The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Washington Capitals 4-2.
Despite a terrible second period, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to improve to 5-1 on the year by beating the (overrated) defending Stanley Cup Champs.
The game featured yet another Auston Matthews goal and another four goals for the team (they’re averaging almost five per night so far, however). Overall, it was a pretty good game for a number of reasons, but let’s talk about one thing in particular:
My boy, Ron Hainsey.
I’ve been hard on old Ron this year, because he’s been the weak link on what is otherwise an impressive team. He has looked slow. He gets easily beaten on the rush. He can’t keep up with even below average NHL players and the coach has done him no favors by playing him in the top-four, and partnering him with elite blue-liner Morgan Rielly.
I’ve suggested the Leafs cut him. I’ve said to send him to the Robidas Island.
But despite failing the eye-test Hainsey has managed to put up decent enough numbers, and he last night he had an out-and-out great game.
Last night, 5v5, Hainsey played the second most minutes on the team. He put up a 63% possession rating and did not make any glaring errors. (At least I didn’t see any).
The Toronto Maple Leafs out-shot the Capitals 13-5 while Hainsey was on the ice, and they out-scored them 2-0.
Sure, Babcock had them taking almost explicitly offensive zone faceoffs, but someone has to and they did well in the minutes allotted.
Hainsey is second on the Leafs with a 56% possession rating after six games. Now, this is partly because he’s been given easier assignments, and partly because he’s starting a lot in the O-zone, and also because when he’s on the ice, it’s almost always with Morgan Rielly who is now a top-ten NHL defenseman, arguably top-five, not to mention one of a trio of premier NHL centres.
So that explains how he looks so bad but has put up such good numbers. Or does it? I mean, he’s also got four points in six games – which isn’t halfbad.
In six games, Ron Hainsey has been terrible almost every time you notice him. Giving the puck away, getting beat by anyone with speed, and infuriating you with his plays on odd-man rushes.
I am very comfortable in stating that the good stats so far are a result of favorable deployment with some of the best players in the world.
But last night, credit where credit is due.
Ron Hainsey had a heck of a game. The kind of game that earned him the role he currently has. The thing is, he’s too old to play this high in the lineup. You can’t expect him to consistently play like he did last night, where he made a bunch of smart plays, broke up a 2 on 1, and didn’t look out of place next to his Norris-worthy partner.
But I’ve ripped him a ton, and I’m not afraid to say that, for at least one night, he proved me wrong.
Ron Hainsey had a great game.