The night started rougher than expected as word surfaced that Joffrey Lupul would be out indefinitely with a broken bone in his hand, but the Leafs were able to cruise to victory over the depleted Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.
The news about Lupul came as an unfortunate surprise, but aside from that the game started off pretty uneventful. Maybe most noteable was that Carter Ashton was plugged into the lineup for his first game of the season, and Daniel Winnik jumped up to the first line alongside Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel. Both teams had their moments in the first period, but the Leafs were the better team possessing the puck at a 60% clip. Late in the period, Phil Kessel banged in a rebound that made it 1-0 Toronto.
The game was largely carried by the top line, but in the second period we saw our first real bit of traction from the van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Clarkson line. I thought they were the Leafs best line in the second, and they were rewarded for their work when David Clarkson tipped home a Dion Phaneuf point shot on the powerplay. Peter Holland, who replaced an absent Joffrey Lupul on the powerplay tonight, drew the secondary assist.
Also of note in the second was the play of Jonathan Bernier. People will credit the Leafs for a strong road game but I thought Bernier was fantastic tonight, particularly in the second, masking a handful of shoddy defensive plays from the Leafs.
Early in the third the Leafs sealed the deal as Kessel fed Kadri an empty net on an odd man rush two minutes into the frame. The Blue Jackets were able to score a powerplay goal midway through, but as if there was any doubt in the result Daniel Winnik was able to score on a turnover late in the period to notch his 3rd point (1G, 2A) of the game in what was his 500th career contest. It was Winnik’s first goal as a Leaf.
The Leafs were outshot 11-2 in the 3rd, but you can probably chalk a lot of that up to score effects. They were winning the possession battle most of the game (they ended the night at 48.75% CF) and were only outshot 29-27.
I’m gonna go with Phil Kessel, but the whole first line was great. Kessel and Winnik each had a goal and 2 assists, and Kadri tallied a goal and an assist also. Each of those three were 50% CF or better as well. Lupul-Kadri-Winnik was a line that was dominating the possession game but failing to get on the score sheet, but it looks like maybe this line could be the best of both worlds. Tonight was a good start, anyways.
- The Leafs did allow a powerplay goal tonight, but for the most part they were impressive again. Komarov and Winnik in particular have been fantastic together shorthanded, and the Leafs currently sit 10th in the league in PK% at 84.2
- Tonight’s Toronto Corsi King is none other than Matt Frattin at 62.50% CF. Making his season debut, Carter Ashton was 2nd on the team in CF% at an even 60.00
- Overall, the Leafs played a pretty solid game. They did have some uneasy moments, but they got the job done against a Columbus team missing Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Sergie Bobrovsky, Matt Calvert, Nathan Horton, and James Wisniewski
SEE YOU TOMORROW
The Leafs return home to face the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday at 7PM Eastern on CBC.