Leafs Postgame: Sparky Night In Canada

When this game was identified on the schedule a couple of months ago, Leafs fans knew it was going to be a special night. It was circled as one of the must-see’s of the year. It was going to be the night of a young rookie, developed by Toronto, playing his guts out in front of 18000 fans at the Air Canada Centre.

Saying all this, I’m actually referring to Newmarket-born Leafs fan Connor McDavid, who was drafted by the Oilers and currently plays for the Injured Reserve. It was a player on the other team that was the expected attraction, but in hindsight, I’m sure the crowd preferred what they got from tonight’s 3-0 Leafs victory instead.

By the time you’ve clicked on this article, you probably know all the nuances of Sparks’ stellar night out. If not, we have a terribly detailed separate post that will get you up to speed, but there was more to this game than its main storyline.

Before the Oilers could put on any significant pressure, the Leafs were able to put themselves on the scoresheet. Taking advantage of a Leon Draisatl hook on Morgan Rielly, Toronto headed to the powerplay and set up in their typical fashion. Upon receiving the puck from Dion Phaneuf, James Van Riemsdyk spotted Leo Komarov bulldozing towards the net, as he usually does. JVR dropped the puck into the slot, where it, along with Komarov, were promptly buried into the back of the net for his career-high ninth goal of the season.

The Oilers began to crawl back in control from here and maintained it throughout the back half of the first and most of the second period. The Leafs did a good job of keeping the puck away from their own net, but at the same time, struggled to add to their own totals for a while. But they finished the second period strong, and in the third, they added an insurance tally. This time, Nazem Kadri deflected a shot from Jake Gardiner into Anders Nilsson’s unguarded area, doubling up Toronto’s lead after the referees confirmed that his stick was in the correct time zone.

The Leafs didn’t stop at this, continuing to put pucks towards the net. A penalty to Jake Gardiner shifted the momentum back a bit, but the Leafs used that the remaining even strength to slow the game in order to protect their rookie netminder’s shutout. In the process, they added one more goal, thanks to a Komarov empty netter that gave him his first ten-goal season.

This game will forever belong to Sparks, and it’s understandable; he’s a 22-year-old rookie with a story as good as his personality. But his monstrous NHL debut practically hides some other strong performances on the evening. 

You have the captain, Dion Phaneuf, who picked up an assist tonight that brought him to fifteen points in 28 games; his best pace in years. Many felt that Dion could improve under Babcock, and he has in many ways; he even lead the team in possession tonight, with a 68.42 even strength Corsi-for percentage. He also threw this gigantic hit, which was great:

You can also look to the top line, who looked fantastic tonight. Be it Leo’s pair of goals, Kadri’s slow reversal of his drought, or van Riemsdyk’s assists on all three Toronto goals, there was a little bit of work to positively acknowledge for almost everybody in the core of players you’d prefer to keep.

Obviously, the Oilers aren’t the most difficult challenge in the league, but at the same time, any win is a tough one for the Leafs. They should take immense pride in this game, and carry it with them for the foreseeable future. At least until Wednesday, when they take on the Winnipeg Jets.


  • Gary Empey

    The Leafs forecheck and backcheck was relentless.

    Opposing teams will have to learn that trying to cycle the puck past Roman Polák is like trying to sneak past a “Stellar Black Hole”.

    Still that is likely safer than testing out Dion Phaneufs “Big Bang Theory”, as Benoit Pouliot discovered.

    I think it is now time to show some class and not mention what a useless bunch of twats the Oilers are.

  • Gary Empey

    While the “Oiler Army” does have a superior numerical advantage, they show a complete lack of discipline. They panic and scatter in all directions, as soon as the first shot is fired.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Fun game, really.

    Is anyone as concerned as I am with the 4th line? Sure, shutting down Purcell-Draisaitl-Hall is not easy. (That line was a menace most of the night). Winnik was pretty effective. But Spaling looks like he’s trying to bail out Lake Ontario. So much effort, so little effect.

    If I were Babcock, I’d tinker. Give Spaling a break and plug in Arcobello. See what happens.

    • Gary Empey

      When a team shuts out an opponent all four lines have to be playing well.

      If you were to bring up Arcobello, who would you waive to get him here? Sparks is the only one that doesn’t have to clear waivers. As you said: “shutting down Purcell-Draisaitl-Hall is not easy.”.

  • Gary Empey

    lol justin schultz was a disaster all night. especially on the pk that led to komarov’s goal. so out of position. i was wondering why leo was left all alone and then saw him charging towards leo when the puck was already in the net.