A tilt between two of the league’s youngest teams went pretty much as expected. Questionable special teams, fast-paced action, and a blown third period lead. Thankfully, the Maple Leafs were on the winning side of this one and climb to a game above .500 eleven games into the season.
1. The Jets came out flying (pun intended). Fantastic crowd up in the ‘Peg that shows you what actual cheering from the stands can do for a team. You can guarantee that you will never see the ACC thriving with the consistent energy of the MTS Centre outside of the playoffs. Said energy went straight to the legs of Kane and company as they took it to the Leafs early. Winnipeg may not be the best defensive team, but they have a lot of skilled, big forwards and are a legit center or two away (aren’t we all?) from being offensively elite.
2. It was a matchup of sad-sack special teams, as the Leafs depressing PP took on Winnipeg’s league-worst PK. That Liles started out there along with Phaneuf was a good sign that whichever stubborn son of a bitch that’s in charge of the PP is beginning to see common sense. Unfortunately, they started off 0 for 3 with a shorthanded goal against.
3. Speaking of shorties, Tyler Bozak was one of many Toronto players that got a good chance on a Jets powerplay that was missing its main anchor in Dustin Byfuglien. Bozak made good on his breakaway, roofing it with aplomb. You could almost see his challenging flow-fueled roar aimed in Stephen Weiss’s general direction. Boy, that Bozak kid sure would make a great third line defensive center.
4. Anthony had some great insight on Mark Fraser earlier today. He continuously shows that he is willing to take the body and seems very capable of making smart, simple plays with consistency. He will drop the gloves if provoked and doesn’t let anyone set up camp in Toronto’s end. Sounds kind of like what we all thought Mike Komisarek would bring when we signed him many moons ago.
5. Kadri, king of drawing penalties, had another strong game. With Frattin and MacArthur as wingers, the trio is clearly not your typical third line. McClement-Grabovski-Kulemin are shouldering the heavy load defensively, making Kadri et al. a purely offensive line whose minutes aren’t extremely high as a result of their tactical use by Randy Carlyle. This is a good strategy to break two youngsters into the NHL, and it is clearly working for them. The question of course is, would Toronto be better off leaning on them even more? They got a chance midway through the third on a crucial powerplay, with the Leafs trailing by one. The gears are still churning as the coaching staff is clearly still ironing out the roles of their personnel in all situations.
6. Two goals glove side on Reimer. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it was a fault of his oft-maligned, fabled weakness. One was a well-played two-on-one on fresh ice, and the second was a rocketed pinballer. Par for the course here for Optimus, as he didn’t commit thievery by any means, but he kept the Leafs in it until they found a way to steal it in the third.
7. Kadri and Frattin struck again tonight, teaming up with Cody Franson for a very welcomed tying tally. These three have been the source of much of Toronto’s offense in the early going. One can only think (hope) that when Kessel and the Grabovski finally get going as well, that the Leafs will be able to string a few W’s together.
8. Speaking of Grabovski, the token Belorussian needs to take a page out of Kessel’s book and get more rubber on net. Kulemin has stepped up after last campaign, and that’s reflected in his shot and point totals. Grabovski has shown that he can average nearly three shots per game in his best season as a Maple Leaf. However, he needs to do the heavy lifting offensively on a line that is being purposed for defensive reasons right now, so it may be asking too much for him to score with regularity as well.
9. Oh hey, Kessel scored. He had a glorious chance late in the third after a Phaneuf shot too and it almost looked like it would be another night of despondent looks and frustrated head-shakes for Toronto’s sniper. Not quite, as he buried the game winner for his 100th as a Leaf. This one came on the PP, although it was not the product of a system-driven setup by any means. Regardless, you could almost feel the collective exhalation of Leafs Nation down here in Boston. You couldn’t help but feel happy for Phil. Neither could his teammates.
10. This is the type of comeback win that a young team needs to build on. They continued their road dominance and will need this type of gusto and determination in the confines of the ACC if they are to make the playoffs.
The Canadiens are up next on tap in a classic Saturday night showdown. Montreal has done well in the early goings, and Toronto will need to make headway against its division rivals and most frequent opponent of the year if they plan to move up in the standings.