The Predators had been riding a hot streak, largely due to the impressive goaltending of Juuse Saros, but as good as Saros was, the Matthews-less Leafs managed to inch their way to victory courtesy of a late 3rd period powerplay.
The Leafs were dominant over the Predators throughout the game, out-chancing them consistently from the onset of the game. Though while the chances heavily favoured the Leafs, the Predators made up for it when it came to quality, and the Preds enjoyed 85% HDCF% in the second period at 5v5 and Murray limited Nashville to just one goal in that frame. While the Leafs were the more aggressive team and had the xGF% advantage in the first and overall throughout the game 5v5, the Preds did push back with greater xGF in both the second and third periods.
Most of Nashville’s chances came while they were sitting right on top of Matt Murray, and it’s a credit to Murray’s performance that he limited Nashville to just one goal.
At the other end the Leafs also had a presence down low, but had a spike compared to recent games where they were using the point shot a bit more. I think the variety of shooting locales can somewhat be attributed to the absence of Auston Matthews and the usual “pass it to Auston” mentality.
The Nylander at center experiment
I am somewhat delighted to announce that Toronto didn’t sink into the earth as a result of Nylander taking on more responsibility. He led the Leafs forwards in 5v5 ice time at 15:01, and 69.70 CF%, 69.93 xG%, both unquestionably nice numbers. He didn’t do as well when it came to faceoffs as he won just one of the six draws he took, but that seems like something that could be fixed by having him spend half an hour of practice hanging out at the faceoff dot with Manny Malhotra.
Nylander walking away from the game with two assists, playing the second most ice time out of forwards (penalty kill brought Marner up ahead of Willy) is very encouraging and if Auston isn’t good to go for Thursday night we’ll see if Nylander can show that he can be a potential top six cent …
Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation