Image via Francois Lacasse/NHLInteractive
It’s been quite a while since the Maple Leafs were on the right side of a win like this, a game where, from puck drop to final whistle, it was utter domination.
Toronto had a very strong third period in Winnipeg the other night in a comeback victory against the Jets, and they picked up that strong play in the first period in Montreal, scoring a pair of goals before le Club Hockey had bothered to try and start skating. The Leafs buzzed around the Habs’ net all night, took a 4-0 lead into the third, and other than a brief special teams hiccup at the end of the second, put together a very complete performance from some of their depth players. Maybe there’s something to this squad…
-Toronto had the first six scoring chances in this game and finished up 20-13 in the overall count, going 14-9 at even strength and 13-6 at five-on-five. It wasn’t much of a game chance-wise, and anybody who watched the game doesn’t need my numbers to show just how dominant the Leafs were. That said, the individual breakdown has some fun things, particularly P.K. Subban’s gaudy differential…
-You could tell Michel Therrien knew very early on that his team wasn’t working. He dropped Lars Eller onto the Habs’ “Gally” line with Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. He brought Travis Moen up to play with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. He ripped his game plan up, and the juggling forced the Canadiens to play just a little more disorganized to start the second period. By the third period, he had settled his lines back together, presumably after assuming that nothing was working.
-He had Lars Eller work with Travis Moen and Colby Armstrong, at least when they were together, work the primary defensive zone minutes. This led to a lot of match ups against Nazem Kadri’s line, but as you can tell by the scoring chance differential below, they generally kept them in check and were Montreal’s best skaters. By contrast, the Kids got two good shifts out against Montreal’s second scoring unit with Desharnais, Pacioretty and Erik Cole, who was probably the worst skater on the ice for either team.
-Don’t read too much into that performance. Randy Carlyle still doesn’t trust the Kadri line in defensive situations, and he hardly played his fourth line at all in the first two periods, which left Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski a lot of defensive zone face-offs both at even strength and the penalty kill. That line didn’t score any goals, as they aren’t getting the great bounces they were getting in the first few games, but they’re still stringing chances together, being put in that position to succeed.
-I don’t like the way Randy Carlyle uses his fourth line, but you can’t deny that his top nine have been very effective. He keeps duos together, substituting a winger depending on the situation. This game he moved Leo Komarov to the second line with Mikhail Grabovski and they scored a goal in the first minute. He’s bounced Clarke MacArthur on each line and he’s been an excellent versatile player. More importantly, Carlyle wasn’t quick to react when pucks weren’t going in for Phil Kessel. Now they are, as Kessel has two in his last pair of games, and he was still getting good offensive and powerplay minutes.
– *DANGLE EDIT* – Mikhail Grabovski has a disciplinary hearing for allegedly biting Max Pacioretty. Here’s the video of the alleged incident.
-Tyler Bozak’s talents are being better used this season, even if he may had been overused in the first couple of games. I don’t think he’s as good of a penalty killer as David Steckel, but the Leafs penalty kill was strong tonight and Bozak played a couple of minutes. He was 19-4 on draws, including 11-2 in the defensive zone. He’s benefitting playing with Kessel offensively and still doesn’t enter the puck with the zone a lot, that’s usually Kessel’s beat, but he’s been learning the right spots to go on the ice and shots and chances are coming at a rate higher than they were last year.
-On Kessel, we talk about his shot when he’s in motion, but how good is his passing? His feed on James van Riemsdyk goal is incredible. He got the puck deep and then drew three defenders as JvR just cut to the back door. When Joffrey Lupul comes back it’s going to be interesting. I think JvR and Kessel work better together than Kessel and Lupul ever did, and JvR is better at helping Kessel in the defensive zone, which is his only real weak spot.
-Here’s said goal:
Carlyle also split up his defensive pairings tonight. Mike Kostka played under 20 minutes (although he was helped by the fight, obviously) and played alongside John-Michael Liles while Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer played together doing heavy lifting against the Habs’ top two lines. Given the success of the team, I think that they’re generally successful, the changes, although Liles and Holzer had strung a couple of good games together. It was nice to see a few Leafs get in on the scoring chance parade, as Liles and Kostka each were activated from the point in the first 40 minutes. The Leafs have generally been having their defence play further back.
-It’s been noted in these recaps that Cody Franson and Mark Fraser are an excellent defensive pairing. They don’t get the toughest matchups, but they’re keeping the play at the right end of the ice. Tonight was no different and they finished in the “plus” category again.
-Here are the individual scoring chances. As noted above, Subban and Francis Bouillon had a rough, rough night:
|TARANNA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
|James van Riemsdyk||3||3||0|
|MAH-RAY-AL||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Differential|
-And the team breakdown:
|Toronto (even strength)||6 (6)||6 (3)||8 (5)||20 (14)|
|Montreal (even strength)||4 (4)||8 (4)||1 (1)||13 (9)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Phil Kessel
- Tyler Bozak
- Nazem Kadri