The USA jerseys represent JVR and Kessel, obviously . . .
After seeing the rosters for both teams, many expected fireworks. And by fireworks, I mean fights, fights and more fights. Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Matt Kassian were all in the lineup, setting up what looked like a rough game before the puck even dropped. Then the Leafs put Orr in the starting lineup and things looked even worse.
But, just like so many games before, the facepunchers barely got on the ice, turning this game into a competition between three lines. McLaren played 58 seconds and Orr played 2:27.
But their lack of ice time was a blessing in disguise as the Leafs offence dominated after the Senators went up 2-0, with Kessel recording a hat trick and the Leafs winning the game 6-3.
The first 19 minutes of the game were pretty boring, because nothing happened. There were 11 total shots and no real scoring chances. But, with 53 seconds remaining in the period, Chris Neil
got in a fight rifled one past Bernier while coming down the centre of the ice, putting the Senators up 1-0. Considering the Leafs had three powerplays, it was a pretty disappointing period since they could only muster nine shots on goal.
The second period opened with something everyone expected, a fight. Three minutes into the period, McLaren came onto the ice for his second and last shift of the game (ugh), and fittingly got into a fight with Matt Kassian that lasted all of one punch and three seconds. And McLaren lost the fight, so he failed at his one and only task.
Just a few minutes later, Colin Greening put one past Bernier on a two-on-one pass from Neil after Gardiner had a brutal giveaway at the offensive blueline, so surprisingly, McLaren’s fight gave the Leafs no momentum at all.
The Leafs did respond later in the period, as the first line scored once again. Van Riemsdyk fired a cross-ice pass to Kessel who put it behind Anderson for his 28th of the season.
The Leafs immediately tied the game after Kadri delivered a brutal hit behind the net to Ceci, and then set up Lupul to fire one past Anderson. It was the type of hit that will definitely get Shanahan’s attention and might even result in a suspension. But the play did help Toronto enter the second intermission tied at two, even though they sleepwalked through the majority of the first two periods.
A powerplay for Toronto finally clicked seven minutes into the third, as Kessel came across the top of the circle and put one top corner with a snap shot for his second of the game. Rielly assisted on the goal, continuing what was one of his best games he’s played all season.
A few minutes later, a very odd scene happened with Neil being credited for a goal off a commercial break after nobody watching had any idea a review was even underway.
But Phil the Thrill took a pass from Bozak with six minutes remaining, scoring a hat trick and his 30th goal of the season. And then Kessel recorded his fourth point of the night setting up Bozak with one minute remaining in the game to put the final dagger in the Senators.
WHY THE LEAFS WON
Phil Kessel. It’s hard to say anything else. The guy was en fuego. The first line dominated once again, and the Senators had no answer for it. When he’s on one of these hot streaks, he’s a top-5 player in the NHL, and the first line is making a case to be called the best line in hockey. You can’t mention the best without mentioning JVR/Bozak/Kessel right now.
Again, it’s impossible not to say Phil Kessel. He recorded a hat trick and an assist and was the best player on the ice almost every shift. Before he had that outburst in the third, I was prepared to put Rielly here because he had a helluva game, but Kessel was just too good.
His speed is unstoppable and his shot tonight was as lethal as ever. He scored his 30th goal of the season, giving him his 5th career 30-goal season. And his playmaking skills were also on display, as he setup Bozak for the nail in the coffin late in the third.
NUMBERS AND NOTES
- The Leafs had a lull after they took a 3-2 lead midway through the third, which again shows their tendency to go into a shell once they take the lead late. But They finshed the game strong by actually keeping the pressure on once they took the lead again at 4-3, which isn’t typical of the Leafs but a refreshing sight.
- Although the Leafs had a lower corsi number than Ottawa (59-58) they actually outshot the Senators 35-25. Great to see Toronto actually outshoot a team.
- Morgan Rielly kond of reminds me of PK Subban. He skates the puck out of trouble, jumps into the rush every chance he gets and is moving at 100mph all game long. He’s not as physical or as intense as Subban, but Rielly looks more and more like a budding superstar every single game.
- Greg McKegg’s NHL debut was uneventful, as he only played 3:43. Once Orr and McLaren were taken out of the gamplan, so was McKegg.