Leafs postgame - You won't believe the streak the Leafs broke with their win tonight

Cam Charron
January 15 2014 09:17PM

 

One of my favourite things about TSN broadcasting Leafs games, other than not having to listen to Greg Millen, is that TSN's producers and statisticians are all legitimate hockey fans who would crank out absurd trivia like the factoid above. This was the Leafs first win on the home half of a back-to-back after winning the road game, apparently, since 2009.

I'm not sure what the genesis of such a statistic would be. It's not like there's a big database of trivia available. You have to go searching. Some producer, probably in his 20s, was kicking dirt around in the pre-production meeting saying "you know, as a Leaf fan, it seems the Leafs never win these games…" and then spent 5 minutes on Hockey Reference.

Was it a "real" win? I mean, it (again) took the shootout to beat the Buffalo Sabres, but in the words of Socrates, "two points is two points" and Toronto took back a three-point lead in the Wild Card race with their third consecutive win.

THE RUNDOWN

I'm just going to throw it out there: this game was awful to watch. The Leafs have three good lines, and most nights only two of them will be chugging. The Sabres have no good lines, so there wasn't a whole lot going on unless there was some disastrous turnover or a powerplay.

But maybe I'm just affirming confirmation bias here and only noticing the bad things. I've mentioned before that Randy Carlyle has not only sapped my love of hockey, but also my will to live. To the Leafs credit, they were able to out-shoot a tired Sabres team at home, and probably would have got the win in regulation if it weren't for James Reimer letting in a fluke goal.

Phil Kessel started the scoring on a turnover with a wicked wrist shot. Then Randy Carlyle's super awesome failsafe checking line gave up a goal to the Sabres' fourth line and Matt Ellis, with John Scott and Zenon Konopka holding on in front of the net. Matt Moulson gave the Sabres the lead on a turnover, with a wicked wrist shot. Nik Kulemin tied the game on a turnover with a wicked wrist shot.

Player of the night for Toronto may have been Morgan Rielly, who gave the Leafs a 3-2 lead, converting a terrific Nazem Kadri pass. I like the video because it looks like Steve Ott is slowly being dragged out of the frame, before hustling back and getting into position:

Complete breakdown on the Sabres part here, probably because the Leafs were playing so much below the goal line. Ville Leino made an excellent point of boxing out Christian Ehrhoff out of the slot and Jamie McBain was caught in the ever-so-hilarious no man's land chasing a player behind the net and giving up his position.

Cody Hodgson tied it on his own wraparound on a goal almost identical to the one Jonathan Bernier gave up a night ago. Being a Team Reimer guy, I really wanted to forgive James immediately, hoping to find an obvious breakdown or turnover to credit the goal to, but, I couldn't. My reaction was this:

The game drew to a halt by the end of regulation and the Leafs controlled the OT although failing to score on a powerplay. They had a great sequence of chances (Joffrey Lupul and Rielly combined for three) with the goalie pulled and playing 5-on-4 before the powerplay started. It was one of the great 5-on-4 sequences of the year, and I'm wondering if those extended sequences come from the players on the ice partially playing more aggressively with the puck and being way more stingy about possession. You don't see a dump-and-chase with the goalie out unless a team has pulled the goalie at the end of the game to tie, and I think some coaches could draw inspiration from those brief 6-on-5 or 5-on-4 delayed penalty sequences.

Anyway, I digress. The game went to a shootout, where the heroes were Tyler Bozak, and the TSN director who failed to show the Tyler Bozak goal actually crossing the line.

WHY THE LEAFS TIED

Because Reimer let in a bad goal. For most of the way through, the game was played pretty even up in shots and chances but Toronto pulled away late and had the slight zone-time advantage. Note I'm not "blaming" Reimer for costing the Leafs a valuable ROW in the standings (especially because he's played so well so far this season, and also stopped a Zemgus Girgensons penalty shot) because the puck found a veritable puck-sized hole on Reimer and goals rarely get by him like that.

Also, credit to Ryan Miller at the other end. He didn't stop a puck in the shootout, but he kept the Sabres in the game early on and kept it tied late, making a couple of big stops in the OT as well. I'm sure he was looking forward to playing for Team USA and a team that won't be out-shot so much, and then saw that Keith Yandle and Bobby Ryan were held off the team in favour of Brooks Orpik and Blake Wheeler.

BLUE WARRIOR

I'm going to say Tyler Bozak, because if I don't, I'm scared I may be driven off in a van by angry commenters. But seriously, I was a big fan of Peter Holland's game tonight. Just seven shifts in the third period and overtime, but he made a great setup on Kulemin's goal and his line was buzzing early on in the game. The Leafs out-shot the Sabres 12-5 with him on the ice and he made himself visible offensively.

NUMB3RS AND NOTES

Here's the Fenwick Graph:

Pretty even game, as said. Probably tougher on the schedule for the Sabres, but the Leafs have now won three straight with their dressing room ravaged by a deadly virus that will kill off members of the team one-by-one unless Dion Phaneuf's father-in-law is able to stop it.

Wait, I think that's the plot of the first season of 24. Or the third season. Only bit of Sabres dominance came right at the start of the second. Game page at Extra Skater here.

  • Van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Kessel were the best line Corsi-wise at +8, +6 and +6 respectively. Ray Ferraro brought up that Nazem Kadri's line was being out-played by the Holland line at the midway point in the game and the data bears that out. Joffrey Lupul was a team-low minus-10 in Corsi and Kadri wasn't far behind at minus-9. The Sabres weren't able to turn that zone time into a goal, however.
     
  • Every time I watch the Sabres, the more impressed I am by Zemgus Girgensons, and the more convinced I am that he'll be the centrepiece of the Sabres team when it becomes good again. He crushed it in possession tonight against Kadri's line and had six shots on net in nearly 19 minutes of 5-on-5 minutes.
     
  • It also tickles me the Sabres have both a Zemgus and a Zenon.
     
  • Dion Phaneuf's job was to see to it that Hodgson's line didn't generate much offensively. I guess you can say he did okay at that. Hodgon was out-Corsi'd 11-14 and Steve Ott was just 12-18.
     
  • Big game for Tim Gleason again, too. Was a +10 Corsi, leading all Leafs (22 shot attempts for and 12 against) despite a team-high 12 defensive zone starts (9 starts in the offensive zone). He was matched up against Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford, and the only real chance that line had came off the Cody Franson turnover in the second period right before the Moulson goal.
     
  • The Maple Leafs are now on pace for 103 points per 82 games in games they do not fight. They are on pace for 71 points per 82 games in games they do fight. Let's stop pretending Colt Knorr needs an everyday roster spot.
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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Steve Dangle
January 15 2014, 09:20PM
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To your point off the top, when I was a Story Editor at the NHL Network and working in the TSN newsroom, the TSN guys talked almost all night. Whether it's what's on the TV, fantasy sports, or running around collecting money and picks for the office OT-winner pool (that was really fun), they're all crazy sports fanatics.

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#2 Alex Cooper
January 15 2014, 09:33PM
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love the last point really reinforces my view of a need to ice a 4th line with actual hockey players on it... that 3rd sabre goal was brutal but thems the bounces of hockey

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#3 STAN
January 15 2014, 10:31PM
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I laughed out loud at a couple of your lines Cam. "…not having to listen to Greg Millen,,," and "...Randy Carlyle has not only sapped my love of hockey, but also my will to live."

As for the game, a win is a win is a win, even tough the skills event should be no way to end a hockey game. It would be like staging one-on-one in basketball or a single, sudden-death pitch in baseball.

But it exists so you take the points that the NHL, in its infinite wisdom, makes available.

Holland IS a pretty cool customer in tight traffic. He rarely panics and usually makes the right play.

Being the cynic I am, how long will it be before Gleason is told to stop making those nifty little passes from the defensive end corner to a player in the or near the faceoff circle, rather than employing the old Randy Standard or whipping it around the boards to a waiting, pinching D-man?

Gleason's good at looking for an actual teammate's stick in open ice, rather than mindless dumpouts or whipping it along the boards. He made at least two more of those key passes tonight.

I'm still a big Gardiner fan, but the coaches gotta get him to look around when he's starting a rush. In one instance he had 3 forwards ahead of him, in full flight, and he made a silly deke just over centre ice that caused Lupul and one other forward on to slam on the brakes at the opponent's blueline to prevent an offside, effectively ending any threat.

And then there was Phaneuf... who had clear ice coming out his own zone, a couple of forwards to pass to, nobody pressuring him… and he just shot it straight to a Sabres defenceman… for no apparent reason.

It's some of these boneheaded, needless plays that confound and confuse.

But they won anyway. Good on 'em.

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#4 kesselkadri
January 15 2014, 10:57PM
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That last stat at face punchers is bogus. I can fabricate a stat like the leafs are on pace for 110 point with Bolland and 75 point without (or whatever it is I was guessing). And so the leafs are a 120 point when healthy. That doesn't make it right as other factors like PDO maybe at play. I'm still supporting the statement that Orr's fight defending Phaneuf in the Washington game is the turning point of the season.

Also, can you show the last 10 SV% for Reimer and Bernier like you did for team PDO to see the trend. I'd be curious what it shows

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#5 STAN
January 15 2014, 11:12PM
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A couple of other things.

Is is just my instinct and Spidey Sense that we've now entered the media fantasy trade season? Screw any facts.

Damian Cox, for instance, is talking about Steve Stamkos coming to Leafs in 2016 because, 1. Tim Leiweke loves spending MLSE money and, 2. Steve Stamkos MIGHT be thinking along the lines of Zach Parise and could choose to come 'home'.

Really? Who says? Is there any empirical evidence? Or even a hint that Stamkos has implied that? I don't think so. Cox doesn't even cite anonymous sources.

Then there's all this media chatter that Kadri and Matt Moulson are ripe to be traded (Dreger and others) and that the Leafs are in the hunt for Dustin Byfuglien ($5.2M cap hit), even though they are up against the cap limit. (Mark Spector, again not citing or quoting anyone.)

I suspect, just like they all hyped the remarkable talents of David Clarkson last spring/summer and Dave Nonis neglected to due proper due diligence, that they are tossing out names at random and seeing if they can actually generate some trades.

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#6 Steve Dangle
January 15 2014, 11:39PM
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kesselkadri wrote:

That last stat at face punchers is bogus. I can fabricate a stat like the leafs are on pace for 110 point with Bolland and 75 point without (or whatever it is I was guessing). And so the leafs are a 120 point when healthy. That doesn't make it right as other factors like PDO maybe at play. I'm still supporting the statement that Orr's fight defending Phaneuf in the Washington game is the turning point of the season.

Also, can you show the last 10 SV% for Reimer and Bernier like you did for team PDO to see the trend. I'd be curious what it shows

I'm not certain you know what fabricate means.

Also: "Orr's fight defending Phaneuf in the Washington game is the turning point of the season."

....*brain oozes out of ears*.....

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#8 Steve
January 16 2014, 12:01AM
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@kesselkadri

"I'm still supporting the statement that Orr's fight defending Phaneuf in the Washington game is the turning point of the season."

Why did he wait so long to make an impact then? Not a team player.

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#9 Bertly83
January 16 2014, 06:29AM
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•The Maple Leafs are now on pace for 103 points per 82 games in games they do not fight. They are on pace for 71 points per 82 games in games they do fight. Let's stop pretending Colt Knorr needs an everyday roster spot.

This.

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#10 kesselkadri
January 16 2014, 07:17AM
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@Steve

The leafs started winning that next game after orr's fight with washington. A similar thing happened with the flyers when Emery and the flyers had a line brawl against Holtby and the Capitals. Both of the team's started to win more games. But what was notable was the importance of the fight as JVR noted, made an emotional stance rather then a traditional staged fight.

And I disagree with these comments that Phaneuf is not being a team player. Orr's job is to fight so Phaneuf doesn't have to spend 5 minutes in the penalty box.

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#11 getrdone
January 16 2014, 08:22AM
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@STAN

A win is a win and this is 3 wins in a week that had the guys barfing up their guts, The rest of us take a few days of to recoup but not these guys, they show up, so I think not enough has been said about a really gutsy effort this week in less than good conditions(back to back when your guts are rolling)good game, solid effort.

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#12 mass9
January 16 2014, 08:45AM
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Socrates: A true visionary, though even he advocates for a 3-2-1 point system.

Now if you'll excuse me....

*cues up Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure Director's Cut*

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#13 Ripley's BeLeaf It Or Not
January 16 2014, 09:56AM
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Gardiner for Gagner... he's the next Doug Gilmour but the Oilers have destroyed his confidence.

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#14 Jordan
January 16 2014, 01:44PM
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"The Maple Leafs are now on pace for 103 points per 82 games in games they do not fight. They are on pace for 71 points per 82 games in games they do fight. Let's stop pretending Colt Knorr needs an everyday roster spot."

Come on Guy! Let's stop pretending that the only impact a tough guy can have on the game is when he fights. Although I could get behind a more skilled tough guy like Broll or Bodie getting into the line up over or. These guys are effective even when not fighting. From thundering guys and making dmen "hear foot steps" in the corners to providing a deterrent against some players taking liberties on your team. Every team needs and has an element of toughness. The problem with the Leafs is that they don't have enough in their top 9, so the 4th line needs this element.

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#15 gogreen1010
January 19 2014, 03:50PM
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who's Dion Phaneuf's father-in-law? :P

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