James Van Riemsdyk celebrates his first period power-play goal in Thursday night’s Leafs win over Washington.
Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Going into the third period of Thursday night’s 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs were at a distinct disadvantage. Beyond the one goal deficit and some shaky goaltending from James Reimer, the Leafs also had to conted with what I suspect might be a hex that someone (or something) has placed on Phil Kessel.
It wasn’t easy, nor was it necessrily pretty (Nazem Kadri’s cross crease feed to Matt Frattin aside), but the Leafs managed to throtle the Washington Capitals in the third period in a come from behind regulation win.
Gamer and chance data after the jump.
– Let’s start with the basic numbers. Overall the Maple Leafs controlled the majority of scoring chances in the contest: recording 15 to Washington’s 8. Their margin was even greater at evens, where they manhandled the Capitals 11-4. As well the Leafs narrowly edged the Capitals in a "score tied" game state as well, recording a +1 chance differential.
– The talk in Toronto on Friday will probably center around Phil Kessel’s continued inability to ripple the mesh, and on some level that’s fair enough because holy smokes Phil Kessel has done something to really piss off the hockey gods, or the PDO bear or whatever.
First he rifled a nasty shot from the point directly off the post. Later in the period, he was fed a cross-crease pass by Tyler Bozak and Neuvirth stoned him. Then on Toronto’s first goal, Phil Kessel took a dangerous shot at Neuvirth from the slot that totally handcuffed the Caps goaltender but didn’t quite beat him (JVR capitalized on the rebound). In the second frame he made a really remarkable play to get a solid backhander on a loose puck in the crease while in the middle of a goal-mouth scramble. Neuvirth kicked it out – just. Finally in the third period Phil Kessel got just about all he can get on one of his patented wristers, but Neuvirth made a highlight reel glove save.
– Finally, Phil Kessel spun and shot on the open net in the dying seconds of the game. The puck went wide.
– Criticizing Phil Kessel for still being goalless after a dominant offensive performance like that one (results aside, of course) is really missing the point. A total of two inches (combined) on three pucks and he’s got a hat-trick. At some point the flood gates will open and the goals will pour in, especially if he keeps generating scoring chances at the rate he did on Thursday.
– That said, it might be worth giving Phil Kessel a look with Nazem Kadri – at least on the power-play. Might be worth it just on the off chance that Kadri gift-wraps Kessel a goal the way he did for Matt Frattin on the game winner. Just a stunning dish:
– The Maple Leafs did extremely well to shutdown Washington’s once feared (and now actually rather woeful) offensive attack. Unsurprisingly, the McClement, Grabovski line saw the majority of even-strength shifts against Ovechkin, while Phil Kessel’s line spent much of the evening matched up against the Backstrom line. Kadri and friends played most of the night against Joel Ward, a matchup that cost Carlyle an early goal. Kadri and Frattin’s game-winner, by the way, was scored against Washington’s fourth line.
– Ovechkin didn’t factor into a single Washington even-strength scoring chance in the game (his goal came on the power-play). Neither did Grabovski, but I suppose that’s because he spent the night chasing after Ovechkin. I guess Carlyle likes him in that more defensive role, but yeah, I’d wager Grabbo’s not going to put up points like he has in the past if he’s consistently skating with McClement and Kulemin and being deployed in that fashion all season.
– I said earlier that James Reimer had a shaky game and I’d stand by it on the basis of his save percentage on difficult shots (scoring chances that hit the net, including posts). He faced seven difficult shots in all and was beaten three times – by Joel Ward on his goal, through his five-hole by Alexander Ovechkin and by Wojtek Wolski on a shot that hit the post. He also seemed to struggle covering up loose pucks in the crease and his puck handling was pretty adventurous. Not his best night (but what do I know, I’m merely pulling a reverse Damien Cox and scouting for Vancouver).
– Mike Kostka continues to play top-pairing minutes, but I think it’s a stretch to call him a critical part of the Maple Leafs future as Sportsnet did during an intermission segment. I feel bad for the video editor who was trying to find clips of Kostka based on his six previous NHL games. It’s not that Kostka isn’t a useful player – quite the contrary – it’s just he kind of plays a ho-hum style of game and they were overselling his skill set. So the audio was describing him as this heroic player who fans have fallen in love with because of his "infectious personality" but on the video it was all clips of him against Buffalo shooting burners wide of the net from the point, or making a routine breakout pass. Pretty funny.
A chance is counted any time a team directs a shot cleanly on-net from within home-plate. Shots on goal and misses are counted, but blocked shots are not (unless the player who blocks the shot is “acting like a goaltender”). Generally speaking, we are more generous with the boundaries of home-plate if there is dangerous puck movement immediately preceding the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. If you want to get a visual handle on home-plate, check this image.
|Skater||Chances Taken||Chance Assists||Total|
|James Van Riemsdyk||4||1||5|
|WSH (EV)||2 (1)||4 (2)||2 (1)||8 (4)|
|TOR (EV)||5 (1)||2 (2)||8 (8)||15 (11)|