The Leafs are now 24-13-5 and after five shots in the first two periods and on the back of James Reimer’s stellar performance, escaped with a 2-0 win! Another shutout for Optimus Reim, who kept Toronto in a game they did not deserve to win. Phil Kessel scored the game winner on a nice wrister on the power play in third third, giving him his 16th of the season, and Jay McClement capped the game with an empty netter. Tomorrow, it’s off to Washington, where the Leafs will take on the Capitals with a chance to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
1) No shots for the Leafs in the first 6 minutes, despite a power play mixed in, and just three total SOG in the period. The first 20 minutes were an extension of the last game in New Jersey. The Devils were desperately looking for answers offensively, pinching aggressively and maintaining a tireless cycle with no reward. Must be getting frustrating for their group.
2) For the Leafs, it was more bend but not break stuff in the 1st in a flat 20 minutes, part thanks to Reimer and some luck in the form of Steve Sullivan’s miss on an empty net. It’s not pretty being that badly out possessed (90:10 time on attack wouldn’t be an overstatement), chasing the puck and being second to it all period, but to their credit the Leafs have not broken down as often while defending the cycle this season.
3) The game came to life briefly the start of the 2nd, as the Leafs found some jump, leading to chances at both ends, with James Reimer making a really nice glove save on Henrique on a part breakaway after the Leafs got caught on a stretch pass. Reimer was stealing this one early and often.
4) From there, the Leafs failed to generate much on their 2nd powerplay of the night and then returned to spending extended periods in their own zone, including back to back penalty kills. The Leafs might have looked better at 4 on 5 than they did at even strength in the first 2 periods. They somehow mustered fewer shots in period 2 than 1, with just two in the period and five total after 40.
5) 35 hits and 15 blocked shots for the Leafs in the first 40. It was certainly indicative of being badly outplayed in a game like tonight’s, but those elements were nonetheless necessary if they were going to stay in this game headed into the third period. Cody Franson threw 7 hits in the first two periods and these weren’t David Steckel hits. He was making them count.
6) mORRganRielly taking over here because Alec fell asleep (I may or may not be kidding – you decide). In an unexpected turn of events, the Leafs managed to place a shot on goal within the first few minutes of the third period. I could be wrong, but a shot is a shot, right? New Jersey is playing Toronto very tough, very well. Their gap control has been impeccable all game long.
7) After some introspection and incognito Google Chrome and WebMD searches, I have decided to have Reimer’s babies. It might take some surgeries that medical technology hasn’t yet advanced, but goddammit, I’m all in. The sole reason Toronto is even in this game with a remote chance to win is all due to “AHL” goaltender, James fuckin’ Reimer. Some of the saves he has made in the third period are of the highlight variety. Hopefully when Alec wakes up, he’ll be able to post the incredible saves Reimer made. This is the kind of goaltending we will need when Toronto finally makes its first appearance in the playoffs since 2004.
8) Marek Zidlicky took a holding penalty on Matt Frattin with 6:40 seconds left in the game. That was an excellent drive from Frattin, who drove the puck over the line forcing Zidlicky to grab him. Kessel wastes no time in snapping a wrist shot past Brodeur for the game’s first goal. He is now at 16 goals for the season and is still the Leafs point-per-game player we all hoped for him to be. It’s a weird thing, that (revisionism). All hail the Phil.
9) With a few minutes left in the game, Toronto finally found its legs and was pushing the pace a little more. A few minutes after Kessel’s goal, it appeared that James van Reimsdyk almost stuffed in a rebound with a nice give and go. The game was capped by an empty net goal from Jay ‘The Closer’ McClement, who gives Toronto a much-needed two-goal cushion with 30 seconds to go.
10) In summary, ALL HAIL KING JAMES.