Photo via Abelimages/NHLInteractive
Midway through the third period, I asked Leafs fans over Twitter if a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins would be considered a positive based on what happened last season.
They answered with a resounding yes, which says something both about the expectations Maple Leafs fans have and how badly things fell apart last year with the team’s defence and the goaltending. A cute CBC graphic during Saturday night’s game showed a 6-0 record for the Bruins over the Leafs last year and the aggregate goal tally was 36-10.
I’m not particularly convinced that the 2013 version of the Maple Leafs are a hockey team that can make the playoffs without a significant amount of luck. I am closer to being convinced that James Reimer may very well be “the guy”. He gets tagged with an ‘L’ tonight, but kept the game close and winnable for his skaters, in a 1-0 defeat to the 2011 Stanley Cup champs.
-The scoring chances were heavily in favour of the Boston Bruins. I counted 15 scoring chances for the Bruins and just 7 for the Leafs. At even strength, that was 12 to 4 for the Bs. Toronto was good at collapsing the front of the net in the first half of the game, but Boston kept at it, started using the wide parts of the ice, and made one-on-one runs at defencemen rather than trying to be too cute and pass around them. They had a lot of “chances at chances” in the first half of the game, but my system only records a chance when there was also a shot or a missed shot recorded.
–As I wrote in my preview, the Bruins are a team with a powerful offensive attack. They had two really good lines and scorers on their third line to boot. The first line was all over the Leafs, with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin were the two most dangerous offensive players for either team, taking lots of good shots and not getting rewarded. Both had six shots on net and three from the scoring chance zone.
-I thought both the Tyler Bozak line and the Mikhail Grabovski line did an adequate job of skating with those lines. They intercepted passes at the line and went north with them, but weren’t able to generate anything in the offensive zone. The Leafs’ problem matching up can probably be summed up by Carl Gunnarsson being declared a late scratch, and Mike Kostka was a game-high in minutes with 27:37. I have nothing against Kostka and it’s a great story, but the Maple Leafs can’t have a career AHLer playing top pairing minutes for them and expect to beat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
-The goal wasn’t scored against Kostka and Dion Phaneuf, nor was it scored against the rag-tag second pairing of Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles. The Leafs’ three fighters were on the ice at the same time: Mark Fraser, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. The replays will show Cody Franson losing his man in front of the net, but Chris Kelly was able to skate the puck in with relative ease and bring it deep. I like Franson and don’t think the goal is on him. He had a pretty solid game otherwise.
-The “rag-tag second pairing” was not particularly good. While Phaneuf and Kostka can hurt you offensively, Liles just seemed determined to make his outlet passes to the wide side of the ice and not chase them. He usually likes to get involved in the offence but sat back, and partially as a result, the Leafs didn’t have too much offence, especially none generated from their defence. That’s the rub when you play a tough defensive style against a team like the Bruins: once you’re down 1-0, you theoretically have to score a goal at some point if you want to win.
-Cody Franson had a goal waved off on a bad call, but so did Tyler Seguin. All told, the refereeing was very NHL-like: fair for both sides. PPP has a link to the NHL’s poor explanation for why Seguin’s was waved off.
-A note about Nazem Kadri… you’ll note in our scoring chances box below that his line was all in the minuses when it came to puck possession. Between them, they got just three shots on goal. Kadri took two faceoffs in the offensive zone and eight in the defensive zone. Leo Komarov had another two in the defensive zone. When he was out against the first or second Boston lines, he couldn’t keep up with them as well as Bozak’s or Grabovski’s line could, and while they did some good things defensively, it’s that transition and neutral zone game where they were lagging behind. I do think Kadri playing with Kessel would be a benefit to both players, but nights like these are why people are skeptical on Kadri or Frattin’s respective abilities to be top-six, play-driving NHLers.
-James Reimer had a number of big stops (that number is 12) and stopped 31 of 32 overall. Lots of good positional saves, it looked like. I’m no goalie expert, but he stopped enough pucks to win, I know that much. So did Tuukka Rask, but by looking at the scoring chances and the shots, it’s clear he had a much easier go of it.
-Finally… Phil Kessel. I have him down for two shots off scoring chances. I can remember one being the puck that somehow got to him on the powerplay in the third period, and the second was on another was late in the second period after a good feed from James van Riemsdyk. Additionally, he nicked the post a couple minutes earlier. Eight attempts at net overall, and again, he’s getting his chances, but is impressively snake-bit. Unfortunately, he can’t laugh it off tonight since his team didn’t win.
Still, though, it could have been disastrously worse. Carolina comes to town on Monday. Here are the scoring chance plus/minus numbers.
|TORONTO||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|James van Riemsdyk||2||3||-1|
|BOSTON||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
And team breakdown for chances:
|Boston (even strength)||3 (3)||8 (5)||4 (4)||15 (12)|
|Toronto (even strength)||2 (2)||3 (2)||2 (0)||7 (4)|
The Leafs Nation Three Stars:
- James Reimer
- Patrice Bergeron
- Nathan Horton