I’m not even worried about this game. It was a bad game. There were some really questionable goals. The Leafs have lost five straight. If a couple of teams that have games in hand win a single one of them, they’re out of a playoff spot. David Clarkson has two points in his past 24 games, and James Reimer’s stock is crashing faster than Enron’s.
But please, just let Phil Kessel be okay. That’s all I ask. That was a rough helmet hit to the head, and while he came back on seconds after the ref held him back (of course he did, it’s the Leafs), he didn’t seem in great shape after impact. That play would be an awful way to finally miss a game with the team, having played in 362 straight since his debut. Let’s talk about the game, though.
The two teams played the game pretty evenly throughout; New Jersey is very good at limiting the opposition’s chances, but does it in a way that limits their ability to take risks offensively.
New Jersey was first to strike, heading back into the offensive zone on a two on one rush. James Reimer looked for the shot, but Tim Gleason.. couldn’t decide. As such, the pass to Damien Brunner made it across uninterrupted, which lead to an easy goal.
That was all in the first period, but five minutes into the second, a stretch pass went past Morgan Rielly and onto Patrik Elias’ stick, giving him a breakaway, which saw him fake a slap shot and dangle for the insurance marker. Thirty seconds later, the Devils set up in the offensive zone, and a Jon Merrill slapshot trickled through James Reimer’s pads, making it a 3-0 game and prompting a goalie switch.
Tyler Bozak gave the Leafs their first goal of the game about three minutes later, with a spectacular play to get into position to tip a Rielly pass beyond Cory Schneider. From there, the goals dried up, until just two minutes remained. Phil Kessel came in with a burst of speed, a quick move, and a goal.. only to crash into the net, as seen above.
Why The Leafs Lost
Two key mistakes. This one is on Tim Gleason, because while this looks a little nice, it’s ineffective. His stick isn’t doing anything at all, and he doesn’t pick a guy to commit to. He’s a statute, which makes this play an effective 2-on-0.
And this one is on Reimer:
Stephen Gionta is a little in the way, but Reimer is clearly looking at the shot and knows where it is. For it to trickle in was a disappointment, to say the least. While it was the only bad goal of the night, it was definitely the dagger.
Something I’d like to point out: Ever since his “bell ringing” that gave him a quick headache, Reimer has a 0.871 SV%. After getting hit by Brian Gionta in 2011/12, he had a 0.876 SV%. It turned out he was playing out the year with post-concussion symptoms. Not saying correlation implies causation, but it makes you lift an eyebrow.
In a game with not much to be happy about, I’m giving this one to Drew MacIntyre, who made his partial Leafs regular season debut. He stopped all 14 shots he faced, though the Devils were also pretty passive by that point and not pushing heavily to score. As such, I’m not ready to declare it reflective of anything, but I’m immensely happy for him nonetheless.