January 30 2014 08:46PM
wtf is going on here
An early 2-0 deficit to the Florida Panthers turned into a decisive win—the last time Florida was in town, Scott Clemmensen stopped 28 of 29 shots for a 3-1 Panther victory—and that wasn't exactly the case Thursday night. Despite going down 2-0 early, the Maple Leafs rallied in typical Maple Leafs fashion: they scored three goals on three shots taken over an 11:11 span of the hockey game while somehow managing to keep pucks out of their own end.
One sports cliché is when the scoreboard is much kinder than the play indicated. "It's not a Picasso," they'll say "but they count." I still take issue with this cliché. While I find Picasso's works to be intriguing, I wouldn't exactly say they're pretty. Maybe the cliché would work better if we were talking about the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, the poetry of William Shakespeare or even the music of John Williams. The Leafs painted a Picasso on Thursday. It was pre-Cubist, and no different to many of the avant-garde works performed by the Leafs dating back to January 19, 2013. Somehow they've pulled these ones out, and we keep not finding evidence that there's anything stopping this, short of every hockey commentator simultaneously closing one eye each.
It was a 6-3 final at the Air Canada Centre.
Not much to say. Early on, the Leafs got caught twice, once on a bad read by Morgan Rielly on a Florida breakout leading to a Nick Bjugstad breakaway, and you could probably say Tim Gleason wasn't exactly in the best of places when Cody Franson (bad Cody) turned over this puck:
Sean Bergenheim scored the second goal after he created a two-on-one with Brad Boyes in the offensive zone. A few shifts later, however, Randy Carlyle juggled his defensive combinations, putting Cody Franson back with Jake Gardiner and moving Gleason down onto the third pairing with Rielly, guaranteeing us bloggers something to discuss on the weekend.
The move paid off nearly immediately. On his first shift with Gardiner, Franson whipped home a wrist shot (good Cody) to pull the Leafs back to within one.
The Leafs jumped ahead 3-2 early in the second period, first on a Mason Raymond wrist shot that Clemmensen would probably like to have back, and just seconds later, Scott Gomez got his stick up on Dion Phaneuf, giving the Leafs a chance to take the lead early on in the second, which they did on a James van Riemsdyk re-direct:
Side note: remember at the start of his tenure here how difficult of a time Carlyle had parking JvR in front of the net like that? How many goals has JvR scored from just a couple of feet out like that?
Early in the third, the Leafs pulled away, and managed to pull closer to even on shots, helped partly by a horrible Panthers powerplay and Clemmensen's inability to make an important save. Nik Kulemin scored from the high slot with his eighth, and Joffrey Lupul scored on a wicked blast from the wall on a powerplay on one of his five shots on the night. After Dmitry Kulikov pulled the Panthers to within two, late, Phil Kessel went out of his way to do Phil Kessel things, leaping on a turnover and finding some open space to seal the game:
Best thing about this goal is how Kessel beats Bjugstad twice on the play.
WHY THE LEAFS WON
It'd be easy to point to Jonathan Bernier's 35 saves (though on 38 shots, his save percentage actually dropped tonight) or the Leafs controlling the Panthers on the stat sheet, out-hitting Florida 41-26, winning 44 draws to the Panthers' 33 and blocking 13 shots to 10. (It's weird how often inside hockey people will quote these numbers but avoid talking about shot statistics that have shown to be predictive in most cases).
Where the Leafs really won the game was on special teams. There were 8 powerplays in the game, and 7 of them went Toronto's way. Florida went 0-for-5 on their own powerplays and generated just 8 shots in 10 minutes.
Currently, the Panthers have 2.54 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-four time, which is comically low. Three teams: Chicago, Anaheim and St. Louis, have more five-on-five goals per 60 minutes than the Panthers have at five-on-four. That's a good PP unit for a struggling Leafs PK unit to run into.
I liked Mason Raymond's game tonight. He was +3 Corsi on the night, and scored his first in six games in 15 minutes of ice-time. Also managed a couple of shots on goal, and in his three minutes of shorthanded ice-time, the Leafs actually out-shot Florida 2-1.
Also, if you have any friends who are Canuck fans, here's in interesting stat forwarded to me by Dimitri Filipovic of Canucks Army fame:
NUMB3RS AND NOTES
Florida pulled away midway through the second, but generally the shots were even from about the 29-minute mark and through to the end of the game. While Florida kept the Leafs off the puck and hemmed Toronto in the defensive zone often, they didn't generate too many shots or chances in the early going, and minus that three shots in 11:11 stretch the Leafs went on, they weren't kept off the shot clock that often.
Tim Gleason's game may be somewhat subject to debate. He's been a goals against machine since being traded over from Carolina on January 1, and five blocked shots on the night doesn't mean he's a good shot-blocker, it just means he blocks a lot of shots, and you can't block a lot of shots without letting the opposition take those shots. At any rate, our old friend TimeOnIce.com has Gleason at an even Corsi and a +4 Fenwick on the night. Not terrible. Pretty good, in fact. I'd say his +/- is somewhat PDO-related (96.8% coming into tonight) and he's been solid, if not spectacular, since coming over, though I'm usually annoyed at the way broadcasters suck up to any North American-born defenceman who doesn't wear a visor and throws himself in front of shots.
Randy Carlyle has been giving his top line a large share of defensive zone minutes lately: of the 22 defensive zone faceoffs at five-on-five tonight, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel were on for eight of them, tied for the team lead. Most of the offensive zone starts went to the Rielly-Gleason combination, as well as the Nazem Kadri line.
Three assists for The Wizard of Naz tonight. Regressing back towards that mean...