Leafs win in regulation despite Justin Bieber’s attendance

Forget Bieber. Check out the dude in the brown sweater. "Well hello there."

Alright. There’s plenty to complain about. The Leafs allowed 43 shots from the Carolina Hurricanes. The ‘Canes are 13th in the east and 25th in the league. Offensively? They’re worse! Third-last (aka 28th). They can’t score on a barn door this season and they still fired the kitchen sink at Toronto IN Toronto.

But scew it! The Leafs finally get a regulation win. Let’s enjoy it.

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Phil Kessel scored the lone goal of the first period with what I’m going to call an "awesome fluke." Was it a fluke? Sure, but it was awesome. We’ll look at the actual video later in this post (for good reason).

Nathan Gerbe scored for Carolina just 1:36 into the second to tie it. Why the Buffalo Sabres decided to use one of their compliance buyouts on Nathan Gerbe, I will never understand. He didn’t have a great season last year, but with one year left, his contract wasn’t such a disaster that a buyout needed to happen. Now? He’s currently fourth on the Hurricanes in scoring. Not bad.

The Leafs responded with two goals in just over a minute. JVR and Kessel (and Bozak) combined for a dirty goal, and Nikolai Kulemin followed it up with a cracker to put the Leafs up 3-1. An unfortunate deflection off a Justin Faulk shot brought Carolina within one after two.

Paul Ranger – yes, Paul Ranger – fired home an insurance marker five minutes into the third, David Clarkson missed an empty-net but Mr. $49 million Dion Phaneuf finished the job. Leafs win 5-2!

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Goaltending for sure, but even though the Leafs were outshot in each period, they weren’t helpless offensively, either. They mustered 27 shots and took advantage of their chances, as well as some luck. Kessel’s first goal was some luck, Kessel’s second goal was sweet.

I’ll take some flack for this, but screw it – Tyler Bozak had a good game.


Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves and was named the first star of the game. The "Leafs goalie saves day" headline isn’t news, so let’s focus on the rest.

Let’s do what might be a first on this site and name Tyler Bozak player of the game.

Tyler Bozak’s return was obviously a welcome sight for Phil Kessel, as the man they call Bozie earned three assists. I’ve already seen people on Twitter ragging on Bozak’s return. I’ve already seen people anticipating the Toronto media exaggerating Bozak’s performance just because he put some points up. You know what? Fine. Whatever. Reporters going after an easy narrative isn’t exactly new either. But he played well. He earned those assists, did he not?

Let’s look at the goals he assisted on. 

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This is interesting to me. One part of the third episode of 24/7 was Randy Carlyle lecturing the team for not helping centres win faceoffs. On this draw, we see Bozak battling away and unable to come out with a clean faceoff win. What happens next? Kessel jumps in, gets a couple chances, and one of them goes in. Was it a gorgeous tape-to-tape saucer pass? No, but Bozak earned the assist.

Here’s assist two.

This was a great combination of luck and beauty. Gardiner fires a long stretch pass to Bozak, and he acts fast. It’s more of a nudge than a real pass, but with little time and space, Bozak gets it to van Riemsdyk. It wasn’t the cleanest reception, but luckily JVR is a monster and he fed Kessel for the bank-in goal. It’s a secondary assist, but again, Bozak earned it. 

Here’s assist three.

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This was a combination of the Hurricanes being awful and the Leafs working hard. Nikolai Kulemin barely stays onside as Clarkson enters the zone. A few moments later, the puck is on Kulemin’s stick and two Hurricanes are staring at him flat-footed. Bozak flies in from a line change to receive the pass and creates a scoring chance immediately by throwing it in front to Clarkson. That’s a no-go, but Bozak stays on it and knocks the puck to Paul Ranger. Ranger Danger puts it a shot on while Clarkson creates a screen in front, and there’s the dagger. Bozak’s pass to Ranger isn’t going to make Joe Thornton jealous, but hell, it worked, right? Side note – really watch the Hurricanes on this play. Woof.

Advanced stats are often unkind to Bozak, but his underlying numbers were alright tonight, too. His Corsi was 17 for and 21 against, which isn’t good, but compared to his teammates he came out well in that category. In terms of traditional stats, he’s got 14 points in 17 games, which ain’t half bad at all.

Maybe it’s the eggnog talking, but Bozak had a fine game.


Well the third period sucked, but hey.

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Via ExtraSkaters.com  

  • Another pretty unpopular opinion is defending Paul Ranger. Has he had a good season? No, he hasn’t. But he’s got eight points in 33 games as a third-pairing defenceman. That’s OK. If he cuts down on the defensive brain farts and poor pinches, I think he can still be a fine NHL defenceman.
  •  Colton Orr played 5:35 and took just eight shifts. The Leafs had just two shot attempts for with him on the ice, and eight against. Stop the madness.
  •  The Carolina trio of Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Tuomo Ruutu were on for three Leafs goals and none of theirs. Rough night at the office.
  • Have the Leafs been good lately? No. But guess what – they’ve got point in five straight games (3-0-2). 
  • Phil Kessel has 20 goals in 41 games. He’s on pace for his first 40-goal season as a Leaf. Will he make it?
  • The next game is the Winter Classic, FYI.

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  • I think you’re a little unfair to Ranger. His brain farts are noticeable, so we say he sucks, but from a Corsi perspective he’s been among the Leafs best D-men, and is a good PKer. He’s comfortably a bottom pairing guy.

    As for Bozak, I’m not sure how he earned the 1st assist. It was a clean loss on a draw that Kessel turned into a win. Regardless, he played well tonight, so it’s hard to complain.

    • You’re right that his numbers aren’t that bad, but there isn’t a stat kept for “Goals that were totally this dudes fault.” He’d be one of the team’s leaders.

      I think I was fair. I said he’s been bad, but not that bad, and that I think he’s capable of being better.

      • I’m very leary of stats like that, because they’re so dependent on 1) memory and 2) goaltending. If Bernier or Reimer make some saves on those opportunities, this doesn’t come up (not that I’m blaming them, or absolving Ranger of his issues). I think too many fans are taking the easy way out of seeing Ranger make a mistake, and taking note of it, while ignoring when Gardiner or Rielly (who I love, but is out of position a LOT) mess up.

        I think we agree that Ranger is a bottom pairing guy, and comfortably an NHLer, but it’s annoying to see people spout that he’s been our worst defenseman on a team that employed Mark Fraser (not saying you said that, just a general comment)

    • If you watch the video again, it looks like Bozak knocks the puck forward eventually after battling during the faceoff. Safe to say that more than likely if Kadri was taking that draw, the puck doesn’t end up on Kessel’s stick and eventually into the back of the net on that play. I like Kadri but he just doesn’t have Bozak’s ability to battle like that as of yet.

      • Kadri also has a higher FO% than Bozak does this year, to be fair.

        Like I said, I’m not going to complain when Bozak plays well, but let’s not pretend that he has any more chemistry with Phil than Kadri does.

        • Jeremy Ian

          I’m aware of fo % this year but Bozak has been historically far better and he does have a knack for winning battles in the dot and along the boards. Kadri can do these things too but just isnt yet strong enough to be as consistent as Bozak.

          Also, you don’t have to pretend that Bozak has string chemistry with Kessel, that is just reality for various reasons.

  • Good to see Bozak get some much deserved credit. I really don’t understand some of the hyperbole that is put out there against him. Garbage like “he’s not an NHL player”, Bozak singlehandedly destroyed the leafs Cap situation, bc he makes just over 4M per, etc. Most of the hyperbole comes from Leaf blogs and the Twittersphere, and it is simply amazing how many people have bought into this. The mainstream media is very reasonable when it comes to Bozak. No one says he is the ideal top line Centre and he is an All Star. Most simply say he is a good 2nd liner who plays well with the Leafs best player. The hatred needs to stop as it has started to discredit a lot of people who subscribe to, and promote a lot of the negativity.

  • You’ve been pretty outspoken about how unimpressed you’ve been thus far with Clarkson. How’d you think he did this game?

    Personally, I feel like this is one of the first times he was noticeable at all. I thought this was his hardest fought game for sure.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Curious to see if the Ranger-Rielly works for both; open-minded but I still think Liles is the better pairing option with Rielly as the Leafs need more offense coming from the blue line (though of late they are starting to get it).

    Replace Orr with Ashton. D’Amigo-Holland had some good stuff going. A feisty, young 4th line would give a lot of opponents fits.

    In fact, D’Amigo just plain good. He’s impressing me.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Yeah, the only rub is that I’d like to see less time for McClement so he can restore his PK. I’d say either give the 4th line a lot more time with Holland in the middle and D’Amigo and Ashton on wings, or put Holland on 3rd and economize on the 4th line with McClement in the middle and on PK.

        But don’t bury D’Amigo and Holland on a line with a dragging anchor. Seems self-defeating to me; leaves the 3rd line sluggish, condemns McClement to too many minutes, and wastes Holland and D’Amigo.

  • STAN

    hey steve i have a question, this whole season i feel like ive heard everyone mention all the leafs players, the good the bad, but theres one leafs i never hear anyone talk about.. gunnarsson, what are your thoughts on him?