Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win at Madison Square Garden on Friday night was, by far, the most entertaining game they have played this season. And it has resulted in the fourth win in a row for Big Blue.
The Maple Leafs dominated the Rangers for the better part of the game and if the Rangers hadn’t slipped a couple of stinky ones past a seemingly nervous Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Toronto would have won it going away.
After waiting around for MSG’s way-too-long pre-game ceremony, the Leafs came at the Rangers non-stop, starting with the opening faceoff. With a kind of speed will intimidate any team, the Kessel-Bozak-Versteeg line was dominant and virtually the complete opposite of Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Phil Kessel’s first goal of the game was highlight-reel stuff. Took a beautiful 2-on-1 pass from Bozak.
The Rangers didn’t know which way to turn.
The Leafs’ top line got a verbal spanking from Coach Ron Wilson at Friday’s skate. Apparently, they were taking extra-long shifts in Pittsburgh and that didin’t sit well with the Coach. You want to raise the tempo of a game? Rule number one says: Have the players take shorter shifts. Kessel had seven shots on goal in 19+ minutes.
MACARTHUR SCORES AGAIN
Clarke MacArthur can’t have seen this start to the season coming. His psychic couldn’t have seen this coming. Every single person involved with Leafs Hockey in any capacity including the parking lot attendents couldn’t have seen this coming. He’s the first Maple Leafs’ player – in franchise history – to score a goal in each of the team’s four games to begin a season.
The great Wayne Gretzky only did that twice – 1983 with the Oilers and 1988 with the Kings. I know, comparing Clarke MacArthur to The Great One seems a little far-fetched but early season facts speak for themselves. And, right now, MacArthur’s shocking scoring spree is a fact.
The Leafs defence did a masterful job of pushing the puck forward and their vastly improved transition game was a big reason for their success. Wilson decided Carl Gunnarsson would only see the ice for about six minutes. That meant Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle and François Beauchemin each clocked over 27.
That is absolutely huge.
Phaneuf was Mr. Everything, even cutting in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist just as Kessel fired the power-play overtime winner. But what I was most impressed with tonight from the Leafs was their ability to keep the emotions in check.
Sean “I-left-my-brain-in-San-Francisco” Avery hacked and chopped at Mike Komisarek’s legs in the third period. Komisarek just limped away. On the same play, Ruslan Fedotenko tried to use a Leafs’ head as a battering ram. 5-on-3 PP Leafs. The Young Leafs were able to display the poise and discipline of a veteran team.
The Rangers suffered a double blow when Marian Gaborik was pounded into the corner by Colby Armstrong. According to the Rangers, he’s out 2-3 weeks with a separated shoulder. Chris Drury was also hurt. He’s out 6 weeks with broken finger. Same finger he injured in the pre-season, but a different break. Those were two serious blows to the Rangers’ offence.
They have now secured their best start in seventeen years. Next game is Monday, hosting the Islanders. They have just one win in four games.
Anyone for 5-0-0? Thought so.