This was one of those hockey games that was absurdly memorable, except that it really wasn’t. For two periods, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets fought to a total stalemate, a timid display of outside attempts that resulted in few shots, fewer scoring chances, and fewer Leafs fans in our nations more Eastern timezones even bothering to stay up until the end of the game.
The Leafs won 3-2, as Matt Frattin deflected in a Cody Franson shot with five minutes to go and Phil Kessel scored his first on the season on a powerplay less than a minute later. The late-game comeback doesn’t particularly work in the storybook concept of the dull 55 minutes that preceded it. But that’s what sports is, you’ll have several stretches of inaction punctuated by bursts of elation and despair.
The only problem is if you attempt to objectively define players and teams based on those small bursts.
-I’m referring of course to Phil Kessel, who may have played his worst game on the season. He recorded a couple of shots before his goal, and I noted them both down as scoring chances, but the Leafs really failed to control play when he was on the ice and I never noticed that head strong, purposeful rush from Kessel that usually results in a zone entry with the defender back on his heels. Just a couple minutes after his goal, he had one, stopping in over the line, waiting for the defencemen to settle in and finding the trailer Tyler Bozak for an excellent shot.
-Kessel’s a very good hockey player, and one tough game out of 11 shouldn’t be how he’s defined, even if that’s the one where he scored the goal. All season, the process was there but the results weren’t. In his one night without process or structure or danger, he scores the winning goal with just over four minutes to go. Sometimes the most deserving teams win, sometimes they don’t.
-This wasn’t necessarily one of those games. The Leafs out-chanced Winnipeg by a healthy margin at 11-4 and benefit from either an off-night by their excellent forward group or an all-world performance by their mix of AHLers on defence. Judging by Kessel’s play, I’d be willing to bet on the former. Toronto got all six contested scoring chances in the third (neither the Matt Frattin or Andrew Ladd goals were recorded as chances, as they were deflections that resulted simply from a puck being thrown on net and a player’s stick happening to be angled the right way).
-I don’t have too much to add since this is a game that ought to be forgettable. While Kessel wasn’t good until the bitter end, Tyler Bozak was flying, scoring an excellent shorthanded goal and had some good zone entries and some good looks. Their line was the only one that recorded multiple scoring chances.
-Mikhail Grabovski was matched up against Winnipeg’s top unit of Olli Jokinen, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, and while they got caught in their own end on the first shift, they otherwise shut that line down. Not particularly sure just how: I was watching the game in SD. Could have just been inefficiency on the part of the Jets. I did notice that McClement was playing down the kids later in the contest, but did not see if they had re-united MGK, which they really ought to do at some point.
Here are the scoring chance numbers. Again, these only count the 5-on-5 differential. We’ll have an update on Monday for the Leafs through their first 12 games, after first seeing how they do against… *clicks on our schedule page* Montreal.
|TARANNA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|James van Riemsdyk||4||1||3|
|WINTERPEG||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
And by team:
|Toronto (even strength)||3 (2)||2 (1)||6 (3)||11 (6)|
|Winnipeg (even strength)||2 (2)||2 (1)||0 (0)||4 (3)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Phil Kessel
- Tyler Bozak
- Dion Phaneuf