POSTGAME: Madison Square Goalden

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 Rundown

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.

Blue Warrior

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. 

Notes

  • 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.
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  • BubbaLou

    JERSEY: FIRMLY SECURED TO UPPER CHEST. Phew, would hate to have lost it somewhere.

    Let the “regular” season begin.

    Edit: As per mirtle, Reimer left the ice for regular NHL procedures. The kid is alright

  • BubbaLou

    It’s a lot more fun when the Leafs win!

    The Leafs came out looking desperate in the first period.

    The Kessel line really knows how to score….
    but it is nerve racking watching them in the defensive zone.

  • BubbaLou

    gardiner sat out tonight so clearly money is no concern. would be interested to see how the team would play without phaneuf in the lineup. It could really be eye opening to see just how important (or unimportant) dion is to our team. Just a thought…

    GARDINER – ROBIDAS

    REILLY – FRANSON

    PERCY – POLAK

  • BubbaLou

    When good things happen to this team they can play very good hockey. Tonight they didn’t get an early goal against and they didn’t go into a shell. It just illustrates how thin the margin is. Bernier has had a couple of average games, giving up some soft early goals and the Leafs crumbled. This team has to get above average goaltending to win. lucky for them they have a couple of above average tenders. Now hopefully, they can build off this and continue the good hockey.

  • Kanuunankuula

    The leafs start off on the road the way they did last year as they beat the Habs and Flyers. Obviously getting away from the Air Canada morgue proved to be beneficial. But you do have to own your building.

    Nice to see Kessel start his first game of the season. Even better to see Carlyle simply not having anything to lose and thus putting Kessel’s ample butt on the pine at times. Sooner or later Kessel will realize every player has to have the same length of leash to have a winning attitude as a team.

    Great to see the washed up, finished goalie win tonight, you know the guy who is the only goalie to get the leafs into the playoffs over the past 10 years. Hopefully James is okay.

    I know the wine is fine when Clarkson scores. Speaking of wine I raise a glass to everyone and I wish you a happy thanksgiving.

  • BubbaLou

    It was great to see Riems in net tonight, he looked good, to bad what happened, he deserved to go the distance and reap the reward in the end….Welcome back Reims, never gave up on you….
    The team needs to be good in front of their goalies, can;t leave it all on theirs,,,,good luck Leafs…

  • Kanuunankuula

    Reimer gets injured yet again. This guys is so injury prone I’m not sure if he is rugged enough to be a starter in the NHL.

    And man Franson in one game makes much more of an impact then Mr turnover Gardiner

  • Kanuunankuula

    An observation I would like make is
    that there are fresh ideas coming from the “new look” coaching staff.

    sitting the Kessel line until we had a powerplay
    and making sure we didnt give up an early lead
    was an innovative solution.

    It looks like Shanahan’s new assistent coaches
    and analytics dept are having some effect on
    the Leafs on-ice game plan.

    This is a promising development.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Right — anything can happen with a small sample. Overall very good effort. But the first 15 minutes were really worrying. Without that powerplay goal, this game might have turned out differently.

    We had decent seats at MSG last night. This is what we saw. During the anthems, the whole Leaf team was on edge. Every player and coach was shuffling anxiously back and forth. The NYR frozen by comparison. If non-verbals are any indication, I’d say this is a really nervous crew. Sure enough, the first 7 minutes or so were horrid.

    1. Peter Holland still looks a bit lost out there. Not afraid to get in the corners, he’s often out of position and skating around looking for a purpose. Kozun’s got guts, and Panik was solid, but I worry about Holland.

    2. Percy’s good; well matched with Polak. Smart on the PP, too. Great to see a decent, complementary pairing. Often talking with each other on the ice waiting for the play to start.

    3. Kadri was the dominant center. That second line looked great.

    4. Ditto the third line. Very good cycling the puck around enough for Clarkson to get in position in front of the net.

    5. Reimer played very well.

    6. Franson made one glaring turnover in his own end; reminders of last year’s (not infrequent) brain cramps.

    7. Kessel’s a motor mouth. He’s constantly yammering. Pretty funny.

  • Jeremy Ian

    So, here’s a thought:

    See if Holland can find his mission. If not, try out Carrick. If the new formula for the Leafs is going to work, they need an effective L4.

  • TGT23

    I’m only concerned that winning this game will make Randy think benching your best defensive prospects is okay. I don’t want to see Gardiner and Reilly sat very often…

    Reimer was really good. Nice to see him play good after last season. But, of course, he got hit in the head… Again… Worst. luck. ever… Bernier did his job in relief, even though the team stopped playing. Probably wants that goal back.

    It was nice to see Kessel and the first line finally get things going. I don’t love their defensive effort but it is more easily forgiven when they produce.

    But, when talking about effort, geez I love that 3rd line with Clarkson and Komarov… As much hate as he (Clarkson) gets, that line has been probably the most consistent this season. At least to my eye test.