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.
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.
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.