A lot of weird things happened in this game between the Maple Leafs and Islanders. The Leafs got a win, which isn’t that weird this year, and continued their impressive start to the shortened season. It was a 5-4 overtime win on a goal by Dion Phaneuf 1:11 into the OT period that somehow snuck through Evgeni Nabokov’s equipment.
But look at me, burying the lede. Nazem Kadri played phenomenally, scoring three goals on his lonesome, all three of them individual efforts. He got his first NHL hat-trick. James Reimer looked like Ben Scrivens did last night, allowing shots from the outside and coughing up some easy rebounds, and once New York came back from 4-2 to tie it up, it looked like it was going to be a game the Leafs were going to let slip away.
But, no. Phaneuf scored in the OT, the team played shut-down after the tying goal, and the team proverbially held-on for the an overtime win, as odd as that sounds.
-The New York Islanders have talent, but no system. They could be considered the reverse of the Leafs, who have system, but not a lot of talent filling the spaces. At even strength, you knew this would be a wide-open affair since the Islanders are prone to defensive lapses, have a volatile 37-year-old goaltender, but also a lot of speed from their forward unit. Finally, we saw a game with a lot of scoring chances, and it has been a while. You begin to tire of a team that plays a clampdown defensive system each night, so fans of teams that employ coaches like Randy Carlyle can thank the New York Islanders for screwing around with the trend of the NHL.
-Jack Capuano had last change, but there was no real need for him to have it. I get the feeling he manages his bench the same at home and on the road. There were no notable head-to-head match ups, or cases where one line dominated another. Kadri’s three goals came against three different New York Islander lines. I liked that Carlyle just sort of rolled with it and let the chips fall. He’s not a great coach, but he’s smart enough to know that Jack Capuano was going to do something colossally stupid, like end up a couple of times with his fourth line out against the Maple Leafs’ first line.
-I don’t think I’ve seen a fourth line get the leeway Capuano’s did tonight. That’s a line made up of Marty Reasoner, Matt Martin and Eric Boulton. Boulton’s a pure pugilist, but Reasoner is a player who could have success in soft defensive zone minutes as a good face-off man, but they got caught out on the ice a lot and managed to get rung up for scoring chances against in the second and third periods. As much as we hate how much Carlyle leans on Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr at the start of games, he’s never quite obtuse enough to put them out down by 1 with 12 minutes to go against a line that had already scored three goals on the night. Yes, Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov played a full shift against the Islanders’ fourth line with 12 minutes to go. It lasted 50 seconds and MacArthur got a good scoring chance set up by Kadri.
-In total, the chances were 16-11 for Toronto. They got the two OT chances and New York got a penalty shot, so at 5-on-5 it was 14-10. My policy on “penalty shots” for divvying up on-ice scoring chance for and against numbers is to treat the penalty shot as a chance that happened when the call was made. In tonight’s case, Michael Grabner got a good shot away even after being hooked by Phil Kessel, so the Leafs who were out for the breakdown leading to the breakaway got credited for two scoring chances against.
-Toronto won the “score close” chance battle 10-7 and it was tied 6-6 at even strength. Despite Toronto carrying the flow of play in the first period I thought, the Islanders did a better job getting inside and had some good bounces to get a 6-3 edge in quality shots. Toronto kept it up and won the counts in the second and the third as chances began to catch up with puck possession.
-I watched the MSG+ broadcast—the Islanders feed—which was beyond awful. Butch Goring, who has colour commentator duties, was drooling about hits and toughness all night. It wasn’t a physical game, but he kept bringing up hit statistics. He said that the only way the Islanders could get back into the game was if Eric Boulton was able to get a fight started with Orr or McLaren. He understood why neither Orr or McLaren wanted to fight, since it would obviously result in the Islanders getting momentum. He talked about how Paul Henderson scored the winning goals for Canada in Games 3 and 4 of the 1972 series. He said Phil Kessel has skill, but lacks passion, and that his tenure with the Leafs has been a disappointment. He couldn’t name Toronto’s first line centreman. He was essentially every common, idiot commentator rolled into one. He was the deluxe pizza of awful, hitting every miserable taste bud.
-Answer this in the comments, please: is green pepper and black olives really a good pizza combination? I like sausage and onions with pepperoni especially if they’re spicy, but the peppers and black olives dull the flavour.
-Credit where credit is due: Colton Orr looked pretty good tonight. He even got a couple of shots on goal, one from in tight, although his “+1” and assist were earned by standing around while James van Riemsdyk took a couple of whacks in front of the net. Also good: David Steckel. He set up two chances and drove the play on the third line. Got a primary assist on the van Riemsdyk goal and set up van Riemsdyk’s first chance on that sequence. I was worried though, that Carlyle would keep that line together.
-One thing Carlyle did at the end of the second was put Dion Phaneuf with Mike Kostka and Korbinian Holzer with Carl Gunnarsson. Just for a few shifts. The pairings were back to normal a few minutes later. Cody Franson and Mark Fraser had a couple of bad bounces their way, but they both did come away with a +7/-4 differential, although much of it was thanks to being on the ice at the same time as Kadri generally. Cody Franson did break up a 2-on-1 and knocked down a stretch pass that would have hit Grabner. He had a very good game and has been the Leafs’ best defenceman this season. The third pairing was a black hole this season, and Franson’s been able to bring it back into plus territory playing with a guy who should be in the AHL.
-The first line have some weird chance totals. This is thanks to the penalty shot that was some kind of fire drill. They suffered most of the chances from New York’s first line and straight up aren’t as good as them. Even if the defence wasn’t there, the offence was back from Kessel after a three-game absence. He took three shots and a pair of attempts missed the net, and two were counted chances. Bozak went just 6-of-19 in the face-off circle, a 32% rate which has to be his worst on the season. Got crushed 7-1 against Nielsen. Given Nielsen’s struggles between the whistles this year, that cost the first line some chances for sure.
-Since it was a one-goal game, I’d normally have an Islander on the three stars. Unfortunately, the only line that had a positive differential was their first line, and they didn’t manage a goal. I thought for a while of putting Lubomir Visnovsky there since he set up a couple of attempts in the third period, but ultimately decided to go with three Leafs, since they were the better team all night.
-Individual scoring chance differentials:
|JOE BOWENS||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||5||4||1|
|HOWIE ROSES||Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||3 (3)||6 (6)||5 (5)||2||16 (14)|
|NY Islanders (EV)||6 (5)||1 (1)||4 (4)||0||11 (10)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Nazem Kadri
- Cody Franson
- Dion Phaneuf