Leafs postgame – Toronto come back from three down, lose in OT

I didn’t get a great look at this hockey game, juggling cooking dinner during play (quesadillas!) with running errands during intermissions, so I can’t really go too in depth tonight other than what my eyes (somewhat) told me and also what the statistics say.

Basically, the CBC has led me to believe that the Winnipeg Jets are hotter than a quesadilla loaded with Sriracha sauce ever since firing Claude Noel and putting former Toronto bench boss Paul Maurice behind the bench. Maurice has the Jets playing better hockey, if better hockey means “riding your hot goalie”. 

The Jets got out to a 4-1 lead over Toronto, but the Leafs fought back with two goals by the end of the second period and a late tying (read: clutch [!!]) goal by Phil Kessel to tie the score and send it to overtime. Dustin Byfuglien, however, ended the game with a hard wrist shot from just inside the blue line moments after Evander Kane hit the crossbar. There was a lot going on and, to step back from it, it was pretty entertaining, all in all.

THE RUNDOWN

I may have to watch this mess when it’s available in 48 hours to break down certain aspects, but presumably I’ll get too lazy to do it. Given the circumstances, with Toronto at the end of a tough four-game Western road trip, they did well to keep the shots on goal and possession somewhat even. Unfortunately, some reeeeeaaaaal bad miscues in the first period had the Leafs down 2-0 early. The first one was somewhat a bad bounce: Tim Gleason attempted to send the puck around the boards behind the net to the near side, where the Leafs had two men and the Jets had none, but the puck hit the referee and Plan B from Gleason was a pass right into Nik Kulemin’s skates. Kulemin was stripped and Mark Scheifele was left alone in the slot for a pass to give the Jets a 1-0 lead. 

The second goal may have been the worst thing ever done by Cody Franson. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen. 

The second period was wild. Toronto got one back on the powerplay. Some good puck-recovery work from Kessel set up a point shot by Dion Phaneuf, who blasted it through a screen to make the score 2-1, but the Jets got two of their own efforts from the outside: Bryan Little found some easy ice and redirected a slap pass from Tobias Enstrom, then Zach Bogosian let a weak shot from the point go that went through everybody, and that was (regrettably) the end of James Reimer, whose 2014 is not going as well as his 2013 did.

However, the Leafs ace up the sleeve was Ondrej Pavelec. Troy Bodie finished off a nice little passing play started by Nazem Kadri who carried three Jets into the zone, and then dished it off to the speedy Bodie for a nice wrist shot. Tim Gleason scored his first as a Leaf on a reeeeaaal bad effort from Pavelec:

In his defence, the puck hit Jacob Trouba a little, but it was also going painfully slow. Carter Ashton made a nice pass after controlling the puck in over the line, but Gleason didn’t exactly skate fluidly on to it and didn’t get a great shot away.

But hey, put pucks at net!

The Leafs got some great chances in the third, including a powerplay thanks to a puck-over-glass, but didn’t get any great scoring chances until late, and eventually Kessel tied it on a sharp angled shot:

Credit where credit is due: Tyler Bozak made a great play to strip Zach Bogosian of the puck, getting it to James van Riemsdyk, able to set up Kessel.

In OT, the Jets had both the chances. Evander Kane hit the post, and Dustin Byfuglien put the only puck past Jonathan Bernier on the night. 5-4 final.

WHY THE LEAFS LOST

Before the Phaneuf goal, James Reimer made an excellent save on a Jets shorthanded two-on-one. The Leafs had five PP chances on the night but converted just once, and had just four shots on goal which isn’t particularly impressive. Special teams let the Leafs down all night—they also allowed two goals and four shots in four minutes of Jets 5-on-4 time.

Reimer didn’t have a really good start, which is a problem, but you can’t always expect your goalies to steal you games. I thought Toronto did a good job of staying in it, shots-wise, with the Jets, and Pavelec made three real big saves in the early going: a glove save off Kessel, a pad save off Joffrey Lupul, and stopping Nik Kulemin on a breakaway (not necessarily in that order).

BLUE WARRIOR

I thought Carter Ashton had a good game in his 6:52. I can’t figure out for the life of me why he doesn’t get closer to ten minutes: he seems like a player that could contribute on a speedy fourth line geared a little more towards offence. Just the single shot on goal, but did come very close with about three minutes to go to tying the score before Kessel did.

NUMBERS AND NOTES

I gotta head out so won’t really parse through the Extra Skater data (or wait for all of it to be live) but it’s worth noting the Leafs crushed the Jets in shot attempts on the night. Partially score effects, but Toronto did a good job territorially in another game that they probably shouldn’t have. Granted, I know that won’t be enough to convince some people of the reliability of shot statistics, but Toronto was getting chances early, they just needed more of them to eventually start going in.

Worth noting that with Montreal’s loss and Toronto’s point, the Leafs climb ahead of the Habs for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Habs have some games in hand, but they also have their own shot differential problems to worry about, too.

    • Cam Thornton

      I love the guy too but he still has to perform. Too many pucks have been just going through him lately. It’s not like RC hasn’t given him an opportunity. Hopefully he gets his game in order soon.

    • Leaf Fan in Mexico

      Totally agree man. Hurts to see him struggle a bit. THough I think only one goal was his fault on Sat.
      I think he just may be the type of goalie that needs to play regularly and get in a groove. Gotta be hard when you know if you have one bad period you’ll be pulled or one bad game and you won’t play again for 10 days.
      I don’t know why after setting a franchise record for save percentage last year, it was pretty clear from the start that the Leafs wanted Bernier to be the #1, despite having even less experience than Reimer.
      Anyhow, I want to see both succeed, I’m a Leafs fan, but I just don’t like how the Leafs brass did Reimer dirty.
      The job shoulda been Reimers to lose, as opposed to makin it pretty clear that Bernier was comin in to replace him.

  • Cam Thornton

    I gotta second your opinion of Ashtons game. The guy just works his tail off and seems like he will do whatever it takes to stay with the Leafs. You can see by his AHL numbers and the way he works the puck down low for the Leafs that he has the skill and work ethic to be given some more minutes. Heck, he’ll even fight anyone even though he routinely gets fed when he does this, but it’s not always winning a fight that counts.

      • Cam Thornton

        Agreed, who do you take out of the top 9 though? I guess Bodie, but Bodie has played really well too. Another solid move by Nonis time bring Bodie in by the way. For all the people accusing MLSE and Lewiecki of Nepotism, Bodie has kind of put those complaints to rest.

  • I don’t get the posturing on the goalie in leaf nation back and forth.

    Reimer’s .789 tonight is not stealing a game and it is not even giving the team a chance to win. Bernier’s .923 did give the team a chance to win and he let in a bad goal at the end.

    Reimer did a lot for the team last year by getting them into the playoffs. And like others have said, he has to put together a series of good games or perform well when Bernier is pulled to warrant further starts and instill confidence.

    As of now I have little confidence in Reimer when he starts and I can imagine the coaching staff feels the same. That can change, and it is up to Reimer who has been given a number of opportunities to challenge Bernier, to prove that he play consistently and at a high level.

  • We have to stick to Bernier for rest of the season to give stability to Leafs goal tending strategy.

    I am a big fan of Reimer but I think he lost his hold during this season due to competition with Bernier.

    My assessment is that Bernier a bit little better than Reimer skillwise but he is way stronger mentally. RC should now stick to Bernier.

    Lupul is the biggest disappointment of the season. He is only 10% of his last years performance. We need a solid second line. Kadri is young, Bolland is injured, Clarkson needs better players in his line to perform better per Steve Dangle. All this lead to a chance of changes in the team.

    • Leaf Fan in Mexico

      Would never say pathetic, Dion at least pretty much always brings his best effort to each game, its just that he is not a leader in the true sense of the word.

      Leadership is a big part of the Leaf’s problems which is easy to identify but difficult to fix: they are no greater than the sum of their parts when the elite teams are consistently greater that the total effort of each individual.

      You can point to coaching or to team culture, or to the line up mix… there are many things you can do to try and shake a team up, but in my humble opinion, the Leafs need a leader who can motivate, drag, or embarrass his teammates to greater performance on a consistent basis.

      Dion I turn the stereo up louder Phaneuf?, Phil circle the outside of the hash marks looking to unload a great snap, or now where to be see Lupul?

      Leafs need a leader up front showing the way.

  • Reimer’s inability to handle the puck behind the net directly led to one of winnipeg’s goals – I think the 4th – and you can plainly see the D hesitate and be unsure whenever Reimer handles it.
    Bernier seems to have a calming effect on the team. He certainly does on me! haha
    I’d say ship Reimer off to Edmonton with a Defencemen for Scrivens and Same Gagner.

    • Yes and the leafs making the playoffs this year is also the same kind of fluke but now caused by so many other teams being terrible.

      Maybe it is these advanced stats that are the flukes. Using them to predict the leafs success is like using grit or # of fights to predict a winning season. They work every so often here and there but are not consistent enough to be trustworthy.

    • Leaf Fan in Mexico

      Them making the playoffs was no fluke. Just the shooting percentage and unreal goal tending. Nothing against Reimer, he’s great but the leafs consistently were out shot so that sort of goat ending was unsustainable. The leafs are always supposed to make the playoffs with the type of core they have now so it was not a fluke last season. I wish people would stop saying that. If the leafs are out of the playoffs at the end of the season then you can say I told you so but until then I am enjoying their 4th place spot.

    • Leaf Fan in Mexico

      Worst reasoning ever. Every other team played the same amount of games..there’s nothing ‘flukey’ about being good enough after 48 games to make the playoffs. Its not like the season was 5 games long