I’m not one for trivial things like “win-loss records” or “standings”. I’m a simple man who believes that if you beat the best team in hockey, you become the best team in hockey. Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Anaheim Ducks, who are the best team in hockey, so the Toronto Maple Leafs are now the best team in hockey. It’s simple science.
What’s really strange about this game is that, while the Leafs won by a pretty convincing score of 6-2, they got pretty badly outplayed for large stretches. It’s funny how hockey works sometimes – Toronto certainly has some areas of their game to clean up if they hope to remain the best team in hockey.
All it takes is one loss and the title is gone. Truthfully, this title tends to get passed around the league a lot. Like mumps.
The Leafs opened the game by getting pinned in their own end every other shift and giving up a bunch of shots against, which is pretty standard. Despite this, the Leafs were still the first to strike (also pretty standard) when Tyler Bozak was the benefactor of a great cycling sequence between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel (again, pretty standard). The Leafs would escape the first period with a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Anaheim continued to pour shots on net. Despite outshooting Toronto 31-15 after forty minutes, only Joffrey Lupul and Sami Vatanen would exchange goals.
Carrying a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Leafs would explode with four more goals, including a wrap-around goal from David Booth, a super wicked toe-drag and wrister from Nazem Kadri, and a pair of markers from Phil Kessel. It’d get so bad for the Ducks that they replaced Frederik Andersen in net with Ilya Bryzgalov. That’s pretty bad.
Toronto would be outshot and largely outplayed, but pull out a win nonetheless. Now sporting a 19-9-3 record and 41 points on the season, the Leafs a point behind both Montreal and Detroit, and only two points behind the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re also a surprising 8 points clear of Boston, who currently sit outside of the playoff picture.
So how do the Leafs get outplayed and still win? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the team’s best player tonight was their goaltender.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 40 of 42 shots, continuing a streak of very strong play. He’s now got an impressive 13-6-3 record with a .922 SV% and a 2.53 GAA on the season.
Kessel, who scored twice and added an assist as Toronto’s top line came alive tonight, also deserves plenty of praise for his game. However, he scored both of his goals in garbage time against a crazy man/goaltender who hadn’t yet seen NHL action this year. Sorry Kessel. Score two more goals next game and we’ll talk.
Check Me Out On Thursdays
The Leafs are back at it on Thursday night, facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Tune in a 7:00pm on TSN4.