Leafs Postgame: Sparks Fly

Leafs win! 

If you didn’t watch the Leafs as they took on Lou Lamoriello’s old New Jersey Devils club (albeit with a heavy facelift), you honestly missed out. 

What did you miss, you might ask? 

You missed a pair of good goaltenders. 

You missed strong offensive rushes by defensemen. 

You missed special teams battles. 

You missed James van Hockey scoring. 

Most of all, though, you missed an onslaught of Garden State references by The Leafs Nation. And that, my friends, is a damn shame. 

The Rundown

Watching Garret Sparks come into his own during the last few games has really been a treat, and tonight was no different; he was the perfect backstop to a Babcock-coached Toronto Maple Leafs, and it paid off. 

The New Jersey Devils deserve a lot of credit; they look miles ahead of where they did last year. Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak were pretty nifty adds in the off-season, while David Schlemko has been solid on the back end and all the returning cast has been close to exactly as advertised. 

They still have a phenomenal net presence in Cory Schneider – I specifically asked to cover this game because I love watching him play – and while the neutral zone trap was effective, it’s nice that the Devils are finally watchable. 

Last season, though, this game would have been enough to make your eyes bleed; this year, it was actually interesting and fun. 

Sparks is precise with a lot of his movements, and he’s got a lot of confidence in the way that he’s adapted his game (which he was nice enough to write about, published for The Leafs Nation here earlier today). A goaltending battle between Schneider and Sparks was one that fans may not have expected to start out the 2015-2016 season, but it looked exactly like the kind of duel that deserved to go into extra minutes. I was in goalie heaven. 

The Leafs, though, played a nice possession game in front of the net – and in front of said good goaltending, with some hot performances from the usual suspects, it finally paid some dividends. The Devils earned a pity point, but the Leafs managed to play well enough to take it to a shootout – where anything can happen, and a victory was earned. 

The Stats

chart

Do you know what the best part of this game was? The Leafs not only played a good game in terms of wildly throwing shots on net, they played a good game in terms of possession driving, period. 

Yes, possession usually translates to shots on net – but the Leafs managed to just kill it tonight. The worst offensive possession player on the Leafs was Shawn Matthias, who finished with a Corsi For% of 46.15. In comparison, the worst Devils player (Andy Greene) posted a CF% of 18.9 – and their best was Mike Cammalleri, whose 57.14 CF% was hardly anything to celebrate. 

Overall? These are the results we want to see. 

Blue Warrior

During Leafs games, your trusty TLN staff spends a lot of time talking stats (aka talking smack about things like whether each of us actually have any friends or not) and this game was no different. 

That means that we were a wild, rowdy group during the shootout – and we came to a pretty general consensus that Tyler Bozak is money in the shootout. 

Sure enough, he and Nazem Kadri delivered to help the team earn another two points on Tuesday night; I’ve committed to spending 99% of this recap grovelling at Sparks’ skates, so here’s a nod to Tyler Bozak and his ace in the shootout. 

Honourable mentions, of course, go to James van Riemsdyk – who recorded SEVEN SHOTS ON GOAL – and Bobby Farnham, who managed to get three shots on Sparks despite playing a game of manic destruction and hyperactive behaviour. Is he on the Leafs? No. Do I love him a little bit for being an anomaly in a league of professionals? Absolutely. Live long and prosper, Bobby Farnham. 

Looking Ahead

The Leafs literally get seven days off before they play again, when they’ll face future Toronto Maple Leaf captain Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

That could mean some intriguing situations in net, as the Leafs have four goaltenders and no real way to see them shake out in the best way for all of them possible. For now, though, this is a great way to head into a seven day hiatus. 

  • Gary Empey

    Nice accurate write-up. Like Cat I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Naturally I would have preferred a straight-out win. Still I was satisfied with the two points from the shootout.

    With Reimer and Bernier both coming back next week I wonder what Babcock will do. He is known to play the goalie he feels will give him the best chance to win the game. Corrado already is taking a roster spot. Reimer has been.

    Every time this year the Leafs have had a long period off it seems Babcock has been working with the players to get better, and the improvement shows on the ice.

    Matt Hunwick played top minutes of 25:19.

  • MatsSundin#13

    Honourable mention to Bozak for showing sweet hands with some nice stick work…..But Grabner in overtime!!! Two chances in 10 seconds and they both fall by the wayside when is he going to break out? Defence looked good but I am still not convinced with Marincin – I think we are all getting an itch we need to scratch (pun intended) and see some of Franky Corradoman.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Something tells me that Mr. Sparks will get another start as he has allowed 3 goals in 11 periods and had one bad period of 4 goals. They guy was good again tonight and exceptional in the shoot out. Ride the hot hand Babcock as Sparks has got you 6 out of a poasible 8 points in his starts.

    The other game was a solid performance by Reimer so with the exception of the one bad period in Winnipeg the leafs have allowed 4 goals in 14 periods of hockey.

    The leafs came up with one of their better performances and have been solid at home lately a major change from last year.

    The team has been solid since the first month with the exception of some Bernier failures. Keep the entertaining hockey a going Leafs.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Good write up, though a bit charitable to the Devils. Long stretches of that game it looked like they had puck allergy.

    I agree with MatsSundin and Kanuunankuula: we need to start seeing some mixing on D. Scratching Hunwick for a few games to try Corrado has the benefits of keeping Polak’s stock up for trade purposes.