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Canadiens @ Maple Leafs Top Six Minutes: Mattias Norlinder is finding his groove

Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Late in training camp, the rosters are down to just a few positional battles, meaning we’re going to see lineups very close to what the teams deploy for the season opener on October 11.

First period

  • The crowd is so excited to see the full Leafs roster on the ice they are utterly speechless to begin the game. The building wasn’t this quiet during the height of the pandemic when the seats were occupied by cloth sheets.
  • Decent start for Montreal with a shot on goal in the opening seconds. Very similar to what they did on Saturday night, but like the it also doesn’t result in a goal.
  • Jake Evans’s line with Jess Ylönen and Emil Heineman has a very important shift working the puck in the offensive zone. They tire out the Leafs and force a penalty seconds into Montreal’s next shift change. An ideal fourth-line shift.
  • But, that does mean Montreal is on the power play, so…
  • A goal! Mattias Norlinder wrists the puck at the net, and it deflects in off Jake McCabe. Sometimes it’s just the simple plays that turn out to be the most effective.
  • What’s the next level down on the decibel metre from dead silence?
  • Shots are 6-0 Montreal. My prediction that Caufield would score two goals last game didn’t come true, but my belief that the Canadiens would look better versus the proper Leafs lineup is looking good so far.
  • Seven people in the upper bowl try to start a Go Leafs Go! chant. Hard to maintain that enthusiasm when the Habs’ top line is cycling the puck in Toronto’s end.
  • The first-shot jinx continues to haunt Jake Allen. It’s 1-1 with the shots 7-1 in Montreal’s favour.
  • The cycling game, with the caveat that is against Toronto, is strong tonight, and from all four lines. There are a few players in the lineup who can take advantage when the puck gets worked out front.
  • Nick Suzuki prevents Mitch Marner from firing the puck into an open net. Well worth the two minutes.
  • The goal is only delayed, however. John Tavares scores.
  • Juraj Slafkovský took a big hit and stayed on his feet. This is progress.
  • Logan Mailloux gets his hands up to protect himself from a hit that doesn’t get thrown, and ends up with a roughing minor.
  • Toronto’s power play does look good, unsurprisingly. Just avoid those situations and you can compete with this Leafs team.
  • A couple of times on his last two shifts — one which eventually led to his penalty — Mailloux has left too much room between himself and the boards and the forward is just skating by. He needs to narrow that space down to block the path.
  • The shots were 7-0 about six minutes into the game. They were 9-1 in the final 14 in Toronto’s favour.
  • Just avoid the penalties.

First intermission

  • I just updated the depth chart with today’s waiver clears, if you want to see who is left at training camp.
  • It was that or listen to this fully Leafs-centric panel on Sportsnet.
  • Predicting that Cole Caufield will only score nine more goals than what he had in 46 games last season? I think it will be a lot more than that.

Second period

  • Hockey is back and the Canadiens are indeed still playing.
  • Excellent puck protection from Arber Xhekaj to move the puck down from the blue line and backhand a puck just through the crease and out the other side.
  • And another shot through for him. Great shift.
  • Operation: Zero Penalties is not a success as Evans goes off for holding. That is hard to do with both hands on your stick, but anyhow.
  • David Savard missed that a Leafs player fell down leaving a third of the offensive zone to Kirby Dach. But the shift ends with Dach drawing a call.
  • Norlinder is right back out there on PP1. Interesting.
  • No goal, and they pay for not capitalizing as Max Domi makes it 3-1.
  • Zippy breakout pass from Norlinder, but he can’t collect the return feed after racing up ice on the follow-up. It could have been his second goal of the game.
  • The only thing other than the penalty kill the Canadiens are having trouble with is the Leafs getting to the slot and making plays. Two things that are really the same thing: difficulty defending the top of the crease.
  • The blood boils over with a scrum behind Montreal’s net, and it ends with an extra two minutes for Xhekaj.
  • Dach has the cure for the power-play woes as he scores short-handed to make it a one-goal game heading into the intermission.
  • But not before we reconvene behind Jake Allen for some very handsy conversations.

Third period

  • Norlinder makes a nice pass to the mouth of the crease that doesn’t connect. He’s playing quite well in this game.
  • I looked it up on Natural Stat Trick and he’s second on the team with an 80% scoring-chance share at even strength in this game, so my belief is backed up.
  • Monahan puts the Canadiens back on the penalty kill.
  • I also like seeing Ylönen on the penalty kill. I thought his defensive skills in Laval were underrated.
  • Poor William Nylander. Makes a nice defensive stick play but the puck end up going over the glass.
  • Well that wasn’t such a good play from Norlinder on the power play to allow a scoring chance against.
  • The Leafs get chances out of nowhere, but it’s all due to how easily that can make passes right at the net.
  • A long shift for Montreal results in a Tavares goal to make it 4-2.
  • A very long shift for the Leafs allows Montreal to get it back, on a shot from Johnny Kovacevic.
  • Norlinder gets another shot through very good game for him overall.
  • The Canadiens look like they want this win now. Theyère tired of losing to the Leafs.
  • Smart play from Dach to use his reach to hover over the puck on a delayed offside, tag up at the line, and then play the puck. Instead of a neutral-zone faceoff, it’s an offensive one after a puck gets to the net.
  • Caufield just misses the net on his shot, and that’s been a theme of the last coupel of days. His shot doesn’t require perfect placement, and he will remember that soon enough.
  • Allen heads to the bench with a little more than two minutes to play.
  • Norlinder is the one quarterbacking things. Martin St-Louis rewards him for his strong game.
  • Josh Anderson scores the tying goal versus the Leafs, because of course he does.


  • Caufield clangs one off the post, but that’s good enough for an assist as Suzuki finishes it off. The duo has done that before in this rivalry. It’s a 5-4 overtime win on the road.