On May 31st, the Leafs showed up at Scotiabank Arena to play an important Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens, only to not show up at all and lose the game.
Four and a half months later they started today’s game with exactly the same strength, but at least learned from their mistakes and won their first game of the season for the fifth time in a row.
Like I said, the Leafs came out flat, but that seems like a common repetition in this current era of Leafs so I think not too many people have been concerned about it yet. And of course, the Montreal Canadiens opened the gate too when Jonathan Drouin scored a comfort goal that, in my opinion, no fan was too angry about after returning from his absence to improve his mental health. But that’s pretty common with the Leafs too, so fans weren’t too concerned here either.
By the time it got to halfway through the first period, the Leafs seemed to gain a foothold and put in much harder efforts for the remainder of the season, even getting a few chances to try out the new powerplay system (albeit without Auston Matthews, one of them) led to a goal by * checks notes * Pierre Engvall. That’s right, Engvall scored the Leafs’ first goal of the season… in a power play. That makes absolutely no sense, but it also makes perfect sense for this team.
The Leafs carried the momentum through into the second period but there were no goals and wouldn’t end in a goal until the beginning of the third period when William Nylander tore a vintage slapshot a la Jason Spezza giving the Leafs the game. The Habs got a number of power plays after that, including a 5v3 powerplay after a pentalty from Mitch Marner * has flashbacks to Game 6 *, but the Leafs, and Jack Campbell in particular, would stand upright and hold out a 2-1 win .
Overall, it was a pretty good game for the Leafs, especially considering they were playing without their best player, but luckily the defense and goalkeeper made a tough effort and a couple of Swedes took advantage of some opportunities to defeat the Leafs the two gates they needed.
Third star: Pierre Engvall
For a man many took off the line-up this season, he continues to make it difficult for the Leafs to do so. After a couple of strong games in the preseason he had another fantastic game tonight, seeing 60% of the shot attempts and 56.25% of the expected goals on the ice with consistent strength and always seemed to be there when the Leafs had tonight Scoring chances. He also proved that his preseason power play goal wasn’t accidental and scored again tonight at 5v4 (although it shouldn’t be that surprising considering he scored on the front row at 5v5 last season) .
Second star: William Nylander
As the undisputed MVP of the Leafs’ disappointing playoff streak last season, Nylander continued his clutch scoring ability tonight with the game’s winning goal. Ah, William Nylander and clutch. I can just feel his haters typing the hateful comments into the responses as I say it. While the Tavares-Marner unit only had average possession (52.17% of the shot attempt percentage, 50.53% of the expected goals), Nylander hit it on its line (72.22% of the shot attempt percentage, 80.67% of the.) . the expected goals) in similar competition, and he also led all Leafs individually in both categories. Another strong start to the season for Willy.
First star: Jack Campbell
The Leafs are likely out of this game before it even started without Jack Campbell. The Montreal Canadiens flew out of the gate creating opportunities like crazy, and Campbell stopped all but one, a two-on-one flank goal that he wasn’t supposed to stop. After that, the Leafs took over, taking the lead, and Campbell held the fort, even though he didn’t face a lot of shots in the second. There are some doubts as to where Campbell’s 2021 season was sustainable, but if he wants to prove otherwise, this is an excellent start.
You are fully vaccinated. https://t.co/53zplZSFcq
– Justin Fisher (@thejustinfisher) October 13, 2021
This has to be one of the funniest Nylander haters’ possessions I’ve ever seen, and the fact that this was tweeted by Nylander before the game makes it even better.
Look, the Leafs aren’t going to prove anyone wrong by winning this game or any of the next 82. That comes in the playoffs. But they played a good game that kept the fans entertained and at least we should enjoy the drive to the playoffs. That doesn’t mean it was perfect (could they PLEASE start on time only once), it’s not bad for the first game of the season.
You won’t get a long break because the Leafs will be back tomorrow with a game in Ottawa … although they’ll be back in Toronto on Saturday to play the Senators. Why not just leave the Leafs back to back with no travel? I don’t know, that sounds too easy. You can watch the game at 7:00 p.m. EST on TSN.
The Leafs are back whether you like it or not.