Okay, so maybe the first game of the Peter Horacheck interim-era didn’t go the way the Leafs would have liked it to. They out chanced and out shot Washington, but couldn’t outscore them. Tonight was an opportunity to build on the positives and turn it all into something constructive, and, to the Leafs’ credit, they did exactly that, earning a convincing 5-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This game actually didn’t start off as planned either. Ryan Johansen opened up the scoring about three minutes in, stripping the puck off of Cody Franson as Dion Phaneuf suffered a wicked tumble. While James van Riemsdyk gave chase, Johansen had a pretty easy breakaway ahead of him.
With that said, the Leafs kept at it, and luck came to their side en route to the tying goal. Tyler Bozak attempted to set up Phil Kessel, but the puck went off a skate and beat Sergei Bobrovsky. It was the start of a wave of offence for the Leafs, who received goals from Daniel Winnik, Phil Kessel, and James van Riemsdyk before the first came to a close.
Johansen, apparently the only member of the Blue Jackets who remembered to come play tonight, closed the gap a bit in the second period. With Daniel Winnik in the box, Johansen took his time from the blue line and easily wristed a puck past Jonathan Bernier. That was pretty much the only chance his team had for the second period, however, as the Leafs held them to just four shots. A lot of the third period was spent in the neutral zone for both sides, but with a minute to go, JVR added an empty netter.
When Phil Kessel can get Jeff O’Neill to say good things about him, you know it was a good game. He did all the narrative things; he forechecked hard, backchecked hard, bodychecked on occasion, and blocked a shot. He did all the Kessel things too; he set up van Riemsdyk on his first goal, he scored one of his own, and had a few legitimate scoring chances. He was also one of Toronto’s best play-driving players tonight, drawing 53% CF at even strength.
- Phaneuf’s play on the first goal was definitely not the nicest of efforts. I get what his idea was; he saw that Franson was unlikely to retain possession of the puck and figured that he’d be able to get in front of Johansen in time. With that said, the wipeout meant that he had not only failed at that, but wasn’t around to protect the net.
- Holy crap, the Leafs held a team to 20 shots. It’s the second time the entire season they’ve held one to fewer than 24, and really, we shouldn’t count succeed against the Buffalo Sabres towards anything. One of the best defensive games by the Leafs in quite some time.
- That said, the powerplay time definitely helped in outshooting them. The team was firing on all cylinders in its four man advantages, and hey, it lead to two goals.
- Jonathan Bernier had a decent night, stopping 18 of the 20. One of them was a breakaway, so I can’t really blame him too much for it.
- The Leafs now have the weekend off, and will return to the ice on Monday in Los Angeles.