Sochi is over, and now that we’ve gotten “complain about practice” out of the way, it’s time to focus on what actually matters; NHL hockey! Granted, it’s debatable whether an already bottom-of-the-standings New York Islanders really count as an NHL team without superstar John Tavares, but that should make this game pretty automatic, no? Not so much, as it headed to overtime. Not just that, Lubomir Visnovsky ensured the Leafs walked away with just one point in a 5-4 loss.
Just seven minutes into the game, Phil Kessel reminded everybody why he’s one of the best players in the world and fired one of his trademark wrist shots past Evgeni Nabokov for his 32nd goal of the year.
This lead lasted nine minutes, as the Islanders tied it up on a 5-on-4 situation. The thing that looks bad on the Leafs? The Islanders were the four, and Michael Grabner picked up his 10th of the year shorthanded. On the very same penalty kill, Jonathan Bernier made an.. unfortunate mistake.
This gave Grabner his second shortie in as many minutes, and put the Leafs behind. The period ended with the Leafs trailing in goals, shots against, and pretty much anything you could name.
In the second, the two teams traded penalties, Tim Gleason dropped the mitts with Eric Boulton (unsurprisingly losing to the dedicated enforcer), and the Leafs controlled the shots. Scoring picked up again nine minutes into the third, as a play started by Kessel turned into a van Riemsdyk shot and a Paul Ranger rebound, giving him his third goal of the year.
Just a few minutes later, Dion Phaneuf blasted a one timer past Nabokov to give the Leafs the lead. This lead lasted a minute and a half, as Anders Lee took advantage of a Carl Gunnarsson penalty to tie the game. Continuing the high scoring period, Joffrey Lupul took back the lead a minute later with his 18th of the season, and Lee took closed it up yet again with his second of the game (and season) before the period ended.
Just two minutes into overtime, Lubomir Visnovsky skated in alone and snapped the game winner past Bernier on an unassisted effort.
Why The Leafs Lost
The attempted shots in this game stayed pretty equal throughout, so the “Leafs gonna Leaf” thing doesn’t quite apply here like it usually does. I’m going to go with a cliche here and blame “rust”. Players like Jake Gardiner and Jonathan Bernier were making a lot of small mistakes that lead to big issues. More close but not quite plays were happening then usual, and it was a road game, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt for now and re-evaluate after their next game.
Have to go with James van Riemsdyk tonight. Three assists, 23 minutes (even with some penalty kill time) played, a couple of shots, and a relatively solid game all around. Both Kessel and himself seem to be in mid-Olympics form, not letting the two terrible USA efforts to close their tournament out spoil their good form.
“Why the Leafs Lost” and “Blue Warrior” coming soon.