centre against their longtime rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. 

The game wasn’t 13 minutes old, and the Habs had already been on the powerplay three times; the blue and white managed to kill off all 3 of those penalties. Both teams traded chances back and forth in the opening frame. It was the Leafs, however, who opened the scoring. Michael Bunting finished a fantastic setup from Mitch Marner and T.J. Brodie with the secondary assist. Shots were 8-8 through 20 minutes of play. Matt Murray looked incredibly calm, cool, and collected in the opening frame stopping all eight shots he faced. Overall it wasn’t a terrible period but a pretty sloppy period for the Leafs. Justin Holl led the way in time on ice (TOI) for the Leafs playing a total of 8:49. Nick Suzuki, the 31st captain in Habs history, generated a couple of chances for the Habs in the final seconds of the period only to be shut down by Matt Murray. 

It only took the Habs 33 seconds into the second period to answer back and make it a 1-1 game. The Leafs turned the puck over in the offensive zone, which led to the Habs going the other way on a 2-on-1. Nick Suzuki found Cole Caufield, who made no mistake, ripping it under the bar. The Leafs finally got their first powerplay of the game 4:02 into the period. Unfortunately, the blue and white could not capitalize on the man advantage. Denis Malgin responded for the Leafs at the 9:06 mark of the period giving the blue and white the lead once again. John Tavares and William Nylander with the assists. Alex Kerfoot was called for interference just over halfway through the frame, sending the Habs to the power play again, and once again, the Leafs managed to kill off the 4th man advantage of the game for the Habs. Cole Caufield doubled down and answered back once again for the Habs, tying the game 2-2 with an absolute laser of a shot with just over 4 minutes remaining in the period. The score remained tied 2-2 till the end of the period. Toronto outshot Montreal 13-9 in the middle frame, making it 21-17 in favor of the Leafs. Justin Holl led the way in TOI, playing a total of 13:39 through 40 minutes. 

The first 3 minutes or so of the 3rd period were mostly controlled by the Habs. The Leafs finally received their second power play of the game with 14:27 remaining in regulation. Unfortunately, once again, the Leafs could not generate much of anything with the man advantage. For most of the third period, not much of anything was generated from either team. A lot of back and forth but no grade-A chances from either team. Denis Malgin was able to draw a penalty due to a high stick with just under 6 minutes to go. The blue and white could not capitalize on their third-man advantage of the game. However, they could generate some great chances, which was not the case on their previous two power plays. Shortly after the Habs killed off the penalty, Sean Monahan scored his first as a Hab, giving the Habs the lead with just 2:30 remaining in regulation; on his birthday, no less.

The Leafs wasted no time as the night’s best line, Nylander – Tavares – Malgin, answered right back with William Nylander tying it up 3-3. The goal came just 40 seconds after the Monahan goal. Surely this one was destined to go to 3-on-3 overtime now. Not so fast. The Habs top line of Caufield – Suzuki – Anderson answered right back. Anderson scored the 4-3 go-ahead goal with 19 seconds remaining in regulation. The Anderson goal was the 3rd goal of the game to go in on Matt Murray high on his glove side. The Habs would hang on for the 4-3 win. Shots on goal in the 3rd period were 11-6 in favor of the Leafs and 32-23 overall in favor of the Leafs. Five goals against 23 shots is simply not good enough from Matt Murray. 

The three stars of the game were: 

  1. Cole Caufield: 2 Goals 
  2. Nick Suzuki: 2 Assists 
  3. Jake Allen: 29 saves on 32 shots 

Overall, no one stood out that much in this one, but if I had to pick someone, I would probably go with Denis “Gino” Malgin. He showed flashes in each period of the game. He definitely has all of the tools to be a very effective player offensively for the blue and white. It will be interesting to see if he can impress both Keefe and the Leafs management enough to remain in the top 6 moving forward. I think the trio of Nylander – Tavares – Malgin can be a very dangerous line for the buds.

Regarding the defense, Timothy Liljegren cannot get healthy soon enough. The Leafs will be forced to make a trade to free up the cap space needed to activate Liljegren. The guy you trade is Holl; without question, he is an absolute nightmare handling the puck in his own zone. In saying that, Jake Muzzin’s footspeed in this one was … concerning, to say the least. There is no way Muzzin and Holl can be a pairing moving forward for this team, in my opinion. 

The Leafs don’t have much time to rebound from this one as they are right back at it again tomorrow night when they host the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena for the Leafs home opener of the season! 

Be sure to check out The Leafs Late Night Podcast for all your post-game reaction needs from a fantastic group of individuals! Also, for more Leafs news and content, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mikethefanatic!

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One thought on “Game One: Old Habits Die Hard”

  1. Good review Mike! I’m really hoping the Leafs bounce back tonight. Looking forward to Sammy’s debut! Hopefully the 2nd D pairing get up to speed.

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