It’s been a difficult week for the Leafs, and while it’s somewhat foolish to label a game “must-win” this early in the season, if they had dropped last night’s game to the Lightning, the big-picture articles and radio spots regarding coaching and management would have kept churning out until an example was made. A solid win against arguably the best team in the conference helped to alleviate all that, at least temporarily.
As mentioned above, this was a solid win if there ever was one. Nothing dominant, not overly exciting (good or bad), just a nice effort and two points on a Thursday night.
Future Leaf Steven Stamkos agreed:
“This media stuff that has been going on the past few days makes them seem like they are the worst team in the League. They are a good hockey team that had a couple of bad games. Every team goes through that. They were better than us tonight, and not to take anything away from them, we weren’t good.”
The Leafs got on the board early on a goal from David Clarkson, who surpassed his entire total from last season with his sixth. A late short-handed tally from Killorn tied things up before the end of a good back-and-forth opening period.
Richard Panik put the Leafs ahead early in the second. Yes, that’s right, for once the dreaded curse of having every player with ties to Toronto score against their former team was flipped the other way. Panik is going to burn the Lightning for years, hopefully.
From there, van Riemsdyk used two gorgeous goals to put the game somewhat out of reach heading into the third. However, this being the Leafs, they sat back a bit too far in the final frame and things got a little scary with the Lightning pressing to tie it late. It’s typical for the trailing team to muster up this kind of pushback, but Toronto’s willingness to go into a shell while defending the lead is something they really need to break out of.
No doubt the hero in this game was van Riemsdyk, who hadn’t really been dominant so far this season, but showed the elite shot and ridiculous hands in tight to the net that he’s become known for.
Honorable mention goes to Bernier, however, as he really put in a great game, stopping 26 of 28.
Again, this game wasn’t too eventful in terms of pull-your-hair-out moments, which was certainly a good thing, and the Leafs just played a well-paced, responsible game for the most part.
- Boxcar stats for the Leafs’ top line are getting far up there. With two points a piece last night, Bozak and van Riemsdyk each have 17 points through 20 games, while Kessel added an assist to bring his total to 23, keeping him in the top five league-wide and only four back of Voracek for tops.
- It would be nice to see the Leafs spread things out a little, ice-time wise. Panik scored last night, and has four goals as a Leaf, but he finished the night with only 8:18 TOI. I think he’s looked good and I’d like to see more of him out there. Same goes for Leivo, who only played 5:57. These guys aren’t bad players. This isn’t a Colton Orr type of fourth-line, so there’s no need to play them that way.