Phil scores! Leafs defeat Jets 3-2

This was one of those hockey games that was absurdly memorable, except that it really wasn’t. For two periods, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets fought to a total stalemate, a timid display of outside attempts that resulted in few shots, fewer scoring chances, and fewer Leafs fans in our nations more Eastern timezones even bothering to stay up until the end of the game.

The Leafs won 3-2, as Matt Frattin deflected in a Cody Franson shot with five minutes to go and Phil Kessel scored his first on the season on a powerplay less than a minute later. The late-game comeback doesn’t particularly work in the storybook concept of the dull 55 minutes that preceded it. But that’s what sports is, you’ll have several stretches of inaction punctuated by bursts of elation and despair.

The only problem is if you attempt to objectively define players and teams based on those small bursts.

-I’m referring of course to Phil Kessel, who may have played his worst game on the season. He recorded a couple of shots before his goal, and I noted them both down as scoring chances, but the Leafs really failed to control play when he was on the ice and I never noticed that head strong, purposeful rush from Kessel that usually results in a zone entry with the defender back on his heels. Just a couple minutes after his goal, he had one, stopping in over the line, waiting for the defencemen to settle in and finding the trailer Tyler Bozak for an excellent shot. 

-Kessel’s a very good hockey player, and one tough game out of 11 shouldn’t be how he’s defined, even if that’s the one where he scored the goal. All season, the process was there but the results weren’t. In his one night without process or structure or danger, he scores the winning goal with just over four minutes to go. Sometimes the most deserving teams win, sometimes they don’t. 

-This wasn’t necessarily one of those games. The Leafs out-chanced Winnipeg by a healthy margin at 11-4 and benefit from either an off-night by their excellent forward group or an all-world performance by their mix of AHLers on defence. Judging by Kessel’s play, I’d be willing to bet on the former. Toronto got all six contested scoring chances in the third (neither the Matt Frattin or Andrew Ladd goals were recorded as chances, as they were deflections that resulted simply from a puck being thrown on net and a player’s stick happening to be angled the right way).

-I don’t have too much to add since this is a game that ought to be forgettable. While Kessel wasn’t good until the bitter end, Tyler Bozak was flying, scoring an excellent shorthanded goal and had some good zone entries and some good looks. Their line was the only one that recorded multiple scoring chances.

-Mikhail Grabovski was matched up against Winnipeg’s top unit of Olli Jokinen, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, and while they got caught in their own end on the first shift, they otherwise shut that line down. Not particularly sure just how: I was watching the game in SD. Could have just been inefficiency on the part of the Jets. I did notice that McClement was playing down the kids later in the contest, but did not see if they had re-united MGK, which they really ought to do at some point.

Here are the scoring chance numbers. Again, these only count the 5-on-5 differential. We’ll have an update on Monday for the Leafs through their first 12 games, after first seeing how they do against… *clicks on our schedule page* Montreal.

TARANNA Chances For Chances Vs. Differential
Tyler Bozak 4 1 3
James van Riemsdyk 4 1 3
Phil Kessel 4 1 3
Mikhail Grabovski 0 1 -1
Jay McClement 0 1 -1
Nik Kulemin 0 1 -1
Nazem Kadri 1 0 1
Clarke MacArthur 1 0 1
Matt Frattin 1 0 1
Leo Komarov 1 1 0
Colton Orr 1 1 0
Frazer McLaren 1 1 0
Dion Phaneuf 3 2 1
Mike Kostka 1 2 -1
John-Michael Liles 1 1 0
Korbinian Holzer 3 1 2
Cody Franson 2 0 2
Mark Fraser 2 0 2
WINTERPEG Chances For Chances Vs. Differential
Olli Jokinen 1 0 1
Evander Kane 2 0 2
Blake Wheeler 1 0 1
Alex Burmistrov 2 4 -2
Andrew Ladd 1 4 -3
Bryan Little 2 4 -2
Kyle Wellwood 0 1 -1
Alex Ponikarovsky 0 1 -1
Nik Antropov 0 1 -1
Jim Slater 0 1 -1
James Wright 0 1 -1
Chris Thorburn 0 1 -1
Ron Hainsey 2 2 0
Tobias Enstrom 2 3 -1
Paul Postma 1 3 -2
Grant Clitsome 1 2 -1
Mark Stuart 0 1 -1
Zach Redmond 0 1 -1

And by team:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (even strength) 3 (2) 2 (1) 6 (3) 11 (6)
Winnipeg (even strength) 2 (2) 2 (1) 0 (0) 4 (3)

LeafsNation Three Stars:

  1. Phil Kessel
  2. Tyler Bozak
  3. Dion Phaneuf
  • al_there

    The Orr/Mclaren/Komarov line in the third period was the difference maker in the game. They swayed the momentum and sustained pressure which allowed the goals start flowing. Carlyle coached this game great using that line to break up the Jets momentum and then allowing a surgical strike with sheltered kadri line and the dangerous kessel

    Love or hate the goons – you have to admit they were the difference makers in the game and when they play well then kadri, frattin and kessel are freed up to excel and play their game.

  • al_there

    I prefer Kostka on the PP. Liles was terrible tonight on the PP by giving up the PK short handed goal. And also, unlike Kostka Liles can’t handle heavy minutes. There was that terrible bank passed behind the net to the jet forward. I’m not sure what Liles was thinking but he looked shaky.

    Liles is fine but he is no Kostka and Liles needs to play fewer minutes.

    • al_there

      Liles, a 10 year vet?, is not as valuable as Mike Kostka a career AHLer… While I think Kostka has shown he can be a capable NHL guy I would be more comfortable if he was in a depth role. The 25 minutes a night is more the bi product of a banged up D line and once Gardiner and Gunnarson return I would prefer Kostka not play as much. In fact if it was me I would have Phaneuf, Liles, Gardiner Gunnarson,and Franson all ahead of Kostka with Kostka as the 6th guy and Holzer, Komisarek or Fraser as the 7th.

  • al_there

    Kostka is really not the solution on the PP and at even strength but as for this game I prefer him more then Liles. Actually I would have Franson on the PP and Kostka logging heavy minutes until Gunnar plays him out. But I do agree that Liles has made more mistakes and errors then Kostka.