If you missed part one of this week’s Notebook on Morgan Rielly, check it out here.
- Thought the JVR goal against Edmonton was a subtle example of the growth in Kessel’s game. If you watch the reply below, he gets knocked down, but keeps his stick on the puck and holds it against the boards to buy time for help. Then, he gets up and keeps battling. That effort and battle wasn’t always evident in Kessel’s game. Against Nashville, he went into the boards with Seth Jones and as they were on a collision course for the puck he dropped his shoulder and made contact to establish body position. A few times in that game he dumped it in deep and forechecked, too. The first few years we grew accustomed to Kessel stopping before getting to the puck to avoid contact, and hoping to use his stick to retrieve possession.
- Kessel also had 15 shots on net in three games this week.
- On the RNH 5v3 goal, McClement actually pointed to RNH before the puck went over to him in order to try and get Gunnarsson to go over and take it away. When the goal went in, McClement appeared a little perturbed that Gunnarsson wasn’t up there right away. Simply put, you can’t have two guys down low while the puck is up high on a 5v3 kill. Gunnarsson has to know that.
- Another no-no was Kadri failing to get the puck in deep on Smyth’s second goal of the night. Kadri skated up to the blue line and he did try to get the puck deep, but he didn’t execute and it ended up in the back of the Leafs net. He was far from the only guy to blame on that goal, but that play will drive Carlyle nuts.
- Of course, Colton Orr did the same thing against Colorado which resulted in the game winner. Pucks have to get in deep because teams transition up the ice too quickly and the results speak for themselves.
- What a play by Gardiner to feed Lupul a pass for the game tying goal. He could have easily just thrown the puck on net and hoped for a good bounce, but he saw the passing lane and Lupul, and fed it through softly.
- By the way, coaches don’t put players on the ice in the final minute of a one goal game if they are pushing them out.
- JVR looks noticeably faster, which is something I noted in the preseason notebook. The Kessel goal against Nashville was the perfect example, and it turned the game around. JVR wasn’t always making plays like that and beating guys with his first three steps. His skating was always fine once he got going, but his explosiveness has improved leaps and bounds.
- It was really interesting watching Bernier in the Edmonton game because it was clear that he wasn’t on his game; I was anxious to see how he’d battle. In this space I’ve written time and again that Reimer has that Grant Fuhr quality in him, where he might get lit up but he’ll regroup and shut the door despite how bad things are going. Lo and behold, Bernier makes the save of the game on Arcobello to keep the Leafs within reach of the Oilers after a rough outing.
- Ashton played really well against Colorado in his near 10 minutes of ice time, but went right back to playing 5-7 minutes the next two games. It’s a shame he didn’t build off of that effort. He didn’t have a shot on net against Nashville or Edmonton.
- It was nice to hear Franson call himself out after a rough game Saturday night. There are players who play bad games but don’t care because they got two assists, and then there are players who push themselves to be better. That showed us which of those two Franson is.
- Carlyle has put Kulemin, Ashton, and Broll with Kadri-Lupul to help create space for them, so it will be really nice once Clarkson is back and leading the forecheck for the duo. In the meantime, when games have tightened up Raymond has been moved up to that line and they’ve worked well, especially on the power play. Raymond passed to Kadri on his power play goals against Ottawa and Edmonton. The trio were on for Lupul’s power play goals against Nashville and Ottawa, too.
- One thing that didn’t get much attention this summer is that Grabovski won over 50% of his draws last year (50.6%), and was replaced by a guy who is generally speaking a 45% man in the dot in Dave Bolland. So far Bolland has won 44.4% of his faceoffs, and the Leafs have been getting dominated on the dot. Their best regular faceoff man is Jay McClement and he’s won exactly 50% of his draws.
- Ranger has been receiving some flak from Leafs fans but he really started settling in against Nashville and Edmonton. Against the Oilers, he even put a nice hit on Joensuu which will get Carlyle’s attention in a good way. The key for Ranger was that he wasn’t getting caught out of position and he was allowing the game to come to him instead of chasing it.
- The Leafs allowed one power play goal last week and it was on a 5v3, which is really interesting because Nik Kulemin hasn’t been playing. McClement is the top dog on the unit, but Kulemin is the firm second and the Leafs are surviving without him pretty well so far. The question now is whether this is because the Leafs have such a good system, or if it’s really all on Jay McClement.
- It’s amazing how many people write off Reimer after a few good games from Bernier. Reimer is a fighter and he’s battled for everything he’s been given throughout his career, so he won’t go down in this battle without a fight first. This competition is far from over.
“Dave Nonis was really the only one who was seriously interested in him. Everyone else was just tire-kicking. I was shocked at the lack of real interest. He had proven himself again last season. The other reason I think people overlook Bernier is because he is small; they overlook his hockey sense, which is his best asset.”
- Kings GM Dean Lombardi discussing the Bernier trade.
Looks more and more like Dave Nonis knows what he’s doing.
“It was a game of mistakes and each team seemed to capitalize on one another’s mistakes.”
- Randy Carlyle on the game against Edmonton.
Say it time and time again: if teams want to swap chances with the Leafs, Toronto is more than likely coming out ahead.
“The two biggest things that I noticed and I think every young guy that breaks in at a young age notices, it’s the speed and strength of the guys. It’s not just that they’re stronger on the puck, but it’s that they’re that much quicker with that extra strength. Junior’s a great pace, there’s lots of pace to junior hockey. But at this level everyone’s consistently big, strong and I’m not talking that every guy’s 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6, I’m talking every guy is strong on their feet and they know how to protect the puck and they’re strong on the puck. That’s the biggest thing for young guys jumping in.”
- Dion Phaneuf on the adjustment from junior to the NHL.
In other words, in junior, you can really take advantage of the weaker players in the league. In the NHL, it’s always a battle and you have to adjust to that level of constant intensity and ability.
5 Things I Think I’d Do
1 – I think I’d go back to Reimer Tuesday against Minnesota. Bernier had a rough game, but Reimer has also shut out the Wild before and needs to get back in there. Plus, it’s in the comforts of the ACC. It is worth noting that the Leafs play Carolina right after and Reimer should start against them on the familiarity factor alone, but if you’re going to have a goalie competition you can’t throw a guy back in after a rough game.
2 – I think I’d consider keeping Broll in over Ashton once Kulemin and Clarkson return. The Leafs won’t take out Orr against teams with heavyweights because Broll can’t fight the Scotts, Kassians, and even Thorntons of the division. That brings things down to Ashton vs. Broll, and Broll is really acquitting himself well as a guy who can move up the line-up. Against teams that don’t play ultra-heavyweight (Detroit, for example), it would be nice to see both Ashton and Broll in.
3 – I think I’d swap Gardiner and Rielly around on the pairings. Franson hasn’t looked great with Rielly, which is my main reasoning, and Ranger is starting to play well. I think those two would be safe in a third pairing role.
4 – I think I’d like the Leafs signing Dion Phaneuf to a longer-term deal if it means a lower annual average. He’s only 28, and if they lose him they would really be forcing someone into his role and hoping for the best. Plus, on a defense full of skill, it’s nice to have a guy who can log big minutes and has some snarl to his game.
5 – I think I’d make it very clear that, although the Leafs have a good record right now, they need to play a lot better, and tighter defensively, if they are going to make the playoffs over the 82 game season. The Oilers game was pond hockey, the Preds dominated the first half, and the Duchene line controlled play all night. The best time to be critical is when you’re winning. Yes, there are definitely a lot of positives to take away so far (mobile defense, ridiculous amount of goal scoring up front, good goaltending, young kids stepping in, etc.), but if everyone is being honest the Leafs can/need to play better. Plus, it’s only six games into the season and the goal has to be continued improvement.