Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
In the pregame, I was pretty certain the Leafs would lose tonight. I mean, one of the worst teams in the league going up one of the Western Conference’s finest? Yeah, I put money on that any day.
But hey, I was wrong, and it was very fun to be wrong tonight. Toronto wins 4-1 off a two-goal performance from Nazem Kadri and a great bounceback effort from Garret Sparks.
Why The Leafs Won
I mean, I have no damn clue, but I’ll try and work out a better answer than that.
This looked really bad in the first few minutes of the game – a real “ugh, this again?” start. A result of a bad pinch at the Blues’ blueline by Dion Phaneuf gave St. Louis a two-on-one that Vladimir Tarasenko capitalized on less than two minutes in.
But after that? All Leafs. The Blues somehow had no answers.
Toronto came alive, lead by the Peter Holland-Nazem Kadri-Leo Komarov line. Kadri would score late in the first period to tie things up. In the second period, Brad Boyes would tip home a Roman Polak shot, and P.A. Parenteau would follow that up soon after to make it a 3-1 game. In the final frame, Kadri would score his second of the night – the proverbial icing on the cake.
Why did the Leafs really win, though? I mean, Kadri’s goals are huge, but let’s not forget Garret Sparks. After allowing six goals just a few nights ago against the Winnipeg Jets, Sparks quickly composed himself after an early and ugly goal and stopped the next 27 shots to hold the Blues to only one. Full marks for Garret – he should get the next start, without a doubt.
Yup, the numbers and the eye test pretty much tell the same story. The Leafs came alive in the second period and didn’t look back. I picked out War-on-Ice’s all-situations scoring chance chart just to show that St. Louis second period. See that long, straight yellow line? That’s not good. Toronto piled up a number of scoring chances in quick succession and chased Jake Allen right out of the net (then right back in – that was weird).
Let’s also take a look at this War-on-Ice matchup chart and admire the work that the Matt Hunwick-Morgan Rielly pairing put in against the Blues’ top line? It’s not easy to shut down Tarasenko, but they certainly did.
Nazem Kadri, no questions asked. Two goals, four shots and a fight with David Backes? Yeah, that’ll do. Just the fact that Kadri survived Backes (who has a three inch and 33-pound advantage here) is incredible, and deserves recognition.
Come Back Tuesday
The Leafs are back in action this Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. Tune into TSN4 at 7:30 pm.