Starting the season with back-to-back road games probably wasn’t ideal, but now the Leafs are 2-0-0 and heading home for their opener at the ACC on Saturday night. This game looked like it could be a nightmare early, but thanks to two third period goals from Dave Bolland and a fantastic outing from Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs edged out the Flyers in their own barn.
The Leafs came out flat in this one. Often we hear players talk about road games and how they’ll need weather the first ten minutes and go from there. Toronto weathered the entire first period and were lucky to get out trailing only 1-0 after a late powerplay goal by Brayden Schenn. Bernier was sharp, turning away 14 pucks otherwise in the opening frame.
Things turned around a little early in the second period with the Leafs settling down, similar to the way they did in the Canadiens game, and they were rewarded with Kessel’s first of the season, on his birthday no less. Bernier faced a few good chances, including a penalty shot attempt from Wayne Simmonds that he turned away like it was warmup. The Leafs outshot the Flyers 9-7 in the second.
Bolland put the Leafs in the lead right away in the third. After that they went into shutdown mode and leaned heavily on Franson, Gunnarsson and Phaneuf, each clocking over 22 minutes on the night. Bolland then put the game away on the powerplay in the last minute of play.
Why the Leafs won
Jonathan Bernier and the penalty kill, mostly. The Leafs were undisciplined in this one and got into penalty trouble, giving the Flyers seven powerplays. Philadelphia got one with the man-advantage, but that was it. This game probably could have been 3-0 Flyers early but the Leafs escaped the storm and came back to grab a lead, defend it well, and now they head home to face Ottawa with four points in the bank.
A lot has been made of the potential goalie battle in Toronto, and this game will kick that to a new level after Bernier followed up Reimer’s great performance with one of his own. Bernier’s been described as calm and efficient in the net, and that was certainly on display tonight in his 31-save performance (.969 sv%). I’m not sure who Randy will go with on Saturday for the home opener. Bernier played a heck of a game.
- I felt like the Leafs’ top two lines looked sloppy at even-strength in the first game and early in this one, but they started to look better midway through. Still not moving the puck well though.
- I don’t know about Paul Ranger. I’m nervous.
- TSN ran a quick segment about Lupul prior to the game, where he said he can now do things on the ice he couldn’t five years ago. Tell me about it.
- Cody Franson might be the best defenceman on this team.
- Dave Bolland has looked solid to start the year. A few people mentioned they didn’t notice him in the Montreal game, but I thought that was a good thing. He gets rewarded for some good play with two goals tonight.
- Fraser left the game after hitting his head against the boards early in the third. Didn’t return.
- The Leafs were outshot 32-25 overall but were ahead at evens 21-17