It turns out you cannot stop the Toronto Maple Leafs, you can only hope to contain them.
Or, perhaps, the only person on the planet who could effectively shut down the juggernaut that is the Toronto Maple Leafs is Ben Scrivens, the 26-year old undrafted opening day starter who now has two consecutive shutouts.
A Maple Leafs team that came out flat turned it all around on a fortuitous turnover by Mike Weaver that led to a Phil Kessel partial breakaway. Kessel snapped home his third of the season on a beautiful shot at full speed. Two other LeafsNation favourites, Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur, scored goals in the second and the Leafs walked through the third for their second straight 3-0 win.
-It was an odd game. At first, it looked like the Panthers were going to roll all over the Leafs. Their top line came out flying: Peter Mueller had an excellent opportunity off a Mikhail Grabovski turnover 54 seconds in. Florida got two more quick chances, from Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau set up Alex Kovalev. At one point, Florida had a 6-3 edge and the home broadcast was praising the Panthers’ efforts, certain that one of their shots at that point would finally break the inexperienced Ben Scrivens. They were probably not wrong on that point, but the Kessel goal may have changed the game.
-I don’t often say that a play made the entire difference, but Florida was awful in periods two and three. They were as bad in periods two and three as they were good in period one, which is to say they stuck around the outside, tried to dump pucks in, turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and other than their top line and Tomas Kopecky, were sloppy all around.
-Anyway, Toronto had 15 scoring chances in this game, and 12 at even strength. Florida had 11 scoring chances in this game, all at even strength. Florida had some odd puck luck, with a Kopecky shot at the start of the third period deflecting off Nazem Kadri’s butt and off the post. Given that the Leafs got a goal off of Frazer McLaren’s butt on Saturday, the Leafs are getting some good butt puck luck lately.
-The Florida Panthers rink announcer was pronouncing Nazem Kadri’s name “Nazeem Kadrrrri”, as if he were trying to emulate the way the Montreal Canadiens rink announcer attempts to make all non-French names sound French. The rink announcer in Florida did get to say Kadri’s name a couple of times, as he converted a Leafs powerplay goal in the second period, and had a beautiful set-up for a Clarke MacArthur goal in the third. All I have to ask… what is Brian Campbell trying to do? Was he sucked into Colton Orr’s tractor beam?
-Kadri’s line ended at “even” in scoring chances because of the two sustained at the start of the third period, when they got hemmed in on a juggled Kevin Dineen line that included Kopecky, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleishmann. Dineen flipped Weiss and Marcel Goc, opting to put the German with Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille. Skille was flying in the first period, but he was completely invisible in the second half of the game.
-The Panthers didn’t line-match at all, and that might have helped them, since all three Leafs functional forward units generated quite a few scoring chances for. Randy Carlyle (it may have been Carlyle’s doing, because it would have been a colossally stupid match by Dineen) managed to get Mikhail Grabovski out for a bunch of shifts against what was effectively Florida’s top unit of Drew Shore, Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau. All three players really impressed me in this one.
-I noted in my preview though, that when the Panthers do zone match, it usually involves getting that unit out offensively: Shore took 12 face-offs—6 were in the neutral zone, six were in the offensive zone. Stephen Weiss was used the most on face-offs. He ended up seeing Tyler Bozak six times in the offensive zone, losing four of them. Bozak I thought had a quiet game, but he had a strong face-off night, going 11-for-19 and 6-of-8 in the defensive zone.
-Who benefit from a little more of an offensive assignment? Mikhail Grabovski finally got a few offensive zone face-offs and some time away from Florida’s top two-way unit centred by Weiss. He had five shots in this one. Nik Kulemin had two. Leo Komarov had three. Not a bad night at the office for the second line, who generated some offensive chances but couldn’t convert. I read that the pre-game guys were ripping them, and given how that line is being deployed as a checking unit, it shouldn’t be surprising they have yet to break out offensively.
-Not a checking unit? Frazer McClaren, Mike Brown and Jay McClement. When anybody other than McClement on that line has the puck, the opposition will have it seconds later. That line was caught in its own end for 1:43 of action towards the start of the second period that included an icing, and ended only when an errant Brian Campbell shot ended up over the glass. Florida didn’t generate any scoring chances off that shift, but had two shots. Thought it was funny that within seconds of losing the ensuing face-off, Grabovski was able to clear the zone effectively.
-Hey, how about Ben Scrivens? Stopped 37 shots, although he wasn’t particularly busy facing quality attempts: I only have nine Florida scoring chances recorded as “saved shots”. Still, Scrivens looks better on rebounds and playing the puck. I don’t think he’s for real in the sense that he’ll get a shutout every game, but he’s been a very good AHL goalie for the last two seasons and has done well-enough in James Reimer’s absence that the team hasn’t had to go to Jussi Rynnas yet. I mentioned that, when Scrivens had to replace Reimer, was the goal, and he’s exceeded expectations so far, going 2-1-0 in his last three starts with a .971 save percentage and a .977 save percentage at even strength.
-Those are, um, good numbers.
-A note on the defence: Neither group was great, but Dion Phaneuf and Korbinian Holzer had the +2 differentials. Florida has a real wide lineup that doesn’t have a clear top group to shut down: Shore centres the most offensive line, Weiss the best two-way line, and obviously Kopecky and Fleishmann are dangerous. There’s no real need to hard match any of them. It’s a very interesting group for a hockey team.
-Florida’s fourth line is hilarious. I cannot think of three more opposite players than George Parros, Jerred Smithson and Alex Kovalev. One is a fighter, one is the most offensively-inept regular forward in the NHL, and the other is a talented guy with back checking problems that everybody thought was too old to play and got forced out of the league. Kovalev got the puck on his stick for a scoring chance in the first from Huberdeau in the “wait, let me hit the PVR button to see if I got that name right” moment of the game.
-Anyway, the Leafs go to 10-6. Important to rack up the points during the period of unsustainable excellence, I guess. Tomorrow they head out against Tampa Bay, a team that’s much more dangerous offensively but also more suspect defensively.
-Individual scoring chance differentials per player:
|TARANNA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||3||4||-1|
|FLO RIDA||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||5 (5)||7 (4)||3 (3)||15 (12)|
|Florida (EV)||6 (6)||2 (2)||3 (3)||11 (11)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Ben Scrivens
- Nazem Kadri
- Mikhail Grabovski