LEAFS POSTGAME – Mason Raymond catches torch, scores winner in 4-3 opener vs. Habs

An exciting game of river hockey was disrupted early in the third period when one of the Montreal Canadiens new additions, George Parros, was injured when he was pulled face-first into the ice during a fight. That’s unfortunately going to be the lasting image of a game that was entertaining in all other aspects.

The Maple Leafs’ special teams unit came alive, scoring a powerplay and a shorthanded goal, but it was Mason Raymond’s first as a Leaf on an odd-man rush that stood as the game-winner after a furious rally by the Canadiens in the opener. Just like last season, the Maple Leafs take the first game of the season at le Centre Bell with a 4-3 win.


The Leafs picked up where they were against Boston in the latter half of last year’s playoffs, playing a great puck-possession game through the first 20 minutes. Despite the major offseason additions David Clarkson and David Bolland (although Clarkson wasn’t playing) lacking in speed compared to the guys they let go, there was no shortage of quickness in the Leafs lineup in the early going. Raymond looked very strong, Nazem Kadri hadn’t lost a beat and James van Riemsdyk set a standard for the type of game he needs to have 40-50 times this season if the Leafs are going to contend for the division title.

Toronto struck first on a 5-on-3 powerplay, with van Riemsdyk attempting a pass across the crease, or a jam play, who knows, and the puck wound up sneaking through Carey Price’s legs.

After two quick goals by the Habs, from Lars Eller and from Brendan Gallagher, the Leafs went into the break down 2-1 but looking like the better squad if you factored in the special teams. Dion Phaneuf tied it early in the second off a gorgeous play set up by Kadri, and the Leafs would later take the lead on a shorthanded tally by Tyler Bozak.

Mason Raymond would provide the insurance goal at the start of the third, after Parros had been taken off the ice on a stretcher:

Eller struck again late, but the Habs only got a couple of shots off after that, the most dangerous one a wrist shot from Subban that Reimer got a piece of and it deflected wide. There was to be no comeback against these Leafs.


Some smart ass is going to point out to me that the Leafs won despite being out-shot 31-24 at even strength. Toronto also got 11 shots on the man advantage, and overall, they out-shot Montreal 38-36.

The main reason why Toronto took control of this game was a combination of undisciplined play by the Habs as well as the Leafs penalty-drawing proficiency. It’s a highly underrated skill in the NHL, but the two best Leafs at drawing calls, Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, drew a combined 10 penalty minutes. Drawing penalties doesn’t just have the effect of giving your team a chance to score, but it helps out on the defensive side.

The Leafs also did well gaining control of the zone in possession of the puck, notably victimizing Josh Gorges and rookie Jerred Tinordi often and keeping the puck away from P.K. Subban as they tried to get into the offensive zone. Randy Carlyle talked earlier in the day about generating more puck possession, and strategically, they kept it away from the Habs’ best defenceman.


Above I mentioned that Raymond injected some speed into the lineup, but another player playing his first as a Leaf, Troy Bodie, was equally impressive. It will be fun to check his puck-possession differentials in this one, but he was often first into the zone hustling after loose pucks and made a couple of real nice neutral zone plays as well. An excellent first appearance from the son-in-law, making the most of the Clarkson suspension.


  • A very high-event game with close to 40 shots on goal for both teams. Having had to sit through a lot of games where Randy Carlyle had the lead last year… this was a welcome change.
  • van Riemsdyk was excellent. He had six shots on goal and four controlled entries into the zone. Have to think he also benefits from Phil Kessel being one of the best players recorded at maintaining possession. I have Kessel listed at five controlled entries at even strength, which led the Leafs, but is a step down from his normal output.
  • Glenn Healy mentioned early on that Kessel was a minus-2. Piss on Glenn Healy.
  • Strong night from Bozak. He made a couple of awkward plays in the defensive zone, but he’d have a lot of value if he made about half of what he makes and played on the third line. He had five shots, but wasn’t as active in the neutral zone. Remains a good penalty killer.
  • Last year the Leafs allowed 41.8 shots against per 60 minuteswhen killing penalties 4-on-5. In 6:45 of 4-on-5 time, the Leafs allowed just 4 shots, or 35.6 per 60 minutes. Conversely, they took 58.2 shots per 60 in this game with the man advantage. The special teams got off to a great, great start.
  • If your pool is drafting late, Lars Eller ain’t going to be a sleeper anymore. I think I tried to warn you.
  • The goalies played pretty well. James Reimer starts off his season with a .917 performance, a quality start, although he was just .906 at evens because Eller’s second came just as the Habs penalty expired.
  • Carey Price did not get a quality start. Poor Carey.
  • STAN

    I’m not sure about the metrics from this Pond Hockey opener, but here are 10 things I noticed from what I saw.

    1. Reimer still has trouble with lateral movement, goes to his knees too early, and tends to lose sight of the puck too often. But he’s a markedly improved puck handler (it could NOT have gotten worse) and seemed to give up fewer rebounds. All in all, a a solid performance for a first game.

    2. Mason Raymond isn’t just one of the fastest players in the NHL, he is smart with the puck, makes some sweet passes and rarely just dumps the puck out. At his salary, Nonis could afford 7 more of him… and trade Kessel.

    3. That said, Kessel look good and dangerous all night. Sure he telegraphs that blistering wrist shot and when goalies know it’s coming from 30 feet out they’ll stop those pucks most of the time. But when he’s in closer and lets it go, look out.

    4. Phaneuf’s shooting seems to have improved. For now. His first slapper was actually on net and then the wrister that went in was a laser to the top corner. But that senseless boarding call ruined a power play and returned momentum to the Habs. He acts like a Luddite too often.

    5. It’s conclusive to me – Cody Franson is the Leafs best D-man. His passes are crisp and accurate, he gets the puck rom point-to-point better and faster than anyone, he sees the ice and the play developing and if he’s out of position can recover and make the right play.

    6. Troy Bodie might just be a keeper. I’ve been slagging his presence in Toronto as a direct result of marrying Leiweke’s daughter. But if keeps playing like he did tonight, he’ll be one of the best bang-for-buck players in the locker room.

    7. Carlyle seems insistent on going into protect mode once there’s a two-goal lead with 15 minutes to play. The Leafs sat back and let the Habs control he ice and the inevitable happened when they got that late goal. Has Carlyle learned nothing from last season’s game seven playoff embarrassment in Boston? That’s why I loved the 1908’s Oilers. No goal total was enough and their mindset was that puck control and puck pressure was the BEST defence.

    8. van Riemsdyk started like he started last January. Fast and dangerous. Could of had 3 or 4 goals in this one. And Linemate Bozak was solid all night.

    9. Lupul looked sluggish, as if he’s was hurt. No jump. No good chances.

    10. It was a fairly well-deserved win.

    One other thing, don’t look at the Washington-Chicago boxscore. At least MLSE is only paying Ovechkin’s new linemate $2.8-million this season… and the same amount for 7 more. Oh well, the Blue and White will have his replacement (in position and salary) back for a maximum 72 games starting October 25th. What way to run a business.


    • STAN

      @ your third point. Mason Raymond won’t be making a million dollars after this year. he was a steal at the price the leafs got him. there aren’t alot of players with his skill set that will settle for a mil. he’ll probably be closer to three mil, and for a quality 2/3 liner that’s ok, but he won’t be putting up anywhere near 40 goals. hopefully he can take advantage of being paired against other teams weaker players, as kessel and kadri take on the other teams best, and can put up some good numbers this year. i can see him moving up to line 2 and kulemin going back down to line 3

  • STAN

    Piss on Glenn Healy. I say that every Hockey Night in Canada.

    In other news that’s likely to the writers on this site going…Grabovski with a hat-trick and an assist tonight.

  • STAN

    Although a somewhat sloppy game at times, the Leafs looked good. JVR is going to be a beast this year if he can maintain a consistent effort. Bozak was good too, continuing to do the dirty work and win draws for the rest of his line. Leafs had a lot of offensive zone time as well, especially in the third where they cycled well, without wasting any pucks at the net, thus this possession time won’t be reflected in corsi/Fenwick numbers, similar to last year. Lots of strong dump ins and puck retrieval as well, just as good as a clean zone entry. Exciting first game for sure.

  • STAN

    I have to think that at some point Kadri joins the 1st line with Kessel and JVR. I think Bozak is a very serviceable 2nd line C… and fits well with Lupul and Clarkson/Kulemin. Won’t happen anytime soon I know… but it’s gotta happen at some point his year.

    Bozak was superb on the PK tonight… even without the goal.

  • STAN

    I’m interested in seeing what Leafs fans have to say about Raymond halfway through the season. His problem in Vancouver was always a strong start and then a settling back into obscurity for the rest of the season.

    He is a smart, skilled, fast player though. I’m rooting for him.

    Also, how badly did Markov mishandle the puck to give Bozak that kind of breakaway. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Leafs do this year.

  • STAN

    Just like you predicted Cam – regression to the mean has already started. Last year the leafs beat the habs 6-0 and this year they were lucky to win 4-3. This is going to be a long terrible drawn out season for leafs.