October 15 2013 08:14PM
The Toronto Maple Leafs won another one Tuesday night, 4-1 over the Minnesota Wild. Hard to know where to start with this one, but good for Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel. Towards the end of the game, with the Minnesota net empty and the Leafs up by 3-1, Raymond gained the zone and chipped a puck towards the net. Kessel, who gets criticized time and time again in Toronto for not being a good teammate and for scoring too many goals in October, let the puck go in without touching it.
Good for Raymond, who was ostracized in Vancouver and chased out of town for not scoring enough. He had just 35 goals over parts of the last three seasons after scoring 25 in 2009-2010, and already has his fourth on the year with that empty net goal. I don't know if an empty net goal is going to do anything for Raymond's confidence, but if that goal is the difference between 14 and 15 on the year or 19 and 20, that could mean an extra hundred thousand dollars for Raymond in negotiating his next deal. He took a chance on the Maple Leafs more than the Maple Leafs took a chance on him and so far, he's arguably been the team's best player.
Oh yeah. The Leafs got out-shot 38-14 and won. They've been known to do that lately.
The Minnesota Wild broadcast flashed a graphic early on showing off the puck proficiency displayed by the Wild in the early going of the season. They've essentially been the opposite of the Leafs—shooting more than they should and winning less than they should. The Wild capitalized on some early powerplays and ran up the shot clock, but James Reimer, in goal for the Leafs, stopped the first 16 Wild shots in the game, let in the 17th, and stopped the remaining shots.
To their credit, Toronto capitalized on their first powerplay on a beautiful play set up by Kessel and Cody Franson and finished by David Bolland and Tyler Bozak. Darcy Kuemper, the 23-year-old with just three NHL decisions to his name coming in, had no chance on the first shot he faced. He looked brutal on a harmless looking play ten minutes later when Trevor Smith broke in and took a soft shot that just trickled through Kuemper's pads. That was Smith's first as a Leaf and gave the home side a 2-0 advantage.
Minnesota scored on the powerplay on an excellent individual effort by Jason Pominville, but that was it. Despite holding an 18-3 advantage in shots in the first period, the Wild were down one.
Reimer made breakaway saves off of Mikael Granlund and Torrey Mitchell in the second period. The Granlund one was particularly scary. He's only 21 but already has a postage stamp with his likeness back in Finland:
The only other thing of note in the second was Mason Raymond's nifty little goal from in tight on the powerplay. Really, with the way Kuemper was playing, was this not expected?
Kuemper was pulled after that and Josh Harding, who had played the night before, stood strong making a couple of big saves, but they came about half a game too late. James Reimer was perfect in the third period, stopping 14-of-14 and earning his second win on the season. In both wins, he's been the game's first star.
WHY THE LEAFS WON
I hate to let a good meltdown go to waste:
In Kuemper's two previous NHL starts, he's had save percentages of .933, .935 and .897. He went .571 in his fourth start of his career and falls to 1-3 on his career. Wonder what he was thinking about with his team down 2-0 in the first but out-shooting the Leafs at more than a 2:1 clip?
Hmm… how about Josh Leivo? The Leafs didn't do a whole lot in the neutral zone in this game, getting outplayed early and going into lockdown mode with the two-goal lead in the third period. He gained the zone three times for the Leafs, once via a controlled entry, twice via a successful chip-and-chase. He played 13:51, thus far the most in his career, registering four hits and a shot on net. Feels odd to give this to anybody other than Reimer, but I figure the mainstreamers in this town may finally give Reimer his due.
- Last season, there were 11 games that the winning team recorded 14 or fewer shots on goal. The Maple Leafs, Canucks, Senators and Predators all did it twice.
- This is the eighth time in Maple Leaf history that the team has won a game while recording 14 or fewer shots. Back on March 4, 1999, the Leafs beat St. Louis 4-0 despite being out-shot 28-9.
- Randy Carlyle tinkered with his defensive pairings a bunch in this one. By the end of it, Jake Gardiner was playing with Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson was playing with Carl Gunnarsson.
- The Leafs were out-shot 23-9 at 5-on-5. When Morgan Rielly was on the ice, the Leafs out-shot the Wild 5-4.
- Despite David Broll announced as the guy taking James van Riemsdyk's spot in the lineup, Mason Raymond began and ended the game alongside Bozak and Kessel.