Leafs postgame – Toronto win in regulation! In Boston!

 

The Isotopes win a road game in regulation! The Isotopes win a road game in regulation! The Isotopes win a road game in regulation!

The Toronto Maple Leafs had two opponents Tuesday night: the Boston Bruins, and a very stubborn clock that just couldn’t tick down fast enough in the final seconds. Despite being down twice in the first period, the Leafs came back and stuck to their gameplan—they got goals on the powerplay, saddled onto Jonathan Bernier’s back and held on as he giddy-upped across the finish line. 

Toronto won 4-3. Bernier put together his second consecutive strong start, the game was entertaining, nerve-racking and physical, and Tyler Bozak stayed hotter than a cute girl mowing down suicide wings. Recap below.

THE RUNDOWN 

I took notes and everything, expecting to highlight flaws in Toronto’s defensive zone coverage but it’s pretty difficult to do because Boston moved the puck so poorly and didn’t often find those soft areas of the ice. Still, Toronto gave up a goal just under four minutes in after Dion Phaneuf had no support along the far wall, creating an easy turnover and a Brad Marchand goal (HIM?!?).

Toronto quickly got that back on a great decision by Randy Carlyle to ice his first line as Boston’s fourth unit was caught on the ice after an icing call. Carlyle all year has been stubborn about matching up 4th lines on 4th lines, but spotted the chance to get Phil Kessel on the ice and avoid the long reach and overall dominance of Zdeno Chara:

(I watched the Boston broadcast, and for those of you not understanding why, it’s because I loaded up that clip and got to listen to Greg Millen explain that it’s really Dennis Seidenberg who is the thorn in Kessel’s side, not Chara.)

Anyway, the Bruins got one right back after Carl Gunnarsson and Bozak couldn’t complete a pass on a breakout, leading to a breakdown in coverage, a missed net by Chara, no puck recover by the Leafs and a wraparound goal by Patrice Bergeron, who has been a Leaf-killer recently. 

Toronto would get a powerplay before the period was out and scored within 50 seconds after some excellent puck movement. I love the sequence, warping the Bruins’ box into a position it isn’t supposed to be in (I couldn’t write that without it sounding gross) and Bozak, to his credit, murdered the empty net:

That’s 3 creating speed, to 21, to 4, to 81, to 42, to 21, to 42, with the last five passes coming in a six-second span. The second Leafs powerplay goal, in the second, was familiar, a long pass from Kessel across the offensive zone right onto the tape of Jake Gardiner who got a great look, but was a shot Tuukka Rask probably should have stopped. Toronto took a 3-2 lead going into the third despite being out-shot (yadda yadda we’ve heard this before). 

Start of the third, James van Riemsdyk got the Leafs a 4-2 lead with another shot from a good area, but again, one that Rask usuall gets to. The Leafs benefit from an off-night from Rask. After Daniel Paille made it 4-3, the Leafs were able to hang on killing off a late powerplay, getting the worst of the scoring chances on their own late powerplay, and a wild final game sequence with a couple of big missed shots and a block by Tim Gleason on a Torey Krug rip. 

WHY THE LEAFS WON

The powerplay was great. They scored two goals, but also generated eight shots in 8:09 of 5-on-4 time. Generally “one shot a minute” is very good, and they would have had much better numbers if we forgot that the last PP of the game they had didn’t even exist (with Matt Bartkowski in the box for hooking, the Bruins out-attempted the Leafs 3-0 and Johnny Boychuk knocked James van Riemsdyk’s glove into the stands on a hip check).

To their credit, the Bruins had a pretty good powerplay as well, with 6 shots in 6:00. Three of those shots came on the first one of the game, and you figured after watching that chance-laden PP that Boston might get a powerplay goal back, but Bernier remained strong and the Leafs PK unit tightened up on the next two.

Then there was Bernier. He made the one unbelievable save off David Krejci on one of the Bruins’ PP sequences:

(For the record, the NHL play-by-play, which is normally pretty good with shots and missed shots, recorded this as a miss by Krejci, but it was Bernier’s best stop on the night)

Bernier probably should have got the second Bruins goal, but his positioning was very sound all night and stopped 38 of 41, with most of those shots looking harmless because Bernier was where he was supposed to be. Perhaps the Bruins could have picked corners better, but they didn’t. The NESN broadcast had the chances at 19-13 for Boston midway through the third and that matched my eyes: Boston had the better opportunities and better looks from the right areas, but it came down to finishing. Also helping the Leafs out was a couple of good defensive plays off of two-on-ones, with Cody Franson deflecting away one cross-ice pass and Phil Kessel rushing back for an excellent backcheck on Iginla in the second frame.

BLUE WARRIOR

Gleason took a couple of hard shot blocks, but was otherwise alright. He led the Leafs in Corsi with a 44.8% rate and went down hard right at the end, throwing his upper body* in front of that Krug shot. He was on a pairing with Cody Franson that looked pretty good for most of the night, matching up against the Krejci line that had lots of zone time, but didn’t manage to score.

* – stood there. Whatever.

NUMB3RS AND NOTES

Fenwick graphs are always fun. Yeah, that’ll happen when you’re a lousy possession team and you have a lead on a good possession team. For those new to this, the lines indicate the progression of unblocked shot totals throughout the game. Boston finished with a 57-30 advantage, and 44-18 at 5-on-5. Here’s the Game Page at ExtraSkater, and here are some observations:

  • The Leafs at least kept their own shot totals reasonable thanks to the strong powerplay, and getting more PP opportunities than the opposition. It was just like the start of the season, letting the other team make the silly mistakes.
     
  • James van Riemsdyk took eight shots on net and drew a penalty to go along with the one he took. Fairly productive game, as long as you forget that defence is also part of the game. That sort of goes for the rest of the first line: while Bozak led all Leafs forwards being on the ice for 10 shot attempts for at 5-on-5, he was also on the ice for 25 against.
     
  • Phaneuf-Gunnarrson got crushed in possession, but it didn’t wind up really costing the team. The Marchand-Bergeron-Smith line got eight shots on goal.
     
  • It was the big names that drove the offence for the Leafs, but I thought Mason Raymond was good, despite the numbers. He drew a penalty and didn’t shy away from taking hits to make plays. He had just 11.4 minutes, which I guess is an occupational hazard of playing alongside Nazem Kadri.
     
  • If you have a chance, check out Peter Holland’s zone exit with 46 seconds to go in the second period. I’ll throw up a Youtube video at some point tomorrow (don’t have time tonight, so remind me tomorrow) but it was onions. Trust me.
     
  • Leafs move back into a Wild Card spot with the win, a point ahead of the Detroit but the idle Red Wings have two games in hand. The Flyers beat the Sabres and the Capitals got a pity point against the Sharks, so the Wings are the only team the Leafs surpass.
  • Steven Tzemis

    This comes straight from my Neanderthal/reptilian brain:
    I can stand some screw ups, missed assignments and losses… as long and we beat Boston.

    Oh…. I hate those Boston guys!

  • Steven Tzemis

    I wasn’t impressed with Bernier. Reimer would have posted a shutout easy tonight. And Caryle has hurt the chances for playoff by overplaying Bernier. Reimer would have won the bulk of the shootout games in regulation. And taken a few losses to shootout. I don’t know why Randy plays Bernier so much.

    That said, I though the turning point in the game tonight was the Mclaren fight. And recall, I pointed out the season turning points was that Orr fight in Washington. They lost the game, but since that important fight, the leafs have started playing better.

    • Back in Black

      I’m not sure that I understand the point of the “kesselkadri” pseudonym. Is it supposed to be parody? Or is it just a terrible attempt at trolling?

  • Steven Tzemis

    Can’t admit Bozak had a great game huh? 4 goals in 2 games, one wrongly called back.

    3 key points against a tough opponent, where Grabovksi was -10 in the playoffs last year. -3 in the last 10 mins of game 7.

    I think Bozak is laughing at you Cam.

      • Margo Tzemis

        Here’s something more factual.

        Almost 24 mins tonight, saved a goal in the last minute that we could have used in game 7 last year.

        24 games, 22 points. +5. One good goal called back Sunday. 23 points actually.

        3 against Boston, not Edmonton….and a Win.

        Those are facts.

      • To me the Leafs played with speed most of the night. There was a time in the first and last period that the Leafs were chasing the Bruins. Also Lupul when asked about being outshot in the first period said and I think it is notable that”A lot of the shots were from the perimeter and we collapsed to stop the close in ones” or something to that effect. You can not just count shots and say that the Leafs played a poor game. Kessel made a heck of a play to get back on Iginla to spoil his shot and he even hit Chara just to prove he aint quitting and that is what I saw last night, basically no quit and I also thought that there was a goal that Bernier looked ordinary at best on.

  • STAN

    This is a strange team.

    They manhandle the Black Hawks a few weeks ago because they emulated the Hawks non-stop skating and puck pressure, then proceeded to basically go in the dumper for two weeks.

    Now, the other Stanley Cup finalist from 2013 is the opponent and, voila, a win, even if they barely hung on and were badly outshot and out-chanced. AGAIN.

    I think Bozak’s time away from this Carlyle dysfunction did him a world of good. He’s become a solid, point a game player.

    A big, dominant centre should still be on Nonis’s wish list (should have been his priority last summer, but instead he cherry-picked the ghost of David Clarkson) along with a blue-chip D-man.

    Hopefully Nonis will try to get something for Fraser and Ranger because Percy and Brennan are ready for the big time.

  • Margo Tzemis

    Bozak is having a heck of a season. Guess haters will always hate. Hard to admit you are wrong I guess. Right Dangle?

    Did you actually miss Grabovski’s -10 in the last 10 mins of the game tonight?

  • STAN

    Just a quick free agent personnel note.

    Ryan Clowe, injured to begin his 5-season stint in New Jersey at more than $5M per, was effectively the replacement for the departing David Clarkson.

    So-called ‘experts’ argued it was FAR too much for a player (Clowe) who scored once last season. But at least it was only for 5 years, not 7.

    Well?

    After getting healthy, he’s played 16 games, has 9 points and is MINUS 4.

    That, sadly, is a significant upgrade over DC, who is now Leaf Nation’s nightmare until 2020.

  • Interestingly, I had a paragraph drawn up about Bozak and how my trivia team answered a question about Miley Cyrus’ birth name (Destiny) correctly Monday night, but I figured there are enough people who will give him credit as scoring two goals and recording an assist.

    The Blue Warrior is sort of off-beat. If you want “First Star”, you can go check the Boxscore at NHL.com. They will tell you who scored twice, or whatever.

    I don’t want to turn every thread into a “Bozak vs. Grabovski” match. I thought Bozak played well, and his play on JvR’s goal was more impressive than any of his two goals because it was something that not all of us could do (hitting empty nets = tough!). I brought up, for the people that have trouble reading past the headline, how he was exceptional at puck possession in the three games after he returned from injury, but it appears he’s moved back to the mean now and it’s always going to be worth noting how he still gets killed when he’s away from Kessel. But that’s nothing new, and who cares.

    Also, Grabovski scored goals 8 and 9 on the year November 29 and December 8, which was more than a month ago, so… (but don’t worry. David Clarkson scored his goals No. 8 and 9 earlier than that, I’m sure, so all of Dave Nonis’ stupid, indefensible decisions in the offseason are vindicated, because they won a midseason game against Boston on the heels of another outstanding goaltender performance).

  • Back in Black

    @STAN “A big, dominant centre should still be on Nonis’s wish list”

    His and every other NHL team’s wish list. Has any team ever had too many big, dominant centres?