About 10 minutes into this game I thought it would be one of those nights for the boys in blue. The Leafs were completely out-chanced and out-played in every zone and every facet of play. It looked like a typical Leafs period. But hockey’s a funny game. Things change quickly.
Does anybody know what happened in the second? Anybody?
After getting dominated in the first and coming in to the second down 2-1, the Leafs came out guns-a-blazing scoring four goals on their first 10 shots. You know it’s a wild one when Polak and Clarkson get on the scoresheet. Kessel had the other two as his line controlled play for the better part of the game. There was some good puck movement in the o-zone between him, JVR, and Bozak that was encouraging to see after their last few games.
With the game all but put away completely, the Leafs took their foot off the gas, as usual, and let up big time in the third. The game was pretty much out of reach, so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s not a good thing to see the team playing prevent defense time and time again when it’s burned them in the past countless times.
Luckily Bernier came up huge, as usual, in the third, especially with that paddle save on a flubbed Cizikas shot. The first goal was not a good one, but he was lights out after that, and he needed to be. He stopped 34 of 36 shots.
It’s hard not to give it to Phil “The Phil” Kessel. He dished off a great feed to van Riemsdyk for the opener and then sniped two beauties of his own to spark the second period rally. When The Phil is on, good things happen for the Leafs. He’s their biggest threat out there, even when he doesn’t look like it. Most nights I’ll be watching the game with my dad and he’ll always complain that Kessel is doing nothing out there. What’s funny is that, probably better than anyone else in the league, he can create something from that. In the blink of an eye Kessel goes from lazy floater to snipeshow supreme. It’s what makes him such an exciting and dynamic player.
I should give an honourable mention to Clarkson though, he played another solid game. He’s a north-south player and he’s at his best when he keeps it that way going straight to the net where he’s most effective. Too many times last year he tried to do too much and just looked lost trying.
- The penalty kill was awful in the first. The Isles could do whatever they wanted in the zone and got a goal out of it. The Leafs settled down throughout the game and had a pretty good night otherwise. It seemed like they were in a constant parade to the box at one point. Most of the calls were warranted, but there may have been one or two that was kind of sketchy.
- A few things I have to give credit to the coaching staff for. First, the Leafs responded very well in the second after a bad first period. Second, the Leafs targeted a specific spot on Halak to shoot for that was obviously scouted. They scored every goal in the exact spot as Ray Ferraro pointed out on the brodcast. Third, and probably most important, the ice time was very well managed. Aside from Panik, every Leafs forward was between 10-20 minutes of ice-time. Phaneuf and Polak led the D at 22 minutes. Big change from last season’s deployment.
- My dad spent most of the night shouting at Gardiner who only played 14 minutes tonight. He did make some mistakes in his own end, but he was the Leafs best possession driver, as usual.
- I have no idea what Roman Polak was doing beneath the goal line before his goal, but he scored so who cares. I can see why traditional hockey guys like him, he passes the eye test and looks decent in the defensive zone as well as the penalty kill. The problem is he’s there too much.
- The Kessel line was break even in possession, a nice change of pace for them. It’s weird that Kessel has been the worst of the three in possession this year and this game too. He’s still piling on the points, but I don’t think he’s healthy. Even an injured Kessel is better than your favourite player though.
- This is the fourth solid game in a row for the Leafs. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep this going tomorrow in Ottawa.