Leafs Postgame - Bash Brothers Return Turns Into The Phil Kessel Show

Steven Tzemis
February 01 2014 08:41PM

              

                                    The USA jerseys represent JVR and Kessel, obviously . . . 

After seeing the rosters for both teams, many expected fireworks. And by fireworks, I mean fights, fights and more fights. Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Matt Kassian were all in the lineup, setting up what looked like a rough game before the puck even dropped. Then the Leafs put Orr in the starting lineup and things looked even worse.

But, just like so many games before, the facepunchers barely got on the ice, turning this game into a competition between three lines. McLaren played 58 seconds and Orr played 2:27.

But their lack of ice time was a blessing in disguise as the Leafs offence dominated after the Senators went up 2-0, with Kessel recording a hat trick and the Leafs winning the game 6-3.

THE RUNDOWN 

The first 19 minutes of the game were pretty boring, because nothing happened. There were 11 total shots and no real scoring chances. But, with 53 seconds remaining in the period, Chris Neil got in a fight rifled one past Bernier while coming down the centre of the ice, putting the Senators up 1-0. Considering the Leafs had three powerplays, it was a pretty disappointing period since they could only muster nine shots on goal.

The second period opened with something everyone expected, a fight. Three minutes into the period, McLaren came onto the ice for his second and last shift of the game (ugh), and fittingly got into a fight with Matt Kassian that lasted all of one punch and three seconds. And McLaren lost the fight, so he failed at his one and only task.

Just a few minutes later, Colin Greening put one past Bernier on a two-on-one pass from Neil after Gardiner had a brutal giveaway at the offensive blueline, so surprisingly, McLaren’s fight gave the Leafs no momentum at all.

The Leafs did respond later in the period, as the first line scored once again. Van Riemsdyk fired a cross-ice pass to Kessel who put it behind Anderson for his 28th of the season.

The Leafs immediately tied the game after Kadri delivered a brutal hit behind the net to Ceci, and then set up Lupul to fire one past Anderson. It was the type of hit that will definitely get Shanahan’s attention and might even result in a suspension. But the play did help Toronto enter the second intermission tied at two, even though they sleepwalked through the majority of the first two periods.

A powerplay for Toronto finally clicked seven minutes into the third, as Kessel came across the top of the circle and put one top corner with a snap shot for his second of the game. Rielly assisted on the goal, continuing what was one of his best games he’s played all season.

A few minutes later, a very odd scene happened with Neil being credited for a goal off a commercial break after nobody watching had any idea a review was even underway.

But Phil the Thrill took a pass from Bozak with six minutes remaining, scoring a hat trick and his 30th goal of the season. And then Kessel recorded his fourth point of the night setting up Bozak with one minute remaining in the game to put the final dagger in the Senators. 

WHY THE LEAFS WON

Phil Kessel. It’s hard to say anything else. The guy was en fuego. The first line dominated once again, and the Senators had no answer for it.  When he’s on one of these hot streaks, he’s a top-5 player in the NHL, and the first line is making a case to be called the best line in hockey. You can’t mention the best without mentioning JVR/Bozak/Kessel right now.

BLUE WARRIOR 

Again, it’s impossible not to say Phil Kessel. He recorded a hat trick and an assist and was the best player on the ice almost every shift. Before he had that outburst in the third, I was prepared to put Rielly here because he had a helluva game, but Kessel was just too good.

His speed is unstoppable and his shot tonight was as lethal as ever. He scored his 30th goal of the season, giving him his 5th career 30-goal season. And his playmaking skills were also on display, as he setup Bozak for the nail in the coffin late in the third.

NUMBERS AND NOTES 

Tonight's Fenwick Chart: 

  • The Leafs had a lull after they took a 3-2 lead midway through the third, which again shows their tendency to go into a shell once they take the lead late. But They finshed the game strong by actually keeping the pressure on once they took the lead again at 4-3, which isn't typical of the Leafs but a refreshing sight.
  • Although the Leafs had a lower corsi number than Ottawa (59-58) they actually outshot the Senators 35-25. Great to see Toronto actually outshoot a team.
  • Morgan Rielly kond of reminds me of PK Subban. He skates the puck out of trouble, jumps into the rush every chance he gets and is moving at 100mph all game long. He's not as physical or as intense as Subban, but Rielly looks more and more like a budding superstar every single game.
  • Greg McKegg's NHL debut was uneventful, as he only played 3:43. Once Orr and McLaren were taken out of the gamplan, so was McKegg. 
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Steven Tzemis is a third year journalism student at Ryerson University, who has been a hockey fan his whole life and has been playing hockey since he could walk. He's also an NFL and NHL writer for Vavel.com/en-us/. You can follow him on twitter: @SteveTzemis
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#1 kesselkadri
February 01 2014, 09:18PM
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I just wanted to point out the leaf fenwick surpassed the senators with shots after the critical Mclaren fight early in the second period.

That was the turning point of the game and the shot differential confirm that the leafs generated more shots after Mclaren's fight.

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#2 Dom
February 01 2014, 09:30PM
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kesselkadri wrote:

I just wanted to point out the leaf fenwick surpassed the senators with shots after the critical Mclaren fight early in the second period.

That was the turning point of the game and the shot differential confirm that the leafs generated more shots after Mclaren's fight.

Or score effects and the Leafs were down by 1 was the reason. But sure a 3 second fight where McClaren gets pummelled is the turning point.

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#3 Nathan
February 01 2014, 09:35PM
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Just a reminder...D2 is on Netflix.

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#4 Poluza
February 01 2014, 10:05PM
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The first half or so of this game was brutal to watch. But for the second game in a row (I think), the Leafs made up a 2-0 deficit and won the game. This is a big change from the days of old, where they would go up early and lose their lead on a regular basis. So yeah, good game!

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#5 STAN
February 02 2014, 12:33AM
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Three solid lines, a passable defence featuring their next big star (Rielly) and decent goaltending only gets you so far. The difference with the Leafs right now is their likely unsustainable goas-to-shots ratio. 35 shots and 6 goals. About 16-17 percent. The previous game it was 18 percent.

Meantime, how is Nonis going to keep Clarkson out of this winning lineup? Trade? (impossible) A fake injury? (unlikely) Fourth line? (nope)

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#6 Jay
February 02 2014, 01:19AM
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No Cam Charron??

I like his recaps the best :(

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#7 Jordan
February 02 2014, 02:57AM
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STAN wrote:

Three solid lines, a passable defence featuring their next big star (Rielly) and decent goaltending only gets you so far. The difference with the Leafs right now is their likely unsustainable goas-to-shots ratio. 35 shots and 6 goals. About 16-17 percent. The previous game it was 18 percent.

Meantime, how is Nonis going to keep Clarkson out of this winning lineup? Trade? (impossible) A fake injury? (unlikely) Fourth line? (nope)

Well the Leafs are a high s% team bc of their skill, playing style and pp success, but yeah 16% is pretty high. S% is a symptom of something, not a cause though. We have to look at why the s% has been higher the past two games.

Clarkson will and should get back into the lineup on the third line. Carlyle will hopefully move Bodie down and remove Mclaren from the lineup for now. He might also move Holland to the wing, but he seems hesitant to do this.

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#8 subversible
February 02 2014, 05:07AM
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Holy run-on sentences to end every graph, considering this is written by a journalism student, since he should know better. (See what I did there?)

Also, way to miss Kadri's empty-netter in the rundown.

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#9 old hockey fan
February 02 2014, 07:21AM
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@STAN

That unsustainable shooting% has been out there for over a year. If this was luck they would have run out of it. The Leafs are a fringe possession team but dynamite on attack and other team turnovers. That is their strength and that is how they play as well.

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#10 leaferfan
February 02 2014, 07:27AM
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@Jordan

A high S% this reason is sure a symptom of something. That is, it is a symptom of playing a 4th line 3 minutes a night.

Do people know why Kessel got a hat trick and the top 6 is rocking it? Simple - Carlyle is giving these guys big minutes - and they are producing.

Just think what would happen if the carlyle actually iced a competent 4th line of 10 minutes. Well we would see Kadri/Kessel minutes drop and we would see even more defensive shell hockey. And the leaf Shooting percentage and goals would drop.

I used to hate the 4th line but with how the top 6 is producing, I'm loving Carlyle's smart usage. Other NHL coaches want to play a AHL/NHL tweener 4th line 10 minutes a night that gives them a few goals a year. Carlyle is giving us a 40 freaking goal scoring Kessel.

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#11 Gardiner-Reilly
February 02 2014, 09:09AM
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@kesselkadri

I read this over and over and it never ceases to be hilarious.

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#12 Jordan
February 02 2014, 09:23AM
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@leaferfan

I didn't even think of that, but that makes sense. I'd like to see Bodie eventually replace one of Orr or Mclaren as a heavy on the 4th line and maybe give them a few more minutes, but the people complaining that the 4th line should have 8-10 minutes a game are on glue.

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#13 leafdreamer
February 02 2014, 11:45AM
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It's funny how the new 'writer' is trying to impress Cam by finding a super-dubious way to 'prove' that the fight had nothing to do with the outcome of the match by claiming that because Sens scored the next goal after the fight the fight 'gave Leafs no momentum'. Had we scored the goal immediately after the fight and then went on to lose the game he'd be saying - see the fight didn't give us any momentum. This is just pathetic.

It could just as easily be said that McLaren's fight turned the game around as we were down 1:0 at the time of the fight and ended up scoring 6 goals after the fight to win the game. Or we could say that Ottawa gained a short-lasting momentum from the fight.

The truth is there was more going on - Orr was trying to start a fight with Neil and Kassian and both declined the invitation and then Kassian got saved by McLaren falling to the ice.

Anyhow, this may well be one of those fights that actually did nothing (it was hardly a fight really - McLaren was on the ice before any punches were thrown) but the disrespect for our fighters on this site is just so over-the-top and uncalled for.

I wish you guys would support the Leafs as they are a little bit more instead of continuing to blindly advance the 'more-shots-good-less-shots-bad' narrative in face of what is turning out to be overwhelming evidence against it.

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#14 Gardiner-Reilly
February 02 2014, 12:17PM
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@leafdreamer

What happened was hardly a fight...Kassian got a punch in and McLaren fell down. It lasted all of three seconds. Do you honestly think that gave the Leafs any momentum. If anything, considering the fact that Kassian got one punch in and McLaren got none means that Ottawa gained momentum.

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#15 kesselkadri
February 02 2014, 01:27PM
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@leafdreamer

Some people clearly don't understand advanced stats. The point was after the fight, Kessel and the rest of the leafs started generating more shots and overtook the shot differential game. [Some say they got energy from the fight].

The fact that the jets scored is unimportant as goals are luck driven and small sample size skewed. Basically, the leafs got a bit unlucky even though they were outshooting the jets.

A better metric then goals as we know is the corsi or fenwick which because of the larger sample size show that the turning point was the Mclaren fight. And not the first Kessel goal which was simply the manifestation of all the increased zone pressure the leafs generated post the Mclaren fight.

If you want to talk goals then lets talk about how great +- and we can claim Kessel's goal was a turning point. But if you want to talk advanced stats then the increase in shots occurred post Mclaren fight. [I make noting the correlation between the fight and the increase in shots but some of you are for some reason making assumption about causation]

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#16 Bill
February 03 2014, 01:30PM
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Dude, we get that you don't like fighting (this despite the fact you're barely a few weeks old on this site), but you don't need to make mention of it (or the snarky "face punchers" jabs) every time you write something. You would rather replace Orr/McLaren with more skilled players. We get that. Just because they keep dressing Orr though doesn't mean you need to incessantly harp about it. It's really annoying to me as a reader and likely others as well. That doesn't mean I/we am/are pro-fighting I'll add, it just means I/we don't need to read about it ALL THE TIME.

Thanks

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#17 Alex
February 03 2014, 05:21PM
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It always amazes me how people will rush to comment on the anti-fighting comments made in these articles.

It was pretty clear from what I could see that it didn't matter how many fights people got into, Kessel was going to tear the Sens apart. Both sides are chasing ghosts, here.

This team is 57-38-11 since Carlyle had a summer to begin shaping this team. A coach who relies on great goaltending and leans on his top 3 lines to get enough goals to win is evidently having the results necessary to make the playoffs.

At the same time, I don't think it makes sense to give credit or criticism to players who play less than five minutes a game. They're non-factors.

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