Absurd Leafs bank on absurd Reimer performance for absurd victory

Photo via Graig Abel/NHL Interactive

This wasn’t a Monet. This wasn’t even a Picasso. If I was an eight year old and painted this, my parents probably wouldn’t pin it to the fridge. I doubt they would even if I were an only child.

It’s not that there’s just some secret batch of numbers that exists in the Internet’s reservoir of miscellaneous data that shows the Toronto Maple Leafs got out-played by the New Jersey Devils. Joe Bowen and Greg Millen knew it. The fans at the Air Canada Centre chanting James Reimer’s name all night knew it. Everybody on Twitter knew it. Toronto got out-chanced and out-shot and miraculously, won.

It was 2-0 Monday night over the New Jersey Devils. With a single more point, or a single point dropped by the Winnipeg Jets, the Toronto Maple Leafs will clinch a playoff spot.

This has been a common theme all season for both the Leafs and the Devils. The Devils can skate around their opponents and won’t get a break. The Leafs hunker down in their own zone—save the odd rush by Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk—clutching the handlebars for dear life as their bicycle spins down the side of the CN Tower. It defies gravity, but somehow out of this season, Randy Carlyle has earned more buzz for the Jack Adams than Kessel has for the Hart Trophy or Reimer for the Vezina.

The Leafs Corsi on the night was minus-31. I don’t think I have to explain what that means at this point. The Devils got away a tonne of attempted shots in all three game states. Even when the Leafs were on the powerplay, the Devils kept even with the Leafs in both shots (two apiece) and scoring chances (one apiece). The Leafs were visibly hemmed in their own zone all night and for the first time in a while showed real weakness on the penalty kill.

I’m not too sure what to make of the Devils this season. They still have offensive talent who should be able to bury those shots on goal. Patrik Elias had five attempted shots, three of which were scoring chances. Elias scored 26 goals last season, 11 this year and has 372 in his career. It’s not like he suddenly forgot how to put pucks in the net. Ditto Steve Sullivan, owner of 289 career NHL goals: he had one scoring chance that was registered as a shot, and had a bunch of “chances at chances” were good defensive plays knocked pucks off his stick in dangerous situations. It was insane how inept the Devils were around the net.

Then there was that play midway through the third… well, I’m not entirely sure how to describe it. It’s at :30 seconds into this video. Adam Henrique (16 goals last season as a rookie!) took a shot that I thought originally had been blocked by Mark Fraser but apparently it got through. Henrique then took the puck right to the slot COMPLETELY UNIMPEDED and Reimer held his ground:

Not a lot of save highlights online yet, although we’ll have a bunch tomorrow. Given such a heavy amount of zone time by the Devils, Reimer had to set and reset way more than normal during this game in the first two periods. The highlight-reel stuff came in the third period when Reimer couldn’t get to his spots in time and rely on his positioning like he normally does. I liked the save on Henrique because it was desperation stuff. His best one was the save right at the end of that sequence off Elias. Elias just walks right by Nik Kulemin who only vaguely seems to be aware that Elias is in the neighborhood.

Okay, enough about Reimer. How about Phil Kessel?

The Leafs had just 13 shots on net. The 13th was Jay McClement’s empty-net goal. Monday night marked the 2nd time this season the Leafs won a game shooting the puck 13 times. That said, it didn’t seem to affect Phil Kessel, or van Riemsdyk, mind you, who each took four shots on goal. They woke up in the third and were the only Leafs line that showed and sort of jump on offence.

Kessel stays hot, with a goal on the powerplay that you sort of knew was coming. I don’t think Martin Brodeur is as good as people like to say he is. Basically, most of his career was winning games like ~that~, where the Devils would spent 65% of the time in the other team’s end, except they’d score a couple of goals. Brodeur’s career is littered with wins in games where he allowed two goals on twenty-or-fewer shots: 55 of them to be exact.

So when the Leafs lined up for the faceoff after Marek Zidlicky went out for interference… you had the sense. 

Thank goodness Tyler Bozak did something useful, winning that faceoff getting kicked out of that faceoff so James van Riemsdyk could win the draw and give the Leafs possession right off the draw. Bozak is pretty much a decoy with long hair at this point.

The scoring chance data below doesn’t show just how poorly the Leafs were on the PK tonight. I had them at six scoring chances against. The scoring chance data below does show how good New Jersey’s fourth line is relative to Toronto’s fourth line. How does anybody let Ryan Carter run amok in the offensive zone?

The Corsi chart linked below is amazing. The Leafs on the night were minus-31, but… Mikhail Grabovski was +2. Clarke MacArthur was E. Jake Gardiner was a mere minus-1 and Dion Phaneuf a mere minus-2.

Gardiner and Phaneuf lined up primarily against the Travis Zajac-Patrik Elias-Steve Sullivan line at even strength. The scoring chance data shows that that line didn’t really get much together offensively. It was the second line (matched up against Nazem Kadri) and the fourth line (matched up against Jay McClement) that did all the damage in that regard.

Individual scoring chances:

TORONTO Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 3 2 1
James van Riemsdyk 3 2 1
Phil Kessel 4 3 1
Nazem Kadri 0 2 -2
Matt Frattin 0 2 -2
Nik Kulemin 0 3 -3
Mikhail Grabovski 2 0 2
Clarke MacArthur 2 0 2
Leo Komarov 1 0 1
Jay McClement 1 5 -4
Colton Orr 1 3 -2
Frazer McLaren 1 5 -4
Dion Phaneuf 1 2 -1
Jake Gardiner 1 3 -2
Ryan O’Byrne 2 5 -3
John-Michael Liles 1 5 -4
Cody Franson 3 1 2
Mark Fraser 4 2 2
NEW JERSEY Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Travis Zajac 1 1 0
Steve Sullivan 0 2 -2
Patrik Elias 1 2 -1
Adam Henrique 3 0 3
Dainius Zubrus 2 0 2
David Clarkson 3 0 3
Andrei Loktionov 1 2 -1
Alexei Ponikarovsky 1 1 0
Matt D’Agostini 2 1 1
Ryan Carter 5 3 2
Stephen Gionta 4 3 1
Steve Bernier 4 3 1
Andy Greene 4 3 1
Mark Fayne 2 3 -1
Marek Zidlicky 3 1 2
Henrik Tallinder 3 1 2
Adam Larsson 4 2 2
Peter Harrold 2 2 0

Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 0 (0) 2 (2) 5 (4) 7 (6)
New Jersey (EV) 3 (1) 4 (2) 9 (6) 16 (9)


Three Stars: 

  1. James Reimer
  2. Phil Kessel
  3. Adam Henrique
  • jasken

    Awww no star for Brodeur sorry I couldn’t resist.

    Reimer stole this game for Leafs without a doubt. Although I think turn around is fair play how many times did Brodeur steal wins from the Leafs in past. It’s nice to see a couple wins this season against the Devils.

    I had a feeling there would be problems and relapses I expected it you need to remember their playing masters of defensive hockey they have had 25 yrs of perfecting it.

    My only question since I missed alot of game who is gonna be held accountable for all the mistakes and turnovers. Curious how furious Randy is, tomorrow night’s game should be funny all but a few players sitting in press box. j/k

  • jasken

    Another night where Reimer steals the show, and the game. I think any remaining doubt can be cleared now – as long as Reimer stays healthy, we’ve got a hot goalie on our hands.

    Wonder how long this luck will last, though. Logically, a team with so few shots shouldn’t be winning games like we are.

    Just a slight correction – the magic number for a clinch is four points. That is, we need to either win two more, have the Jets lose two more in regulation, or have one of each result happening. Theoretically, we could clinch tonight if we beat the Caps and Tampa beat the Jets in regulation.

  • CheezWhizard

    Interesting to see whether Reimer gets the start tomorrow. It’s a back to back and it’s been 3 weeks since Scrivens got a game.

    That said Reimer is as hot as he’s ever been and it would be fitting for him to be in net for potentially the last step into the promised land tomorrow night.

  • CheezWhizard

    I think the scoring chance data really tells an interesting story. It makes a little more sense that NJ sh% would be so low when it’s really the 2nd and 4th lines getting all the chances. If you keep the guys with strong shooting skills in relative check, it’s probably going to take a lot of shots to score a goal.

    Also, on the PK. The Leafs gave up 6 chances, but how many kills did they have to get through? It seemed like O’Byrne was in the box half the game himself. Six chances on four kills doesn’t seem too bad. What have they been averaging?