The Leafs closed out February strong with a win over the New York Islanders in front of all 30 of their diehard fans. They have finished the month 9-7-0, giving them 26 points on the year, matching their first 22 games of last season. Oh, and Nazem Kadri had a hat trick.
1. The first Islanders goal by Josh Bailey demonstrated that third pairing defensemen are third pairing defensemen for a reason, no matter their +/- ratings. The lazy play by Franson would get you benched in most Rec Leagues.
2. In fact, Fraser and Franson were on the ice for all four of the Islanders goals. With Liles and Komisarek waiting in the press box, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be some kind of blue line shake up before the next game. One would hope this opens the door for Gardiner returning, but I’m not holding my breath.
3. The Nazem Kadri toe drag goal to even the score was the kind of play you’d expect from your first line centre (credit to Carlyle for moving him back to centre). There are many differences between Kadri and Bozak, but the biggest one is that Kadri actually wants the puck. Oh yeah, he had a hat trick while dangling everyone all game and is 22 years old.
4. Speaking of Bozak, I felt he really hung Kessel out to dry tonight. Every time Kessel had the puck it seemed like Bozak slowly drifted into Islanders coverage taking himself out of the play. This timid crap would have him bumped from the top line on most teams.
5. If the first goal didn’t sell you, the second goal against the Leafs probably did. Cody Franson needs to assume a Marc-Andre Bergeron, Power Play Specialist type of role and stay away from playing real defense. That was a horrific screen on Reimer, who didn’t have a chance.
6. There was this strange moment in the second period where James van Riemsdyk went to the net and knocked in a rebound for a goal. I’m not sure I’ve seen the Leafs do that before so I checked the NHL Rulebook and it’s apparently legal. Maybe Toronto should do that more often.
7. Reimer certainly didn’t look sharp tonight, but it was foolish he was even playing given that it was stated he’s not 100%. If there’s anyone who will really benefit from having the next three days off, it’s probably him.
8. Carl Gunnarsson had his best game in a while, but without a doubt Dion Phaneuf was the top defender tonight. It’s great to see him ice the Isles in OT to silence all of the critics who foolishly blamed him for not fighting Prust. Also nice to see the Leafs drive the net.
9. The Leafs have now split their first four back to back game sets this season. They have five more remaining on the season.
10. The ice time seemed to be more in line with what you’d expect to see the Leafs go with, but it’s surprising that Kadri was limited to just under 16 minutes, and with the number of goals against it was surprising that Fraser and Franson saw around 19 minutes a piece.
Sloppy, sloppy stuff at points in this one, but it’s a key two-point result. The Leafs are now on hold until Monday against New Jersey. This three day off stretch is their second longest of the season, with the longest one coming in early April overlapping the trade deadline. My optimistic prediction is Gardiner gets the weekend with the Marlies and could be called up for Monday.
TiqIQ’s job is finding the best deals and sellers out there for you, and for this game you may want to have a look at FanXchange for Toronto Maple Leafs tickets.