December 07 2013 08:44PM
If the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs this season and everybody asks why, just show them the tape of this 3-2 win over Ottawa. No game will probably match this one in showing off the Maple Leafs' outstanding strengths and horrible flaws. They got two goals and five points from James van Riemsdyk. They blew a 3-1 third period lead. They had the better goalie. They allowed 50 shots. They scored on the powerplay. They took too many penalties.
It all added up to a shootout win by the Leafs over the reeling Ottawa Senators, whose playoff hopes are in all likelihood, ended after tonight. 8 points back with 50 to play is a tough task for any team, and a tougher one for a team that hasn't been able to buy a save, or defence, or win against teams within the division.
Not pretty because the Leafs dropped a point, but harmless, lest that 'ROW' category comes back to haunt them on the final day of the season.
Not a lot in here. To be perfectly honest, I had this game streaming while watching curling, drifting in and out of watching, while out with some family. All I can tell you is the scores and the shots, that Ottawa got a dramatic share of the zone time, and that David Clarkson somehow missed another gimmie.
James "Jock Jams" van Riemsdyk opened the scoring on an early powerplay with Erik Karlsson off for tripping.
A dirty secret about the National Hockey League is that somebody doesn't need to be just "big" to have success in front of the net. Talent also helps. One of the things I like about JvR (and why he's so deadly on the powerplay) is that he takes a little extra time to make the right play in tight, rather than hack away.
Somebody named Clarke scored for Ottawa. Whatever. Clarke isn't even a real name. Phil Kessel scored next, after Zack Smith coughed up the puck with a 10.0 worthy dive, he got kicked out of the game for doing... something. Again, no sound on. But this goal:
Powerplay goal... rush goal... looking familiar, yes? Well, let's ignore that Jake Gardiner scored his first goal of the season after a shift of extended pressure in the Ottawa zone to make it 3-1.
At that point, the wheels started to loosen. As expected when nursing a lead, the Leafs shelled a little harder than they should, and gave up a couple of goals. Their defensive style means that if one player makes a mistake, there's a lot of space on the ice. Erik Condra made it 3-2 after finding an open zone in the slot, and Erik Karlsson was completely left alone on the goal-mouth on a PK. 3-3. No chance for James Reimer on any of the goals, who was fantastic again, and had to be. He made 47 saves, the fourth time this season he's had to stop at least 40 pucks. Insane.
THE NUMBERS AND ALL
Not much to say about this one. Every Ottawanian was over 50% in Corsi, and every Leaf but Nazem Kadri, Kessel and Gardiner had below 50% in Corsi. Remember, Corsi isn't supposed to account for quality shots. It measures zone time, and estimates where the puck was with these players on the ice. Nobody watching this game would deny that this was another game the Leafs goalie had to steal. That's been the theme since about the Edmonton game: either the Leafs goalie puts up a .930 in save percentage, or Toronto loses.
It helped that Craig Anderson was run over by Marc Methot before Gardiner scored his first goal, and I'll take 'em any way I can as a Jake Gardiner fantasy hockey owner.
As for John-Michael Liles, I thought he was fine. It's a tough game to measure at even strength because there were 14 minor penalties taken on either side. Liles drew a penalty (as we might expect him to) and the Leafs were out-shot much more with him OFF the ice (14-25) than ON the ice (even 9-9 split). Take the win, and a successful debut.
Free John Liles!
Reimer. Not even close. And that was WITH a three-point night from my favourite Leaf!