Photo via Jared Wickerham/NHL Interactive
We know this media market well enough to note that goaltending, goaltending, goaltending, has been a source of concern for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the years since the second lockout. The Leafs bounced through a number of names, including Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, several players brought in as “the No. 1 guy” to stabilize the position for the Leafs since the Curtis Joseph era led into the Ed Belfour one.
A guy fell out of the sky—James Reimer—and he has been nothing short of excellent for the team in net. While the Leafs have struggled in recent years, they haven’t with Reimer in net. Even with the perceived issues on defence, up front, with size, with grit, with commitment, with coaching… through all that, the Leafs are 45-28-13 when Reimer takes the net. That’s a 98-point pace.
Reimer let in somewhat of a softie to allow the Boston Bruins to tie the game 2-2. But Reimer was also the reason the game was 2-1 to begin with. When Nazem Kadri sprung Nik Kulemin leading to the 2-0 goal, that was the Leafs’ fifth scoring chance on the night. To that point, the Bruins had had nine. Reimer made big stops at the start of the second period on Danny Paille, Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Jordan Caron, but after the Leafs took the lead and the Bruins pressed, there was little he or the defence could do.
Ultimately, the Leafs dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Bruins. They take three of four possible points against Boston.
-So what happened in this game? Past the midway point, not a whole heck of a lot. The Bruins, like they did Saturday, held the run of play in the first period, but the Leafs were able to strike thanks to one breakdown. It was a fantastic pass from Jake Gardiner to Joffrey Lupul, fooling everybody, and getting a rare powerplay goal against the stifling Bruins penalty kill.
-Then Kadri sprung Kulemin to make it 2-0. Tuukka Rask wasn’t playing poorly, but he was getting out-goaltending. Reimer made a good number of saves off shots he wouldn’t have been faulted on had they gone in.
-Milan Lucic posterized Cody Franson, skating around him hardly needing to use his strength, and broke in alone to make it 2-1. In the third, the Bruins tied it on a bit of a broken play where Dougie Hamilton found himself behind the net, passing it out front to Patrice Bergeron, who whiffed on a backhander but it made it through Reimer regardless.
-The first thing I noticed in this game was that the Bruins split up their lines to add to their ailing top six. Claude Julien split up the deadly Seguin-Bergeron-Brad Marchand line, moving Danny Paille of all people up to that line. Paille played pretty well, taking five shots, but that line was missing an element. A good percentage of Leafs scoring chances came against that line, which is an anomaly given how strong Bergeron is at both ends.
-We’ll get to that later. Marchand went to play with David Krejci—Boston’s best player over this game and Saturday’s—and Nathan Horton. Milan Lucic was relegated to third line duty and Jay Pandolfo ended up with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton and that line hardly played.
-Nazem Kadri’s line with Joffrey Lupul and Nik Kulemin matched up primarily against Bergeron’s line. Claude Julien was fine with that matchup, as was Carlyle. Overall, the Leafs were out-chanced 2-3 with both Kadri and Bergeron on the ice, which I think is a pretty good rate considering how much Bergeron has crushed other Leafs lines this season.
-David Krejci has been wickedly dangerous for Beantown since coming back from injury. His line generated five scoring chances in this one, matched up against the Maple Leafs’ first line. Given how well Krejci’s line has been playing versus how poorly the Tyler Bozak line has done, that didn’t work out for Toronto. Krejci crushed the Bozak matchup.
-I didn’t even think Phil Kessel or James van Riemsdyk had their moments of brilliance next to Bozak tonight. No particular moment stood out for me from that line. They’ve been extremely silent over this recent stretch save for a couple of moments against Tampa Bay. I don’t know what’s wrong with them, but neither Kessel or van Riemsdyk are taking the good shots they were taking at the start of the season.
-Rich Peverley drew Mikhail Grabovski, and the scoring chances for Grabovski look bad, but he also played a bunch against the Krejci line. He was +1/-2 in chances against Peverley, but got killed +1/-4 against Krejci. Not a lot of answers. Even him, Clarke MacArthur and Kessel, who I think should be the Leafs first line, were caught on the ice for a couple of chances by the Bruins. Sometimes you have bad games. Grabovski had a bad game. He had a great rush in the overtime, but got his signals crossed twice with Mike Kostka.
-Bit of a learning curve for Kostka getting back in the lineup. In the first half of the game him and his defensive partner Jake Gardiner gave up a lot of shots and a lot of quality opportunities, and this was noticed by the TSN broadcast who were on fine form tonight. I couldn’t pick apart an issue of Kostka’s game, just that the play was in the wrong end of the ice.
-Cody Franson and Mark Fraser have been bad for a few games now. Not an easy assignment against Krejci.
-Not sure what else to add. I thought the Leafs played well enough in the second half of the game to earn the point, but they started real slow. They gave up a lot of shots and got their goaltender making saves early. Those are the kind of games where if your goalie isn’t on, you’re down 1 or 2-0 before everybody’s into the game. Eventually, Gardiner-Kostka settled down and the Leafs didn’t give up a scoring chance after the 10:35 mark of the third period, but the damage was mostly done at that point and the Leafs had squandered away a lead. That happens to every team, but these points the Leafs are dropping lately are increasing in importance.
-Individual on-ice scoring chance differentials:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||1||5||-4|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||2 (2)||4 (3)||2 (1)||2||10 (6)|
|Boston (EV)||5 (4)||10 (9)||3 (2)||0||18 (15)|
LeafsNation Three Stars
- David Krejci
- James Reimer
- Zdeno Chara