That was a fun hockey game.

The Leafs came into tonight’s game big winners of their last two, big losers of the previous two, and big question marks so far this season. Pittsburgh provided a good test for a team looking to establish an identity. A win wasn’t as required as was a good effort. The Leafs got one of those.

The Rundown

Screenshot 2014-11-26 22.45.59

The above image does a very good job describing the first period – and by the “above image” I am of course referring to Sportsnet’s attempt at “analytics”, which includes a sample size of one period. It is also worth noting that it includes hits and doesn’t break down which shots were on the powerplay vs which ones were at even-strength. Good try, good effort.


This, on the other hand, shows the real first period and entire game really. Pittsburgh absolutely dominated at even-strength, and it started early – Blake Comeau scored a weird one 26 seconds in, the fourth time Jonathan Bernier has allowed a goal in the first two minutes this season. That’s a worrying trend.

Pittsburgh dominated from then on – other than when the Kadri line was on the ice – eventually adding another one on the powerplay via a rocket by Evgeni Malkin.

The Leafs played a bit better in the second, as has been the case all season. As has been noted, the speed that the Leafs have allows them to counter attack and transition dangerously with the long change. This was demonstrated on Leo Komarov’s first goal of the game. 

Holzer calmly breaks up a two-on-one (although it was basically passed to him by the Pens), they Leafs transition quickly, Kadri takes a hit to make a play, taps it to Santo Claus, and it’s finished off by the Uncle. What’s not to like?

Just over two minutes later, Leo strikes again with an absolutely insane tip off a nice Dion Phaneuf wrister. 

After Blake Comeau scored his second goal of the night, Tyler Bozak scored another breakaway goal on the penalty kill. 

As much as I harp on the guy, he is a man in possession of a bizarre set of skills. The read on Crosby’s pass, the speed, and the finish. Maybe I don’t hate him? I don’t know anymore. #Yeszak

The Leafs went into the third tied, which was a win in itself. The third period solved nothing – although it was a pretty exciting period, capped off by an insane scramble in front of Bernier with 30 seconds left.

OT started immediately because there was no dry scrape (yayyyyy!). Three minutes later, this happened:

Despite Phaneuf’s strong play on Crosby, the puck ends up on Comeau’s stick and he not only wins the game for the Pens, but gets the hat trick too. 

Blue Warrior

Uncle Leo is the easy choice: two goals, and as always was a pest to his opponent and a joy to watch as a fan. Honourable mention: Cody Franson, who had a heck of a game up against Crosby’s line. Finished with a 62% 5v5 CF. 


  • Komarov is on pace for 59 points. 59. 
  • Cody Franson is going to get paid. He rules. He’s the best defenseman on the team.
  • Kadri was fantastic again, as he has been all season. The points aren’t there, but he’s sticking with the process and that is commendable because the organization doesn’t always care about the process.
  • Santo Claus rules.
  • The PP is a mess – Phaneuf-Franson is not a good first powerplay pairing. Split them up with Rielly-Gardiner. It’ll be a lot better.
  • Robidas-Holzer was absolutely destroyed tonight.
  • The Kessel line was also destroyed at 5v5, Bozak especially.
  • The 4th line played about 10 minutes tonight, which is okay I guess. The line had Lupul and Booth on it so it’s not exactly a typical 4th line.

See You Saturday

The Capitals come to Toronto on Saturday for Hockey Night in Canada. 

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  • CMpuck

    Kadri while playing well had a few bad shifts in the third where he turned over the puck one right could of easily cost the leafs the game.
    But on the other side of the ledger he absolutely destroyed Ehrhoff for possibly the best hit i’ve seen thrown by a Leaf this season.

    The Ref seemed to be on Pittsburgs side.
    From screening Bernier moments before the opening goal to 3 very questionable calls against the Leafs.
    The Clarkson penalty lead directly to the second goal and a call on Robidas that was just plain wrong.

    Komorov seems to be underpaid considering his contribution thus far.

    Holtzer looked good out there tonite using his size to his advantage.While Kessel was invisible.

    Bozaks shorthanded breakaway goal was a beauty!

    Pittsburgh looked very impressive in the first
    period, unfortunately Bernier let in a couple of soft goals including another goal in the first 2 mins.

    All in all a very good performance by the Blue and white.

  • TGT23

    This writer of the article defines the mediocrity mentality of so many media and fans. Yep winning isn’t the main thing just have a good effort. You really wonder why this team struggles to reach 85 points in a season?

    Once again the anointed one by a number of Toronto media, who they felt should have been the third back up goalie for Team Canada after a 100 game career in last year’s olympics allowed two more soft goals, including one in the first minute.

    Even if he had made a big save on the winning goal, Bernier would have faced Crosby and Malkin in the shootout. We all know his horendous record in shoot outs.

    Three games over 500 and 11 big wins in 22 games for the leafs, just two behind the Raptors who have played 15 games.

  • Jerkball

    Holtzer played solid tonite, was a plus player, showed some offence and threw the body, he was not destroyed tnite as per ur review of the game. Are u trying to be controversial or ur just dumb? Side note, i prefer lattes.

  • Jerkball

    So…players can complain and have an icing call reversed. Who knew?
    Kessel hasn’t been himself since a minor neck injury in practice last week and he was slow getting up after the slough foot. Maybe not 100%?
    A good effort tonight–very entertaining.

  • TGT23

    That was an unexpected offensive outburst by Uncle Leo… Loved seeing it, though. Unexpected offense is always appreciated.

    Dion really played a heck of a game against Sid. Yeah, the stats will show Sid had two assists, but he wasn’t as effective as the assists would lead you to believe.

    Bernier was strong from the 2nd period onward. Kept them in it and got them to OT to get a point out of this game.

    Finally, I really, REALLY love MAF’s yellow pads… Just so awesome.

    • TGT23

      Geez, yeah. That was insufferable. They are so smug and condescending. I can’t believe Sportsnet would keep dinosaurs like that around who are too lazy to learn anything new so they belittle it.

    • BubbaLou

      What the hell was that about? The best part was not that it was obvious trolling, but that Healy would break down Bernier’s save% on High and Low glove, and compare it to the league average, to make a point about his glovehand almost immediately after trolling.


      Also pfft – Healy with goalie analysis. Totally a character attack from me, but he sucked – where’s his high horse coming from?

      Some thoughts:

      -Leo Komarov is in completely uncharted waters for his career production. Every sign points to a regression coming, but I honestly don’t know where to go now. He is on pace to so shatter his career averages(and not-averages, even the KHL ones) that it’s craziness. I wouldn’t even mind because it’s not even like he needs to put up points to be a force on the ice. God speed you monster.

      -Speaking of which: Leo@3M/3Y. Clarkson@5.25M/6Y. Media considered Leo overpaid at signing. The same media gushed all over their teleprompters about Clarkson’s grit and tenacity and well maybe he’s overpaid a bit but you’re gonna love him. Oops!

      -The leafs were solidly out-possessed at 5v5 out of the gate (34%, brutal start as usual), but they had a very good 2nd period that caught the team up some. Indeed, the Leafs outplayed PIT at evens in the second – 51%Corsi(all shot attempts), 52%Fenwick(all shots less blocked shots) – and wouldn’t you know it, they got some 5v5 goals to show for it.

      -By the way, the reason I don’t really reference shots on goal is it’s often misleading. What did you see from the Leafs in the first – 53% (Shots on Goal), or 34% (all shots)? Exactly.

      -The first line was dead quiet. Bozak got another shortie, that’s good! Kessel and JVR were quiet, that’s bad. Also, you don’t need to be a 1st liner to play on the PK.

      -The second PP unit isn’t scoring much, so RC cut Kadri from the unit? Kadri is 6th overall of all leafs on the second PP from 2007-2014 and he hasn’t been there nearly that long. Clarkson is 14th. Maybe the reason why the line went quiet is they lost the #1, undisputed leader on PP2 production in that time period – Joffrey Lupul. This coach sometimes.

      -By the way, the Komarov-Kadri-Santo line was really, really good. Kadri got Malkin to hook him while handling the puck in the Ozone, there were some sick feeds from Kadri to Komarov too. It’s basically the kind of game you want to see from Nazem.

      Like Bobby said, I can live with the loss to a team that’s going to finish higher that we will. Moreso if the team gives an honest effort. Moreso when we battle back for the pity point. The Leafs’ season lived on OTLs and SO wins last year, so they’re pretty important. Saturday versus the Caps!

      • Jeremy Ian

        Well written. Maybe BubbaLou can write the columns and Bobby Cappuccinno can write in the comments section?

        Healy gets his pass to comment on playing goalie in the NHL or being in the NHL because he’s done it. I trust you don’t think reading the numbers is a substitute for watching the game with a perspective that comes from playing it?

      • Jeremy Ian

        I agree — RC’s having difficulty with Kadri. And it’s not Kadri’s fault. The “numbers” may not be there, but Kadri’s been the hardest working forward on the team so far this season.

        Why RC yanks Kadri from PP2 in favor of Lupul, and doesn’t pull Clarkson, who only excelled in NJ on the PP because the anchor was Kovalchuk, is beyond me.

    • Jeremy Ian

      I agree — it was embarrassing. Numbers = analytics, and then they make fun of them like a couple of morons who’ve just learned the alphabet and think they can now read Shakespeare. Talk about publicizing your own ignorance.

      This was a fine game to watch. The good news is that the Leafs recovered after the 1st period and played decently against a formidable opponent. F-O-R-M-I-D-A-B-L-E.

      “What’s47years”: some perspective would help. There’s no one on the Leafs that shines a candle to Crosby and Malkin. Yet…

      It helps to have depth in the line up. I hope RC’s learning this, because if Bozak has to square off against Crosby, and Kadri against Malkin all night, it’s like skating uphill. This team might might do ok this year if the coach buys and builds on the concept of four threatening lines in the absence of a dominating Center and stalwart defense.

      It’s not bad to play the Pens in their arena and come away with a point! Some fans are impossible to please — either this team is God’s gift to hockey or it’s garbage.

      Who wants a miracle when you can realistically hope for an improving team with some developing talent that, if you don’t smash it up in a fit of impatience, might be a contender in a few years??? Some of us were around in 67; that doesn’t mean you have to expect the Cup tomorrow.

      Teams aren’t rebuilt over-night. A few years ago, the Leafs were garbage. Now they aren’t. Now they can take the Penguins to overtime in their own arena.

      The thing the Leafs have to fix is their PP. If they could fire it up again, that’s a few more W’s and then you’d see the marks of improvement.

  • jasken

    Great effort by the team last night, good to see….hopefully this is a good sign…..

    I still think Reims shoild have played this game….he’s got a great record agsint this team, and has my understaning from the sportscaster that Reims has never lost in regulation agasint them//maybe misunderstood…

    but anyways, not to hpye and g into another Goalie war…but Bernier has shown this last year as well….win a couple, lse a few, win a couple loose a few…..if he’s going to be this teams starter he NEEDS to win alot more games together just reality…..

    He’s lost all his games aganist Crosby and Pittsburg……gonna have to do better….

    Hang in there Reims…..one way or another you will get your chance again….and hopefully the team will be there with you…


    • TGT23

      I agree..I mean they weren’t the greatest in the 1st period..but glad to see SOG alot better this time out…agree about Bernier, he needs to be more consistent with the wins…

      Miss Reims in net though…. don’tblame hime for his 2 looses, it was the whole team….

      one thing I hate about the Goalie war so to speak…when berni does hos snowangels, and flops arond everywhere its ok, when Reims does it , he gets called names etc…very bias fans…I see all Goalies starters and back up. flop around like a fish…do what u need to do to stop the puck, pretty or not….

  • CMpuck

    Bozak on the PK reminds me of Lombardi in his prime with the Flames. Bozak has wheels, no wonder he gets to play with Phil instead of Kadri.

    I’d like Phaneuf if he was making 5 million in a lesser role, he’s not putting up numbers like he used too but he’s throwing his weight around a lot this year, good to see. Still despise his contract though.

  • Jeremy Ian

    The boys should a high level of compete last night. That’s three games now and let’s hope this continues.

    And lookout when the leafs start getting better goaltending from both Reimer and Bernier provided they keep up this attention work effort and don’t rely on the goalies to bail them out

  • Jeremy Ian

    There was a debate last night over re-signing Franson.

    What are your thoughts (since we have a bit of a lull till Sat)?

    If the Leafs are still marginally in the playoff picture, do you resign Santo, Winnik, and Franson? Or trade them for picks, esp given how dodgy the Marlies are looking?

    The Leafs are not poised for a strong run, but Rogers may be tempted by the immediate advertising boost from one round.


  • jasken

    People just dont understand a coaches thinking, no coach in their right mind would choose a person who produces in 45 of 100 games over a person who produces in 62 of 100 games the person who produces in 45 games is not consistent enough to produce in the games. Dont you people understand consistency has nothing to do with how much a person is skilled or has ability to put a massive amounts points its about games in which the register atleast a point. When your consistency leader is “Bozak” you have a serious problem with your team. Either he is your number 1 or your team has serious issues with core players.

    Something that is never mentioned is consistency everyone goes on about Fancystats, PPG average but not one person thinks consistency how many games they produce atleast 1 point. It dont matter if you get 1 point or 5 in a game it still only counts as 1. Bozak dont get many points a 1 point here 1 point there but more then anyone else he is consistent. Now the only center any where near Bozak is Komarov. I am looking at possibly a Komarov/Kessel/JVR line right now. He is right there behind Bozak in face-off and consistency and he would provide a bit more grit to that line. If I am coach this is an unexpected surprise and something I am looking at seriously.