Sometimes, your team isn’t ready for an overwhelming opposition. You have flashes of briliance, but that other team just gives it to you. For some crazy reason, though, you end up pulling through and winning the game. The Leafs had one of those nights tonight. As they do often, but that’s a topic for another day. The main point, however, is that the Nashville Predators are probably scratching their heads right now, as the Maple Leafs head back to Toronto with a 4-0 win.
The first period with the Predators testing Jonathan Bernier early and often, while the Leafs focused on everywhere around Pekka Rinne instead, not actually forcing him to make a save until there were five minutes left in the opening period. Both teams had a powerplay opportunity, but failed to convert. With just a combined 14 shots, this was a rather boring first period.
Things picked up in the second. Just minutes after killing off their second penalty of the period, the Leafs are first to jump onto the score sheet. James van Riemsdyk reacts to a lost faceoff by Tyler Bozak by charging behind the net and dishing the puck over to Phil Kessel for a one timer.
Things didn’t stop there for the dynamic duo. Wtith nine seconds remaining in the period, van Riemsdyk snatched a Phil Kessel shot away from Pekka Rinne and tucked in an insurance marker. The period ended with a fight, as David Broll fought Matt Hendricks. Despite the two goals, the Leafs were outshot 17-9 in the second period.
A scary moment came in the third period as Mike Fisher hit Cody Franson from behind, into the curved glass near what used to be the stanchion area. Franson was bleeding pretty badly, and Fisher was tossed. The Leafs took advantage of the situation twice, with powerplay goals coming from Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Potential for a fifth goal came as Carl Gunnarsson was hauled down, but his attempted Forsberg was easily stopped and the last bit of notable hockey before the final buzzer.
WHY THE LEAFS WON
Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. While I remain adament that the Leafs didn’t require a "saviour" going into this season, Jonathan Bernier has been nothing short of fantastic, and tonight may have been his best performance yet. There weren’t any particularly mindblowing saves, but he was constantly in the right position and prepared for what was coming next, and was rewarded with a 36 save shutout.
On the flip side, it could have also been the reason the Leafs lost if luck flipped onto the other side of the see-saw; Pekka Rinne was equally spectacular, making some massive saves to keep the Predators in it until Fisher was sent off.
Beyond the spectacular play of Bernier, James van Riemsdyk had a great night. The awareness on the first goal was top notch, his goal was scored as a result of not giving up on the play, and may have had a second one if Bozak’s pass didn’t bounce off a Nashville player and into the net. He’s been impressive to start the year, and tonight was no exception.
- Phil Kessel now has
3 goals and 9 points in six gamestwo goals and six points in five games. Nine more years, guys!
- David Broll didn’t look out of place at all. I’ve become increasingly more impressed with him over the past few months. He may actually be a viable option as a fighter who can play down the road.
- Paul Ranger appears to be adjusting a bit. Didn’t seem to be caught out of position as much tonight. I’m not entirely surprised that he’s been out of place a few times, as he does need to get used to the NHL pace, but he needs to figure it out sooner than later.
- The penalties that the Leafs took tonight couldn’t have been more obvious if they held signs up admitting their guilt. Easy job for the referees tonight, thankfully for them there wasn’t more of them.
- Thanks to the 4-0 lead, Cotlon Orr got to play 1:01 on the powerplay, which I find hilarious but not that big of a deal.
- The Leafs got slaughtered on the draw tonight, winning just 26 of 66 faceoffs. Nobody was above 50%.
Toronto plays their next game on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. Speaking of, we’re having a contest that allows you to watch the game with a couple of us, and you should check that out.