Leafs Postgame – Ending on a High Note

The last game against the Detroit Red Wings was one of the greatest snooze fests of our generation. It was legitimately a struggle to sit through it, and that’s not because the Leafs were shut out – it was just really boring. Tonight, we saw the opposite. With players looking to make strong final impressions, the Leafs overwhelmed their opponents, taking home a commanding 5-1 win to end the preseason.

The Rundown

Toronto took an early lead in this one. After escaping the offensive zone, the Leafs made a very strong re-entry, thanks to a stretch pass from Roman Polak to Brandon Kozun. The ensuing drop pass put the puck on Jake Gardiner’s stick, and he blasted it bast Jonas Gustavsson to kick things off. Detroit came back seven minutes later to take advantage of a mess in front of Jonathan Bernier, but before the period could end, Brandon Kozun scored a goal that we’ll talk about a bit later.

Dion Phaneuf showed us early in the second period that he still has an absolute cannon of a slapshot, turning a pass from Mike Santorelli into a puck with a vapour trail to give the Leafs a 3-1 lead. Midway through, on their second powerplay of the game, the Leafs widened the gap to 4-1, with a Morgan Rielly shot that hit James van Riemsdyk in… a sensitive area, and trickled into the net.

A minute into the third period, Phaneuf sealed the deal, with a nifty move and a wrister following a takeaway by Brandon Kozun. The Leafs continued to press until the final buzzer, outshooting Detroit 15-7 in the third period and 36 to 21 overall.

Blue Warrior

If there was any doubt that Brandon Kozun would end up making this team, it’s been eradicated tonight. He had a couple of nice feeds to Gardiner and Phaneuf, and his goal was arguably the nicest one we’ve seen this entire preseason.

Notes

  • Stephane Robidas and Dion Phaneuf looked really good together. I know that one game is a very small sample, and that the Red Wings were definitely the weaker team tonight, but if this is any indication of how they might be together, Dion may finally have his partner. Phaneuf seemed freer to take offensive chances and get involved with the play, and his two (almost three!) goals reflect that. Robidas was always in a logical place, something that Phaneuf’s partners haven’t been particularly good at over the years.
  • I particularly liked how Robidas was controlling the penalty kill while Phaneuf was in the box, chatting with Stuart Percy, Leo Komarov, and Daniel Winnik about how they were going to approach things before they started.
  • William Nylander was the top possession player on the Leafs tonight, at an astonishing 72.7% CF. It was the best possession performance by any Leaf this preseason who was on the ice for at least 10 shot events; Nylander was on for 22. He also had a solid breakaway opportunity on Gustavsson.
  • I wonder if that was the last time we see Carter Ashton on the Leafs. One has to imagine they’ll be waiving him in order to get him to the Marlies, even if he doesn’t necessarily deserve that fate. I’d say the same for Matt Frattin, but they’ll probably trade for him again.

Meanwhile…

The Toronto Marlies also played tonight, opening their preseason against the Rochester Americans in Schomberg, Ontario. They too took a lead and never ended up trailing, and even ended up scoring the five goals that the Leafs did. The goaltending wasn’t as hot, however, as both Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson allowed two a piece. Toronto controlled the play for the entire game, particularly in a first period where they outshot the Amerks by a whopping 14-1.

Connor Brown, Spencer Machacek, Trevor Smith, Eric Knodel, and Spencer Abbott scored Toronto’s goals. Francis Wathier dropped the gloves in the second period. Brown was named the game’s first star.

    • CMpuck

      Love the Cody support, can’t skate but he’s a wrist shot monkey, one dimensional, every player in the league knows the second thos mook gets the puck on the blueline he’s desperately putting it on net. It’s the Hail Mary every time and works once in a blue moon but the Leafs get caught with a 2 on 1 more often than not when sloth Franson can’t cover his mistake.

      However, advanced stats support Cody existence cause he mindlessly throws the puck on net which helps his Corsi.

      Anyone care to inform me how Cody helps this club?

          • CMpuck

            Basically all you are telling me in that first sentence is that Franson had a terrible year last year and is terrible defensively. Thank you for stating the obvious. The plus minus has nothing to do with the quality of his scoring chances. As for the number of goals he scored, it is not even a bad number of goals. I don’t know why you tried to use that to argue that Franson had low quality scoring chances. Franson got four even strength goals. Doughty got four even strength goals. Pietrangelo got 5 even strength goals. What really separates these players from Franson is their defensive games and their ability to push the play on their own while making their teammates much better while they are on the ice.

            What you really have to look at in this instance for quality of chances is his individual shooting percentage. Individual shooting percentage can be a decent indicator of luck (although PDO is probably better than that on a team level) but it is also a decent indicator of the quality of the shots on goal. For example Clarkson this past season had an individual even strength shooting percentage of 4.26%. It wouldn’t take a lot to see while watching the games this past season that Clarkson took pretty crappy shots (hence the low individual shooting percentage).

            This past year Franson had an individual even strength shooting percentage of 6.35%. To put this in perspective, Duncan Keith had an individual even strength shooting percentage of 2.26%. Franson had 63 even strength shots on goal this past season while Keith had 133 shots on goal. This can tell you that either Franson got lucky and Keith was unlucky (however Franson’s individual even strength shooting percentage over his career has been 5.396% while Keith’s has been 3.66% over his career giving you a larger sample size) or it could tell you that Franson’s even strength shots on goal are of higher quality.

            Not saying Franson is better than Keith as Keith has much better offensive instincts and is obviously better defensively but my point is really that you can’t just say Franson mindlessly throws the puck on net. He would never score if he did that.

          • CMpuck

            33 points, once again leading the team in points for the 2nd consecutive year. not creating scoring chances? he led the defence in assists with 28 and 7th on the team in assist totals. he’s a beast on the pp. are you sure you’re not confusing him with gleason? he was brought here to bring offence and a big, physical presence to the leafs and that’s exactly what he’s doing. he’s the league leader in defencemen hits and is always contributing on the pp. you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

      • CMpuck

        he has great vision from the blue line. he’s probably one of the best players on the leafs to get the puck through traffic and he always throws the puck at the right place. he’s not mindlessly throwing the puck at the net, he’s using his vision and hockey iq to see a slither of space to saucer that puck to the net for a scoring chance and it has been working really well for a while now.

  • CMpuck

    You know for all the negativity that has bombarded the leafs this off season I have a feeling that the leafs will finally do something positive like make the playoffs when no one expects them to. People have also said that the leafs are doomed for failure months before the season even started

    • CMpuck

      I have been having this gut feeling about the leafs making it into the playoffs. I think it might just be-because of leo returning 🙂

      Sorry for all the posts, was just happy about this game and that a leafs blogger/reporter is talking about the marlies 🙂

  • CMpuck

    I think they should keep matt frat because he will prove himself later on. Currently the leafs are looking solid, and forsure have a top 9 rather than a top 5 (lolclarkson).

  • CMpuck

    i honestly can’t even think of a player in the entire nhl that plays as fast and attacks the puck on the pk like kozun does. i don’t think i’ve ever seen it. he makes the leafs pk look like a pp wit his speed & offensive opportunities. things are looking up! what a steal of a prospect!

  • Nate

    I hope frattin makes the team loved the big hit he threw in the second period. He’ll be a good fourth liner energy guy.

    On a side note how about these lines

    Clarkson bozak kessel

    Jvr kadri lupul

    Winnik holland komarov

    Leivo or frattin santorelli kozun till booth comes back

    Kessel scores most his goals off the rush so clarkson doesn’t have to touch the puck he can tip it in or get rebounds it’ll make him look better and build confidence. Hell he’s been making Bozak look hood for years now it’s clarkson turn to milk playing with kessel. Plus it spreads scoring around.

  • CMpuck

    I should also mention that with the wrist shot, Franson is not even trying to score himself. He is trying to create rebounds or tip-in goals. This is how JVR tips in so many point shots. If he were actually trying to score himself he would shoot a slap shot but this is much harder to tip.