1 – At least there were some things to like about the Leafs‘ first period.
The Leafs needed some Bernier heroics on an early PK (Kadri offensive zone holding penalty) before they took control of the opening period. Forgettable game for Bernier aside, he has an amazing ability to make really tough saves look routine with sharp reads and good positional sense. He was two-steps ahead in his read on a really nice passing play by the Preds on their early PP before making a great pad save.
2 – A few shifts after the PK, a strong drive by David Clarkson, initiating a cycle with a strong one-armed board play, seemed to get the Leafs going. A few positive shifts later, a good play by Kulemin on the boards (this is a recording) to suck in and hold off the pinching defenceman in the neutral zone got the scoring play started. Kulemin chipped a Rielly stretch pass to Peter Holland, who had gathered speed through through the middle and hit the zone with speed before beating Marek Mazanec with a nice shot from the left circle. Great wheels on display there from the new guy, and a good shot caught Mazanec deep in his net.
Peter Holland’s first:
3 – One thing you’ll notice about all of the Leafs new additions is their ability to skate well. While not picturesque, Clarkson’s stride is quite efficient and he gets around the rink/covers ice well. Holland showed good top speed on that goal (also a previous Underhill understudy). Bolland is a pretty good skater, too. The identity on this club is that of a skating team. This strength can be utilized on a cycle, too, if the Leafs can ever figure out that part of their game consistently. This is a skating team that would love to trade chances if the opponent allows it. Unfortunately, at times the Leafs can be one-dimensional, or struggle to use their speed altogether.
4 – Speaking of which, the Leafs were skating well in the first, breezing through the neutral zone and hitting the Preds’ zone speed (starts with better breakouts). The Leafs enjoyed two consecutive powerplay opportunities after taking the 1-0 lead and generated a number of good chances in the goalmouth area (Clarkson hit a post). The Leafs should’ve been up by more than one after the first 20. They would soon regret it.
5 – An unfortunate high sticking double minor on Mason Raymond 1:25 into the period set the stage for a second-frame letdown as well as the tying goal in the early 2nd. Early in the powerplay, Seth Jones got a deflection off Jay McClement’s stick and the high-rising point shot beat Bernier.
The Leafs escaped the remainder of the four-minute penalty kill, but started to sag and became reactive after conceding the 1-1 goal. A few minutes later, the top line was caught flat footed and puck watching as Matt Cullen slipped into the slot unmarked and put the Preds ahead 2-1. No reason for that goal to happen when the Leafs had the numbers.
6 – The Predators were bogging the Leafs down through the neutral ice much more effectively in the second and found structure in their game. On a rare appearance for the Leafs in the offensive zone in this period, a suspect call on JvR for a hard play in the offensive zone led to another powerplay goal against. I hate pulling the ref card, but I thought this was a brutal call. The Leafs got unwound by penalties in this period and the PK was not up to the task tonight.
On the late penalty kill, Phaneuf and McClement lost the battle in the corner and got beat to the front after the puck went around back of the net. Craig Smith jumped on a pass out front to make it 3-1 Predators.
7 – You knew what to expect from the Predators in the third period as Barry Trotz’s team clogged up the neutral zone and shut the game down. The Leafs tried to get pucks in deep but struggled to retrieve. Attempts to carry over the blueline usually resulted in a turnover.
8 – The Predators put the game out of reach five minutes into the third. The Leafs won a defensive zone draw only to turn the puck over up the boards. Another turnover later, Craig Smith threw the puck on net from the sideboards and it caught Bernier in an awkward spot on the top of the shoulder as he squeezed the post. Bernier lost the rebound and it bounced in behind him, all but ending this game with 15 minutes to go. Pretty rare that we’ve seen a Leaf goalie get beat from there this season. The Ranger and Rielly pairing had a few rough shifts against Smith – Cullen – Spaling line, but more than anything Bernier needs to have that.
9 – Nazem Kadri threw a puck on net out of desperation and got a bounce to go in for him with 4 minutes left, making this game briefly interesting. Also rare to see the Leafs throw pucks on net from that area of the ice, but the Preds were giving them nothing in this period. At a certain point, getting pucks to the net with traffic has to be more of an impulse for this team when it’s all that is available. Peter Holland rang the iron with a really nice release shortly thereafter; a few inches lower and it would have made for a thrilling finish.
10 – Adjustments by the Predators, an inability for the Leafs to readjust, and penalty trouble sunk the Leafs in this one. Can’t rely on the goaltender every night (just most nights, apparently). The Predators had won only one game this season when trailing after the first before tonight’s win. Worth acknowledging that this is a Predators team that has been finding their stride as of late, with combined 9-2 wins over Detroit and Chicago coming into the game.
The Leafs welcome Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski’s Washington Capitals to the ACC on Saturday. James Reimer should start or it’s a crime.
Predators at Leafs - November 21Predators 4 at Leafs 2.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||-1||2||1||0||0||0||0||0%||3:00:00||1:58:00||18:12:00|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|45||J. Bernier||24 - 28||0.857||0||57:29:00|
|5:48:00||TOR||Peter Holland (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Nikolai Kulemin (3), Morgan Rielly (7)||1 - 0 TOR|
|2:01:00||NSH||PPG - Seth Jones (3) Slapshot - ASST: Matt Cullen (4), Colin Wilson (7)||1 - 1 Tie|
|11:14:00||NSH||Matt Cullen (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Gabriel Bourque (4), Craig Smith (8)||2 - 1 NSH|
|16:25:00||NSH||PPG - Craig Smith (5) Snap shot - ASST: Colin Wilson (8), Matt Cullen (5)||3 - 1 NSH|
|4:32:00||NSH||Craig Smith (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Matt Cullen (6)||4 - 1 NSH|
|15:28:00||TOR||Nazem Kadri (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Mason Raymond (9), Morgan Rielly (8)||4 - 2 NSH|