Gimme a “Car!” *clap*
Gimme a “Lyle!” *clap*
“Car-lyle! Car-lyle! Car-lyle!” *clap clap*
Welcome to the PDO show, Montreal.
Last season, the Montreal Canadiens were a notoriously poor possession team that made it through their season on superhuman goaltending. It was almost like they were the Toronto Maple Leafs circa 2013-2014, only Carey Price never got hurt.
Well, that Carlyle-esque Habs team is back… hoo boy, are they ever back.
Which, you know. Means that the Leafs lost 3-1.
I know we aren’t Canadiens fans, but quick moment of appreciation for the fact that Alex Galchenyuk – who would actually score Montreal’s second of three goals – actually got to play centre. Good for you, Therrien, for figuring out that your third overall draft selection was probably drafted to stand in the faceoff dot.
For the Leafs, though, this wasn’t a half bad game. There’s actually quite a bit of good to talk about.
Jake Gardiner looking like an early Vezina favourite here pic.twitter.com/pxf5iszVSo
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) October 8, 2015
Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri, and Jake Gardiner have returned in full force; the trio combined for two appearances as interim goalie, seven shots on net, and plenty of great energy. James van Riemsdyk also scored Toronto’s lone goal on a great screen during one of Toronto’s overwhelming number of chances in front of Carey Price, which was nice.
The fourth line also had some great forechecking and energy out of Leo Komarov and Mark Arcobello, both of whom managed to get some time on special teams, and the entire roster had a ton of energy. This Leafs lineup looked nothing like the Leafs lineup that was playing over the second half of the 2014-2015 season; pardon my french, but this team looked like they actually gave a s***.
Mike Babcock did some pretty great things with shortening player shifts to keep the players cycling through, and between that and a ton of offensive pressure, the Leafs looked far more energetic than the Canadiens by about halfway through the game.
Oh, and they also outshot Montreal 37-30. Who remembers when the Leafs used to get outshot nearly every night? NOT ME!
Since this was a game brought to you by the spirit of Randy Carlyle, though, that meant Montreal won. So.
Well, the Leafs obviously lost. That was bad.
The team also got to do this nifty thing where they became the first NHL club of the season to exercise the brand-spanking-new coach’s challenge.
Mike Babcock now #1 all time in Coaches Challenge wins. Money well spent!
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) October 8, 2015
Why is this bad? Well, because that was the second goal of the night – against the Leafs alone. Had the coach’s challenge either not have been ruled in Toronto’s favor (unlikely, but hey – it happens, Tim Peel is still an NHL referee) that would have left the team 4-1 as the game stands now; had the energy level shifted at the time, things could have gotten pretty ugly.
Which brings me to…
I’m a big fan of Jonathan Bernier. I think he’s got some great technique – but I certainly didn’t see much of it tonight.
I’m not even talking about the whole getting-beat-on-the-first shot of the night thing, either. Let’s just chalk that up to “it’s Max Pacioretty, whatever, life isn’t fair when he’s around.”
There’s one shot in the first period that I literally wrote down while taking notes for the recap; it ultimately went off the post, but Bernier was beat high glove side in order to have the puck even reach the net itself. How he was beat? The team’s starter dropped his glove when dropping into butterfly, then brought it back up once he was in position – that’s a huge no-no that goaltenders learn from a pretty early age, and that’s a pretty inexcusable mistake for Bernier to make this early in the season. He knows better (and we’ve all seen it), so he needs to play better. He made a few simple mistakes like that throughout the night, which may have been nerves – but if that becomes a pattern, let the goalie controversy REALLY begin.
The Leafs also saw only five players out of eighteen fail to record a shot on goal over three periods – and putting Martin Marincin aside for being a blue liner, that left four forwards who managed to be held shot-less in Toronto’s strongest possession game fans have seen in years.
Oh yeah – and one of those four was Tyler Bozak. He didn’t look bad in the game, but come on, Tyler – when your team records 37 shots on goal, at least one of them should come from you.
Overall, wasn’t a bad opening to the season. Plus, hey! Still time to finish out the year 81-1-0.