March 10 2014 10:55PM
Some may say that this road tour of California is one that will give the Leafs a rude awakening. While there's a lot of potential for that to be true; it's better to look at it from a different angle. Any team that wants to make a serious dent come playoff time should be capable of keeping up with the best. The Anaheim Ducks are technically the second best at the moment, but that's still a pretty high hurdle to face. After all, they've more or less clinched themselves a playoff spot already! That's pretty dominant.
But give the Leafs some credit; they pulled out a surprising win to get the trip underway, beating the Ducks by a score of 3-1.
The Leafs started the period by, well, letting the Ducks swarm the offensive zone. An early penalty to Nazem Kadri definitely didn't help things, and tides reversed as soon as Ben Lovejoy allowed Toronto to have a man advantage of their own. It didn't turn into anything, but the ice began to tilt in their favour. Tyler Bozak put the exclamation point on the momentum rally, taking a feed from Dion Phaneuf and turning into his fifteenth goal of the season. Many would have been happy with a one goal lead after twenty, but with the seconds winding down, Phil Kessel flew into the offensive zone, earned himself a break, and added yet another goal to his collection (tying Corey Perry for 2nd in the league!). Also, David Clarkson fought for reasons I can't really explain.
Kessel struck again early in the second, finding himself on an odd man rush with Paul Ranger. Naturaly, you'd expect Kessel to shoot, but he showed patience and waited to give his defenceman a tap in to extend the lead to 3-0. The game stayed pretty even from there, and eventually, Corey Perry was the first and only Anaheim player to beat Jonathan Bernier, tapping in a cross-crease one timer for his 35th of the year (jumping ahead of Kessel again). Also, David Clarkson fought for reasons I can't really explain.
The third seemed to be all Anaheim; they took three quarters of the shots and the attempts looked about as crazy. But Bernier was equal to every task, even as Anaheim pulled their goalie and ran six attackers, and the clock eventually hit zeroes. In this third and final period, David Clarkson did not fight anybody for any reason.
FUN FACT: This was the first time this season that Corey Perry scored a goal and the Ducks lost in regulation.
Why The Leafs Won / Blue Warriors
I don't feel that it's fair to name just one guy as the Leafs best player tonight, and in total honesty, there's only a few guys on this team that really had a firm grip of this game. Dion Phaneuf and James van Riemsdyk had their moments, but the Leafs won because of Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel, and Tyler Bozak.
Bernier, of course, stood on his head. Stopping 43 of 44 shots coming from a team as gifted as the Ducks, especially when so many of their players had faced him as a member of the Kings, is stellar and makes this one of his best games of the year. Bozak made a couple mistakes, but was often in the right place to break up or make plays, and made several important passes. Plus, you know, the opening goal. Kessel? He's on another planet, and had one of those games where he was a legitimate threat every time he touched the puck.