When I went on that rant about the guy who threw his jersey on the ice last night, one of the things that I stressed was that anything can happen in a sample of two games – especially the first two of the year. You have a 25% chance of being 0-2, just like you do of being 2-0. That’s assuming you’re not facing better teams than you, which the Habs and Penguins were.
One would have thought the New York Rangers were as well, but that didn’t stop the Leafs from breaking free from the poor start and unleashing their best offensive performance in a long time, winning 6-3 over the Blueshirts.
The scoring kicked off about eight minutes into the game. With Dominic Moore in the penalty box, the newly-healthy Cody Franson ripped a slapshot low and past Henrik Lundqvist for his first of the year; a play that also gave Phil Kessel his first point. That first point would eventually turn into more, but not before this play late in the first period.
Roman Polak was.. acting curious on this play. While Marc Staal looks to make his first pass, Polak begins to skate backwards, ready to intercept the pass. Except Staal is looking about eighty feet to the right of him, and Polak’s backwards skating looks like when vintage cartoon characters run on the spot before bursting into the distance. It eventually handicaps the Leafs, as Rick Nash takes Marty St. Louis’ feed and ties the game.
Back to Phil, though. On Toronto’s third powerplay of the game, Kessel makes a very smart play. Circling from outside of the net, he finds Franson, who puts a puck on net. Kessel doesn’t stop on the play, finding his way back to the hashmarks, which works to his advantage as the rebound lands on his stick. In typical fashion, he sent it about four billion miles per hour into the back of the net.
The scoring didn’t stop there, either. Nazem Kadri widened the gap by tapping in a fantastic pass from James van Riemsdyk, who then continued the momentum by scoring a shorthanded goal less than two minutes later. Lee Stempniak brought things a bit closer by driving home his own rebound with seven minutes to go in the period, but within two minutes, the Leafs were back with two more. Tyler Bozak finished off the first line’s check list by scoring his third in as many games (!!!), and David Clarkson (!!!!!!) ran Lundqvist out of the net with his first of the season.
Late in the game, James Reimer was injured in a collision and was replaced by Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs were already in shutdown mode at this point, which made the situation difficult for him. As such, it’s of no surprise that one got past him, though I wonder if he’d like to have it back. Derek Brassard did unleash a heck of a slapshot, but like Franson’s opening goal, it wasn’t really screened and it was from a moderate distance. Either way, the Leafs went home with a 6-3 win.
The Leafs staff, for how they handled the Reimer situation. Let’s look at the collision he has with Moore:
It’s very clearly contact with the head, and he doesn’t seem to be in good initial shape. Though he tries to brush it off, it’s very obvious that the Leafs staff didn’t want to take changes this time and immediately made a change. That’s what I’d like to see more of. This organization hasn’t had the best recent history in terms of reacting to what follows traumatic hits to the head, and Reimer is someone who has been a case study a couple of times. Even if he is okay, taking him off immediately is the smart call.
If I have to give it to a player, I’d probably go with Nazem Kadri – he scored the first even-strength goal of the game and drove possession quite well; the team out-attempted the Rangers 18 to 9 at 5 on 5 with him on the ice, which is an impressive ratio. He also drew two penalties, one of which lead to a powerplay goal.
- I mentioned when the Leafs claimed Richard Panik that his penalty-drawing abilities (his career ratio is slightly under 2 to 1) could become useful. The Franson goal came off of a penalty he drew.
- This is the first time the Leafs scored four or more goals in regulation since February 27th. I’m not making this up! This was their 25th game since that last time, and in between, they allowed four or more in eleven of them. This now leaves the Buffalo Sabres as the new record holders for crappy goal support; their last one came on February 28th.
- The Leafs were at 50% possession with James Reimer in net and a little less than half of that with Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. Some may jump on that, but it likely just comes down to score effects.
- Phil Kessel is back to a point per game pace thanks to this three point effort. Amazing how quick a couple of poor games can be erased. That said, the entire first line was still a possession black hole tonight; I remain curious as to why that’s been to start.
- Leo Komarov had two assists tonight. He has three on the season, meaning that he’s already closing in on the five he had in 49 games in 2012/13.
- Rick Nash had to leave after the first period, because his wife was in labour. If that doesn’t spell poor compete level, I don’t know what does. (But seriously, best of wishes to the Nash family).
- The Leafs play next on Tuesday, against the Colorado Avalanche.