Eliot J. Schechter/NHLInteractive via Getty
I can see narrative-spinners right now suggesting that since the Maple Leafs won a game despite getting out-shot and lost a game after out-shooting the opponent, there’s no reason to suggest that out-shooting opponents is bad. That’s not exactly the case. The Leafs controlled the game territorially until they took a 4-goal lead, and at that point they took their collective feet off of a very large gas pedal.
It wasn’t much of a game tonight at the BB&T Center. For one, the Florida Panthers are a really bad team, that still have some of their top guys injured and mostly made up of players from the draft you didn’t watch because you were without cable because you were broke from your fourth year of university and spending your first summer away from home*.
And it was a rout. The Leafs came out with some new lines that will be overanalyzed tomorrow, but overall the team played a great 25 minutes and that’s all they really had to do. They took a 4-0 lead, got three or four big stops from James Reimer in the game’s waning minutes and won by the same 4-0 score, eventually getting out-chanced and out-shot as the minutes ticked away.
*I guess I should point out that my experiences probably don’t match the experiences of the collective. After a while we found a cheap TV and plugged it into the wall and it turns out the previous tenants forgot to cancel their basic cable service.
-This was a boring game made great by its early going. Towards the end of the game you could hear TVs around North America flip to other, more meaningful games. New York and Carolina! Winnipeg and Montreal! #Lumbus and Dallas! Games that will determined legitimate playoff fates. As I’m writing this now, it looks like Toronto will finish fifth and play on the road against Montreal, so Game No. 48 of the season probably won’t even matter except for bragging rights and message-sending.
-Speaking of that message-sending, what Mark Fraser did to Alex Petrovic is precisely why you don’t need Colt Knorr in the lineup. Petrovic, who is apparently a top-pairing defenceman on Florida, took a swing at Kadri. Before The Dream could get his gloves off, Fraser came up from behind him and wrestled Petrovic to the ice as fists flew elsewhere.
-Colt Knorr didn’t go after Petrovic after that, but neither did anybody go after Kadri. Of course, Petrovic played just four shifts in the third period so there wasn’t really an opportunity, but I was worried when that incident happened that the game would just get more tedious. Thankfully, it didn’t. Cooler heads prevailed, everybody toughened up and let the minutes drain away.
-Prior to the start of the game, Randy Carlyle moved Nazem Kadri onto the first line with Phil Kessel, swapped James van Riemsdyk with Joffrey Lupul and went with a first line some Leafs fans have wanted all year. I hope that line gets a chance together on Saturday so we can see what they’re made of in a close game. This two-on-one was a thing of beauty:
-Kessel scored his second, and his 19th on the year, after Kadri completely whiffed on a puck in front and it bounced off of Mike Weaver right onto Phil Kessel’s stick. At the start of the year, that would have been the kind of play that Kadri would have scored on, thereby leaving Kessel goal-less and people wondering why he wasn’t scoring. Sometimes you get on runs where the puck just finds you in good spots on the ice. That goal ended whatever hope the Panthers had. They will finish 30th, they have a 25 per cent chance of getting the first overall pick and they will probably select either Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon.
-But here’s the thing: Florida’s young guys weren’t really “on” in this one. When they did get chances, it wasn’t Drew Shore or Jonathan Huberdeau or Quinton Howden doing it. Their only good line on the night was made up of veterans Scottie Upshall, Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille. All three at one point were highly-regarded prospects that never became stars. But they became good hockey players on a bad team.
-Other than the re-structured first line, I liked, for the second consecutive game, that makeshift third-or-fourth line of Joe Colborne with Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur. I like Frattin. Never thought he was Top Six material and still don’t, but love the idea of having him in a depth spot since he gives an honest effort, has some skill and finishing ability. Clarke MacArthur hasn’t found a permanent role with the Leafs, bouncing around on all four lines as well as being a healthy scratch at points throughout the season. It’s unfortunate that he only has one game and change left with the Leafs as they don’t seem too interested on re-signing him.
-I’m not going to take too much joy in Kessel getting two goals playing without Tyler Bozak. For one, it was against the Panthers, for two, we’re judging about 25 minutes of ice time against the worst team in the NHL.
-Not much more to talk about. Fraser was ejected and Dion Phaneuf still played a season-low in ice-time. The Leafs rolled four lines and all of them played pretty well, or as good as they had to. Next up is Saturday’s (most likely meaningless) contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
-Mike Kostka’s stat line was incredible. 23:43 of ice time, plus-3 in scoring chance differential and started 11 shifts in the defensive zone to five in the offensive end. I love that pairing with him and John-Michael Liles and the fact they don’t play together against second and third line players is insane.
-Again, don’t pay too much mind into the shot differential statistics. That’s why we look at “Tied” and “Close” statistics when comparing teams. When teams are behind, like the Panthers often are, they take a lot more shots and generate chances off those shots. Sometimes goals. But not very many. They’re the Panthers.
Individual Scoring Chances:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||2||1||1|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||9 (9)||2 (2)||1 (1)||12 (12)|
|Florida (EV)||3 (3)||5 (2)||6 (5)||14 (10)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Joe Colborne
- Scottie Upshall
- Mike Kostka