We like to mix it up here at the Leafs Nation. While Steve is giving away hockey cards and doing some English KHL highlights, I’m going to continue doing video breakdowns of things from the last Leafs season that interest me.
This one from today is Joffrey Lupul’s hat-trick goal against New Jersey back on November 2 of last year. Not necessarily Lupul’s play, but this is an all-around good shift by the Toronto Maple Leafs, particularly Mikhail Grabovski, John-Michael Liles, Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel.
You’ll note on the shift chart that Grabovski is the only Leaf on the ice to last the whole 1:02 shift, that started with a defensive zone face-off and ended with a Lupul goal:
It starts with Grabovski taking the face-off in his own end:
The Devils win the draw, but the Leafs immediately do well to cover the points. Grabovski is the closest to the camera, covering Ilya Kovalchuk on the left wing. Kovalchuk’s cross-ice pass is errant and the puck is turned over:
John-Michael Liles moves up with the puck. This is the value of a controlled versus un-controlled entry. I think a lot of defencemen in this situation would simply dump the puck in, but Grabovski and Kulemin employ an old powerplay trick: they stack the puck-carrier’s side of the ice and free up a man on the other wing:
Liles feeds an excellent pass right to MacArthur who is able to skate in:
And he gets a good scoring chance walking around Tallinder:
But nothing comes of that, and the Leafs get a good forecheck going and a couple of more shots. The New Jersey scorekeeper only credits Liles with one missed shot on the play, but the pressure was more apparent. Later, Kovalchuk attempts to clear the zone, but Grabovski impedes him:
Both sides change and Kovalchuk is forced to double-back. The Leafs get fresh legs on the ice…
And it’s Phil Kessel who comes off the bench, knocking the puck back to MacArthur:
It’s his turn now to set up Grabovski, but his pass misses Grabovski:
However, the forecheck allowed the Leafs to bring Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson on the ice. By the time the Devils have broken out, they have a very weak 2-on-2 set up here, and Petr Sykora’s (shouldn’t #15 be Jamie Langenbrunner?) pass cross-ice to Patrik Elias lands nothing:
Lupul, off the bench, skates back and settles it for Kessel, who is now on a quick 2-on-2 with Grabovski, who is still skating strong even after a :50 shift:
But Grabovski goes high when I think Kessel expected him to cut to the net. Tallinder, who is a good defenceman, takes away the key spot on the ice from Grabovski and Kessel is forced to get a weak shot away:
However Kessel gets it deep, and Grabovski forces it behind the net for another forecheck. His pass finds Joffrey Lupul right in front:
Lupul finishes from there.
Here’s the whole play, starting with Sykora’s breakout:
The meat of the shift I think comes from the earlier bit between the face-off and the second New Jersey breakout attempt, but I think this highlight does a good job showcasing the things Grabovski can do, even when he’s been on the ice for a minute.
Consider that Lupul-Kessel-Grabovski breakout as “Exhibit C” for why those three ought to be the Leafs first line when the NHL starts up again.