Game in 10: Game #20, Leafs 4 at Flyers 2
Showing no signs of slowing down, the Leafs followed up a tough loss in Ottawa with a bounce back win in Philly, their 8th victory in their last 11, to move to 12-8-0 at the 20-game mark of the season. The Leafs’ speed and puck movement proved to be too much for the Flyers as the Leafs built a lead and held on for the win.
1 - The Leafs came out hitting everything in this one. Unable to find a fight last game, Mike Brown in particular was looking to make an impact. Thankfully, an excellent PK bailed him out once when he overstepped the line with a roughing penalty on Rinaldo before later finding his dance partner in Ty McGinn. Brown caught McGinn with a vicious right as the two went to the ice. That had the benches and the crowd woah-ing. The Flyers are nowhere close to the physical force they’ve been in recent seasons.
2 - Decent game by Korbinian Holzer, I thought. Early in the first, a rebound popped out and a Flyer forward had the jump on it, but Holzer made a strong move to knock the guy down before he could get to it. In the second, he used his size and strength to box out Hartnell well on two occasions. Phaneuf and Holzer as a pairing did a good job at clearing the front of the net.
3 - Anyone who suggests the Leafs’ success is all about goaltending should rewatch the first and note the number of rebounds Scrivens churned out into the slot. Scrivens is making a lot of good first saves, and all the credit to him there, but the Leafs’ D is in better positions, and doing the right things, to prevent the second opportunities. The Leafs’ goalmouth and slot area isn’t open season anymore, at least not to the same extent.
4 - The first period had everything you love and everything that frustrates you about Phil Kessel, but who else can turn on the wheels and turn a dump in into a goal that quick? He caught Bryzgalov, who misread the angle with a poor usage of the VHS stance, for his 4th of the season.
5 - That earlier-touched upon ability to clear out the crease area was key to the PK success, especially on the Flyers’ 5 on 3.5 (Bozak lost his stick) midway through the 2nd. Very efficient puck clearances, as well. Bozak is immensely more likeable in shorthanded situations. The PK was 5 for 6 tonight.
6 - Awesome read by Kadri to see Kulemin coming off the bench and flip it into space in front of Nikolai for him to skate onto. Kulemin finally finished his chance for his second of the season to make it 2-0. After an off game with a lot of turnovers against Ottawa, Kadri gets right back to his awesome ways.
7 - Voracek and Hartnell connected to make it 2-1 late in the second. Holzer might have been better off staying central, taking the pass away and leaving the high Flyer to Bozak. It wasn’t like Hartnell went unrecognized, but Bozak was behind because of a brief period of crossed signals between he and Holzer, who shifted to cover the middle attacker. More than anything that was a really high skill pass at top speed from a player who has been the best offensive player in the league this month in Voracek. I thought the Leafs should’ve been on the powerplay instead after Kessel was tripped up by Colbourn, which enabled the Flyers’ transition up ice.
8 - Kadri came zooming off the bench to save a moribund looking Leafs PP half way through the third. He picked up the puck right away, found Kessel backdoor for what should’ve been the 3-1 goal, went around the back of the net, picked it up again, and pulled off an amazing behind the back pass to Grabovski in between two Flyers.. a rebound later and it’s 3-1. Grabovski with #6.
9 - Just as this game looked wrapped up, a nightmare shift from the first line and JvR in particular gave the Flyers life in the form of a double minor to JvR on two separate penalties. As tends to be the case when you’re on the penalty kill so often, a bounce goes against the Leafs as it deflects off Mark Fraser’s stick and in. It’s game on at 3-2, momentum Flyers. The 1st line was hit and miss all night. Like it was last season, dangerous in both ends.
10 - The Leafs spent the rest of the game scrambling in their own end. To their credit, they bent a hell of a lot and never broke, but did get some good fortune. Kessel nearly gave us all a heart attack by giving away a pass at the blueline at the end of a looooong shift, with the wrong personnel stuck on the ice as the Leafs tried to kill the game out. Thankfully, Kessel got it out a little later and Carlyle got the right personnel out, including Jay McClement, who won a 50/50 puck battle, as he almost always does, to turn the puck up ice and finish off an empty netter.