The Maple Leafs started their western road trip on the right note, putting away the Oilers 4-0. It was an impeccable road game, and possibly Toronto’s best work over sixty minutes this season. James Reimer tightened his grip on the starter’s role with a shutout and Phil Kessel moved into a tie for second in league scoring with four points.
1. One minute into the game, Raymond chips it up along the boards to Kadri, who almost immediately sends it to Kessel streaking down the middle of the ice. As the Edmonton defender falls to the ice behind him, Kessel calmly dekes Bachman and deposits his first goal of the night. To be fair, since Kadri’s role in this play was rapid deference of the puck to Kessel, we can’t snidely claim that Bozak would have done it differently. Regardless, if the two continue to make plays at this rate, you would think (and hope) that Carlyle will have a tough decision on his hands when Bozak returns.
2. One defender who has not had the greatest start to the season: Jake Gardiner. But Gardiner’s been coming along lately as he is clearly working very hard to cater his offensive inclinations to Randy Carlyle’s wishes. He’s been getting solid minutes – an indication that the coaching staff is liking his efforts in this respect. The two sides of Gardiner’s game were on display very early: he rushed the zone and made a play from behind the net to Lupul early in the first for a high-quality scoring chance. Later in the same period, he made a defensive stop directly in front of his net by tying up the opposition’s stick. Then, he flashed some snarl as he got upset with Nail Yakupov’s run on Reimer. Gardiner’s faults are nothing more than a highly-skilled defender learning the ropes of playing a two-way game from one of the best.
3. It seems some in Leafsland moved on rather quickly to the newest shiny young blueliner in Morgan Rielly, but the fact is that Rielly could experience very similar growing pains in the coming years. He’s continued to look strong and at the moment seems to have more poise with the puck and better decision making than Gardiner. But remember – Gardiner was an all-rookie defender in his first go around with the Leafs. Both of these players are extremely young at a position that typically sees maturity achieved at a later age. Patience and opportunity should be the mantra with these two blue chippers who even saw some time together at even strength in the third.
4. Yes, Mason Raymond is not going to light it up all season along. But there’s a reason that he will continue to be featured alongside Bolland on Carlyle’s shutdown line – he brings an underrated defensive presence. Obviously, his is not the bruising genre of defense. Rather, Raymond’s defense relies on speed, stickwork, and attentive effort, as evidenced by a stick-play he made in the first in front of James Reimer that could very well have stopped a goal.
5. Kessel and JVR sped down the ice early in the second to strike again, with JVR playing the role of scorer this time around. With JVR’s recent improvement in skating, both of these wingers are legitimate speedsters and will continue to devastate other teams for the rest of this season and beyond. Either player has the ability to pass or shoot with the best of them, making them a rare and lethal combination in this league.
6. There was a slight injury scare for Nazem Kadri in the second, alleviated when the feisty center came back to be part of yet another Kessel goal. Kadri hit Kessel in the neutral zone to gain entrance into the zone, retrieved it along the halfboards and then got a shot on net that was tipped off the boards by Phaneuf. The puck came to Kessel at the other side of the net who performed some quick magic with his hands to pot his second of the night, sending Joe Bowen into hysterics. Just another night at the office for one of the league’s very best.
7. Another defender that has been maligned in the early goings? Paul Ranger. Ranger deserves the same type of patience and opportunity that Gardiner and Rielly do – for different reasons. His game has also come along recently, apparent tonight as he took the body of a rushing Oiler late in the second period, retrieved the puck and decisively turned the play back around. We may be seeing the readjustment of Ranger’s game to the NHL level, likely helped along by the implied pressure of recalling John-Michael Liles.
8. David Clarkson is obviously still getting his game legs under him. This hasn’t stopped him from throwing his body with reckless abandon, but has been exemplified in his decision making offensively. He had two chances early in this game to just get puck on net (which is a trademark of his game) but chose other options instead. Then, late in the second, he willed it towards the Oilers crease and the Leafs almost scored as a result. As we’ve said all along – the goals will come for Clarkson, but he’s a welcome presence with a positive impact regardless.
9. Rielly almost got his first NHL goal tonight. Assisted by – who else – Kessel and Van Riemsdyk, it was a solid wrister to the top corner. Unfortunately, later review of the tally indicated that it deflected in off Nazem Kadri. Either way, with the quality of players surrounding him, Rielly will get his chances offensively this year and it will be a treat to watch him develop at the NHL level.
10. James Reimer isn’t making life any easier for Jonathan Bernier. The ball will be back in Bernier’s court tomorrow tonight but short of pitching a shutout and scoring a goal a la Mike Smith, there’s not much Bernier can do to take away the Vancouver start from Optimus Reim. Yes, these two are only making each other better and it will be a boon to the Leafs all season long.
One of the youngest teams in the league took it to another young squad tonight. Both teams have suffered through years without much success, but only one subscribed to a “true” rebuild in the “Pittsburgh or Chicago model” that many pundits decree as the only way to rebuild. The Leafs are an embodiment of the strong argument that there is no “one way” to do something in a sport as multifaceted and at-times unpredictable as hockey. Tomorrow, they’ll get a chance to continue to prove themselves against the Calgary Flames, who are now under the watch of the very man that was the architect of much of their own unconventional rejuvenation: Brian Burke.
Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Boxscore - October 29, 2013Leafs 4 vs. Oilers 0.
|1:08:00||TOR||P. Kessel (8) Wrist shot - ASST: N. Kadri (6), M. Raymond (6)||1 - 0 TOR|
|1:41:00||TOR||J. van Riemsdyk (6) Wrist shot - ASST: P. Kessel (8)||2 - 0 TOR|
|8:42:00||TOR||P. Kessel (9) Wrist shot - ASST: D. Phaneuf (5), N. Kadri (7)||3 - 0 TOR|
|6:14:00||TOR||N. Kadri (5) Deflected shot - ASST: M. Rielly (5), P. Kessel (9)||4 - 0 TOR|
Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Game Sheet - October 29, 2013Maple Leafs 4 vs. Oilers 0.
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||BKS||GVA||TKA||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||0||1||3||0||2||2||0||0||0||-||1:05:00||0:59:00||14:27:00|
|34||J. Reimer (W) 4-0-0||38 - 38||5 - 5||0 - 0||43/43||1||0||59:50:00|
Great article, Wonderful analysis. Really enjoy all the writing/journalism on this site.
Breath of fresh air !!
Patience and opportunity should be the mantra with these two blue chippers who even saw some time together at even strength in the third.
First time I saw them together on even strenght was against Minesota or Edmonton(home), and it was the most fun shift both had together to watch. They were like a cyclone out there. Since then they had some shifts together, most times after a succesful penalty kill.
I seriously could not be more proud of Phil Kessel. He's become an Elite team-first type of player, and you can hear that through the words of his teammates. Phil Kessel is exactly what Doug Maclean referred to yesterday - a cornerstone player you build your team around.
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You know what my favourite part of last night was?
Rielly and Gardiner were both hands down the best defensemen on either team last night. There skating was noticeable on almost every shift. Very cool to see
I think we all assumed that Raymond would be a great 1 year rental and he would leave in the offseason. But from the way him and Bolland have clicked I'm not so sure anymore. I could see us sacrificing Kulemin (letting him go) in order to resign Raymond ($3 million per?). We'll see how it all shapes out in the offseason.
@CanuckUKinToronto I think they brought Liles up for insurance and to reward him for his play and help on the Marlies
@CanuckUKinToronto As long as Colburne does not get a Hat trick on us lol
@CanuckUKinToronto No worries, he'll captain next year's team and Vine OV being picked last.
@.Kong. The same Doug Maclean who said he wasn't just last season.
@Jay_Berg Rielly didn't rush as often as Gardiner, but when Gardiner did carry the puck I didn't see any Oilers committing to stopping him. The just kept backing off and gave him space, making it all the more easier for him. Both those guys have fantastic wheels.
@rustynail No problem, he'll get that tonight :)
I just thought that comment made a lot of sense. When you bit that hard into your cap, you have to make damn sure he's a guy you're going to build your team around.
With respect to Dion... I'm not fullu convinced, but I don't think we're going to land Chara anytime soon, so Dion might have to be our cornerstone.
We don't have any winger prospects outside of Leivo who are capable of putting up any effective offensive numbers whatsoever.
We don't know what Raymond will sign for because we don't know how many goals/points he's going to finish with. If he scores 20+ goals or 45+ points he could easily command $3 million.
Anyway, I'm not happy with $7M for Phaneuf, but I could swallow it with less term. Having said that, unless a better option pops up (not bloody likely), he's going to get both.
@Mind Bomb @supercilious @Jay_Berg I'm fine with that as well... Just saying its bad cap management to fill out our third line with UFA contracts. Thats all. I love all of Bolland, Raymond, McC & Kulie
and Idk why we're talking about Broll... We've got Biggs, D'Amigo & Ross who are all slated to be 2nd or realistically very solid 3rd line guys.
If we can re-sign McClement & Bolland and plug one of those three guys or a cheap vet to fill in for a year until theyre ready, we'd be better off long term.
But when you want to re-sign Kadri long term and Rielly, Gardiner, Franson, Bernier/Reimer because they are part of your top six or top four defence, or your starting tender, you need to cut from somewhere else.
If you look at the salaries on capgeek, its impossible to be paying our third line between 10 and 12 million dollars and get all of our key players signed
Its simply not possible
Guys on the third line are getting strict defensive duties, primarily in their own end coming up against the opposing best teams
Shutting down the opposing teams best players is their primary focus, not scoring goals.
With the fourth line playing 2-3 minutes in the playoffs, it essentially comes down to the top 6 to produce points.
@Jay_Berg I'm not saying that we ditch our entire third line
but our top six is set and if we re-sign two of McClement, Bolland, Kulemin or Raymond, we should be fine in that regard
We've had enough injuries this year that guys like Broll & Leivo were playing in our top six and we were still relatively successful.
If we can augment the checking line with a guy like D'amigo or Ross or Biggs, I feel that we'd be better off cap-wise going forward
So if we get injuries to out top 6 you have no issue throwing up plugs to play big minutes? We have guys right now who are "bottom 6" who are scoring. You are advocating to take a step back.
Again, outside of Leivo who on the marlies is going to step up, play good defence and still be capable of scoring 15+ goals?
*Spoiler* the answer is nobody
@Jay_Berg We've got guys in the farm that can come up and play defensive that arent going to cost UFA prices
That's the thing. Raymond is not just offensive, he's probably our best defensive winger (outside of Kulemin). Raymond and Bolland go up against the other teams best lines so you need guys who can play defensive and still put the puck in the net.
@Jay_Berg Correct Jay, people have to adjust there thinking, Our core is set, we are no longer Rebuilding and will not see a High Draft pick for years and years. We will add a Vet Center come trade deadline to compete for the Cup. Maybe a Vet D, although that dream of mine has not come to Fruition.
I agree that all good playoff teams have rookies on it on Cap friendly ELC's and Second contracts And we do, Kadri, Rielly, Franson Bernier. Injuries are the only chance for a Rookie to play for the leafs
@Jay_Berg We dont need any more offensive guys tbh
Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Kadri, Bozak, Clarkson are our top 6 for the next 5 years (unless somehow we can ditch bozak for a #1 C)
Third line should be filled with excellent checkers, whether its McClement, Kulemin or whoever. Theyre a dime a dozen and if they can be filled in with guys like D'amigo or Ross, its better cap management for us going forward rather than paying $3M+ UFA prices for guys to plug in the third line
Obviously not advocating letting everyone walk, but not all of Kulemin, Raymond, Bolland, McClement should be resigned at UFA rates