Leafs Postgame: Thriller

The night started rougher than expected as word surfaced that Joffrey Lupul would be out indefinitely with a broken bone in his hand, but the Leafs were able to cruise to victory over the depleted Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.

THE RUNDOWN

The news about Lupul came as an unfortunate surprise, but aside from that the game started off pretty uneventful.  Maybe most noteable was that Carter Ashton was plugged into the lineup for his first game of the season, and Daniel Winnik jumped up to the first line alongside Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel.  Both teams had their moments in the first period, but the Leafs were the better team possessing the puck at a 60% clip.  Late in the period, Phil Kessel banged in a rebound that made it 1-0 Toronto.

The game was largely carried by the top line, but in the second period we saw our first real bit of traction from the van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Clarkson line.  I thought they were the Leafs best line in the second, and they were rewarded for their work when David Clarkson tipped home a Dion Phaneuf point shot on the powerplay.  Peter Holland, who replaced an absent Joffrey Lupul on the powerplay tonight, drew the secondary assist.

Also of note in the second was the play of Jonathan Bernier.  People will credit the Leafs for a strong road game but I thought Bernier was fantastic tonight, particularly in the second, masking a handful of shoddy defensive plays from the Leafs.

Early in the third the Leafs sealed the deal as Kessel fed Kadri an empty net on an odd man rush two minutes into the frame.  The Blue Jackets were able to score a powerplay goal midway through, but as if there was any doubt in the result Daniel Winnik was able to score on a turnover late in the period to notch his 3rd point (1G, 2A) of the game in what was his 500th career contest.  It was Winnik’s first goal as a Leaf.

The Leafs were outshot 11-2 in the 3rd, but you can probably chalk a lot of that up to score effects.  They were winning the possession battle most of the game (they ended the night at 48.75% CF) and were only outshot 29-27.

BLUE WARRIOR

I’m gonna go with Phil Kessel, but the whole first line was great.  Kessel and Winnik each had a goal and 2 assists, and Kadri tallied a goal and an assist also.  Each of those three were 50% CF or better as well.  Lupul-Kadri-Winnik was a line that was dominating the possession game but failing to get on the score sheet, but it looks like maybe this line could be the best of both worlds.  Tonight was a good start, anyways.

NOTES

  • The Leafs did allow a powerplay goal tonight, but for the most part they were impressive again.  Komarov and Winnik in particular have been fantastic together shorthanded, and the Leafs currently sit 10th in the league in PK% at 84.2
  • Tonight’s Toronto Corsi King is none other than Matt Frattin at 62.50% CF.  Making his season debut, Carter Ashton was 2nd on the team in CF% at an even 60.00
  • Overall, the Leafs played a pretty solid game.  They did have some uneasy moments, but they got the job done against a Columbus team missing Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Sergie Bobrovsky, Matt Calvert, Nathan Horton, and James Wisniewski

SEE YOU TOMORROW

The Leafs return home to face the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday at 7PM Eastern on CBC.

  • I noticed that Bernier often allows fluky and lazy goals which probably results from his cocky and pretentious attitude. It seems, the competition and pressure of now having to outplay a #1 NHL calibre goalie like Reimer might be impacting Bernier’s confidence.

    • TGT23

      If having the better save percentage and lower GAA of the two is the result of Bernier’s effected confidence I’ll take it all day long. He’s been great lately. A true #1.

      I’ll also take this version of Clarkson. I can’t say enough about how good he has been this season.

      And I really live Kadri on a line with Kessel, though not having Lupul may be an issue.

  • BubbaLou

    Great to see some of the unsung players so far, Winnik, Kadri, and Clarkson made it on to the board tonight. Clarkson is looking like who we thought he might be when Nonis signed him. Still not worth the contract, but he’s a very effective 2nd-3rd liner and he’s really contributing on the ice. Nazem Kadri has been doing good things. He enters the zone like a beast and sets up plays and just has not found the success that play deserves – tonight 1G, 1A on the top line. Keep in mind Winnik is making a little over 1Mil this season – one o the Moneypuck players Nonis went for – man, he had a NIGHT. He was key on Kessel and Kadri’s goals, just as Kessel was key on Kadri and Winniks. Sick passes all around, seemed like a good fit. (still hard to envision Dan Winnik as a 1st line winger after Lupul recovers though)

    Hockey games that play like the first two periods are what Corsi is about – the “tilted ice” feeling that, though both teams traded offense end to end, the Leafs’ offense was just looking much better (and conversely how that flipped after the 2nd int, because it was 3-0 and we stopped playing for a time). We had some defensive miscues – Columbus had some real chances tonight to score – but Bernier played them great and they didn’t convert. Doesn’t mean they were “guaranteed” to lose/we were “guaranteed” to win because we had a better Corsi – for example, change nothing about the game but replace Bernier with… Gustavsson, and the miscues in our zone might have cost us. All we did was maintain more offense then they did, and had more chances.

    It feels so good to whip on some teams, but tomorrow we face the Chicago SportVu/analytics’d up Corsihawks, and a win is worth vaulting right back into the conference picture. Fun fact: James Van Riemsdyk is going to face his brother Trevor Van Riemsdyk for the first time, as he plays D for Chicago. He could potentially light his brother up on HNIC 😀

    • CMpuck

      Although I don’t believe he will match in points, I’m gonna say….santorelli this year, is the mason raymond of last year (thank you vancouver!)

      Like I said, he probably won’t match in goals and points, but his possession game and “compete level” are impressing me every game.

  • CMpuck

    Did anyone notice that, aside from the 4th line, the top line (kessel-kadri-winnik) got the least amount of playing time? Kadri and Kessel got about 12-13 mins of ice time, while the jvr-bozac-clarkson line got the monst (around 19-20 mins each). Not a big deal, but I thought it was a bit interesting, especially given the top squad had the most points.

    I’m glad to see clarkson putting in some pucks…he’s been looking good this year. Although that contract is still a bit ridiculous, it is what it is, there’s no point in complaining about it. The way he’s playing this year is the guy we signed for last year, and with a guy like clarkson, I rather play with him than against him.

    Last, it looks like the bernier from last year is back, or at least in the past two games. But did anyone hear the announcer around 10 mins left in the third period? “bernier has never had back-to-back shutouts”. As announcers in hockey, you would think they respect superstitions! Just as in baseball, where you never call out a pitcher closing in on a perfect game….in hockey, who calls out a goalie whos closing in on back-to-back shutouts!!! Anyways, that’s my rant…Leafs are finally looking good and playing 60 minutes per game…let’s hope they can keep it up!

    • CMpuck

      This is going to be kind of painful, given his improved play this year… but I’m still going with Clarkson for worst contract. It’s 5.25 for 7 years, versus 4.5 for 5 – Clarkson is more impactful than Komisarek on the ice – but his contract is riddled with no trade-no move clauses, and comes with buyout bonuses that basically make it unalterable.

      Better player for his role, but it’s still a really brutal contract.

      • CMpuck

        Did Komisarek ever put together five good games for the Leafs? that was zero value on 5 million a year.

        I’d take Clarkson, especially given that I would expect Clarkson to finish this deal off the books on ltir