Game in 10: Game #29, Leafs 3 vs. Stars 2

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 5: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs turns a shot away against the Dallas Stars during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 5, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Toronto welcomed the HBO crew with a 3-2 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.  They came out with the appropriate amount of desperation and effort for a team that has been stumbling significantly.

1. The Leafs certainly came to play tonight. Maybe it was the HBO presence or an unheralded urgency in response to the squad’s recent stretch of dismal outings. It could also just be the natural progression for a good – but not elite – NHL team in an 82 game season. In that case, tonight’s victory would signify a swing in the right direction for the Leafs. But it would not preclude some mediocre stretches later on in the season – especially if injury woes continue. That’s just the reality for most teams in the NHL. The path may not be pretty, but all that will matter is the destination.

2. One competitive player that clearly wanted to set the tone for the game early? Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf wasted no time in stepping up to lay a solid hit on Jamie Benn. He followed this up by trailing the rush and getting the Leafs coveted first shot on goal and a decent scoring chance to boot. Then, he was ready to throw down with the Dallas captain before the referees intervened. The concept of “leadership” is sometimes vague and often dramatized in team sports – but this was as close to a definitive embodiment of that idea as you will get.

3. The referees quickly sought out another chance to intervene, gracing Cody Franson with a mysterious penalty just minutes after the Benn-Phaneuf altercation. In recent games, the penalty kill has floundered and this was a prime opportunity for the Stars to snatch back momentum. Thankfully, Jay McClement and Jonathan Bernier the Leafs penalty killers held strong. After another important kill in the third, the crew succumbed to a deflected shot on the Stars’ third powerplay of the night.

4. Cody Franson has been involved offensively, but is still pressing for his first goal. Franson’s shot is accurate with a quick and deceptive release. He’s used it slightly less this year and tonight’s game was a welcome effort in the opposite direction. After ringing his patented wrister off the post in the first, he ripped a slapper following a penalty kill midway through the second. Finally, he sent a targeted wrister for the go-ahead tip goal by Kadri. Franson is one of the league’s best offensive defensemen with a physical dimension. His game has been a bit off (likely confounded by a rotating arsenal of partners), but he will continue to step up his game as the halfway mark of this season approaches.

5. Surprise surprise, the JVR-Kadri-Kessel line was dynamic. Carlyle threw his (remaining) most talented players on to one line because – let’s face it – he didn’t really have a choice. They looked dangerous immediately. Kadri tallied two goals tonight and meshes well with JVR’s work in front of the net and Kessel’s general razzle dazzle. Granted, the first goal was an awkward play with Daley hurt in the corner, but Nazem looks poised to take advantage of yet another look with JVR and Kessel.

6. Early in the third, a disastrous change gave the Stars an odd-man rush which they capitalized on. The victimized blueliners in this case were Fraser and Ranger and this was simply a careless mistake in a crucial portion of the game.

7. Jonathan Bernier bounced back in net with that elite caliber of goaltending that Toronto has been spoiled with thus far this campaign. If you missed this one, watch the tape. Look for: diving larceny on Ray Whitney near the end of the second, a glove save on Peverley to preserve the lead and rejecting Jamie Benn roughly twenty times on the night.

8. Rielly sat out tonight. Coming off the victory, Carlyle may elect to stick with this group of defenders heading into the weekend matches. Knowing him, he may also switch it up due to matchup dynamics or just to keep his fringe blueliners at their best. Regardless, the blueline will be in a state of flux with Fraser, Ranger and Reilly the most likely candidates for rotating as healthy scratches.

9. Speaking of lineups in flux, the injuries to the top portion of this club has undoubtedly been one of the catalysts for their stretch of poor showings. With no set lines or nightly stability, players not named Van Riemsdyk and Kessel have had noticeable consistency issues. This is as a reminder that at their healthiest, the Leafs are a competitive club with tangible upside.

10. Jake Gardiner and Trevor Smith connected on the winning goal in overtime tonight to avoid a potentially heartbreaking come-from-behind loss to the Stars. True to form, the Leafs allowed a boat load of shots and came out ahead.

Tonight was a step in the right direction for Toronto. Given their current personnel, they had a significant number of scoring chances. The goalies at both ends of the ice were fantastic tonight, with Bernier edging out Lehtonen for the win on the back of a 48 save performance.

0:58:00TORNazem Kadri (8) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (10), Phil Kessel (11)1 - 0 TOR
1:52:00DALErik Cole (4) Tip-in - ASST: Shawn Horcoff (6), Valeri Nichushkin (8)1 - 1 Tie
6:58:00TOR PPG - Nazem Kadri (9) Tip-in - ASST: Cody Franson (14), Phil Kessel (12)2 - 1 TOR
17:14:00DAL PPG - Shawn Horcoff (3) Tip-in - ASST: Kevin Connauton (1), Sergei Gonchar (5)2 - 2 Tie
4:18:00TORTrevor Smith (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Jake Gardiner (7), Dion Phaneuf (9)3 - 2 TOR
81RPHIL KESSEL2714102451540310713.1
21LJAMES VAN RIEMSDYK25128205244107715.6
12LMASON RAYMOND279918683036613.6
43CNAZEM KADRI2471017-3372013917.9
19LJOFFREY LUPUL228715-6182006811.8
4DCODY FRANSON2601313-410000370
3DDION PHANEUF2728101228000395.1
63CDAVE BOLLAND1564104181122722.2
42CTYLER BOZAK154610622101723.5
44DMORGAN RIELLY21088-86000310
15DPAUL RANGER25167224010283.6
23CTREVOR SMITH16347000011520
51DJAKE GARDINER2606628000330
71RDAVID CLARKSON17235-330100365.6
41LNIKOLAI KULEMIN15235040011216.7
11CJAY MCCLEMENT26022012000190
40RTROY BODIE90220500070
32LJOSH LEIVO711200000425
2DMARK FRASER12011-12700020
36DCARL GUNNARSSON27011414000140
37RCARTER ASHTON15011212000110
24CPETER HOLLAND510114000714.3
46LDAVID BROLL50111500030
22CJERRED SMITHSON12000-3400010
28RCOLTON ORR25000-27300060
38LFRAZER MCLAREN12000-14000030
59LJAMIE DEVANE2000-1000010
45JONATHAN BERNIER181510092.448721575410.929000
34JAMES REIMER12126272.586311392270.931000


  • Kessel81

    At some point the team has to say enough and stop relying on stellar goal tending and win some games on their own.


    Kessel81 Won’t happen regularly until: 

    A: Carlyle is fired


    B: We add a good Dman to pair with Rielly, and get rid of Ranger and Fraser

  • dontcallmeshirley

    way more generous on the performance then I

  • loomx

    PLEASE keep the Raymond-Smith-Clarkson line together. They didn’t really have huge scoring chances, but every shift they got some sort of a cycle going. Need more of that.

  • Black_Hawk


  • ingy56

    Scabs winning 2-1 and you just know who has the go-ahead goal, shouldn’t be in the game….should be getting medical attention…dirtbag.

    Ray Whitney gave his condolences to Nazem Kadri on the ice tonight. “It meant a lot to me,” said the centre.

    Stand up guy, that Ray Whitney.

  • GreekGod

    DWCMLHS Kessel81

    Look at the team dude. Forwards are breaking out when we don’t have clean possession of the puck and besides Rielly and Gardiner our defence is having a hard time taking the puck out of our own end. I agree with you in the sense that we need better defence.

  • Biltmore

    loomx Clarkson needs to be on the fourth line with McClement. Sucks to pay $5m for a miniature Orr.

  • Wilbur

    DWCMLHS Kessel81 You might be right. I’m not one to shit on coaches, especially with the number injuries this team has and the lack of talent in the bottom pairing on D, but I’m at the point where I’m questioning RC’s choices i.e. FML again and he was useless again.

  • Burtonboy

    Its a dirty win but that’s how most slumps end . I’ll take it .

  • WendelGilmour


  • mr_hanie

    I am so glad we have 2 goalies who can each handle 50 shots a game. No way 1 goalie can survive an 82 games with 45 shots a game

  • Denied

  • GreekGod

    Biltmore loomx

    Just stop

  • Nikhil Daljeet


  • Wilbur

    mr_hanie Brodeur might have gotten that over the course of 3 games when NJ was in their heyday…

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    i feel for Naz.

  • Kessel81

    Wilbur DWCMLHS Kessel81 Whats the point in calling up jerry and having Holland on the team. Play them because we have a lot of games coming up. I dont understand how he can give smithson orr and FML easy minutes and cant give holland and jerry some. Just so frustrating

  • loomx

    Henny trying to coax some tears out of Kadri.

  • Black_Hawk

    my new leafs wallpaper Is 1-0


    GreekGod DWCMLHS Kessel81 Who do you think is telling the forwards to move early for a fast breakout? That’s part of Carlyle’s system. We have good forwards. Bozak at 1C is the only eyesore in the forward lineup. That’s not counting Orr and McLaren, because they SHOULDN’T be playing. But Carlyle…

  • Denied

    YaknowwhatDWCMLHS you’re* LOL sorry Im a dick

  • Coldincowtown

    Wow, did we even watch the same game (in 10). Leaf D was brutal, again. Forwards can’t clear pucks, D looks lost, very little sustained pressure in the offensive zone and with the exception of the top line, we were hanging on the entire second half of the game. Bernier stole the win. I am not at all happy with this team’s system. I don’t know if it is RC or a slump, but holy shit they look bad. Missing Bolland and Bozak, we literally lose every important draw. My only hope is a few wins help with our confidence and in turn we play better. But this was not a pretty win.

  • mr_hanie

    Why haven’t you ragged on Phaneuf like you always did

  • whalz

    Nikhil, the leafs came to play tonight?? they gave up 50 shots and were dominated at times by Dallas…

  • LeafFan15

    Other than the third period the leafs played decent.

  • loomx

    The San Jose game was a much better overall game. Bad mistakes and coaching decisions ruined it. This game turned into a disaster but hopefully it turns this ship around.

  • Burtonboy

    @whalz Guess you only watched the 3rd period eh

  • wendelsway1

    After the way we’ve been playing lately……and the injuries we’re playing through……I’m not gonna complain about how we got the two points, but rather celebrate that we did…..a win’s a win……I’m good.

  • Denied

    Kadri-Smith-Holland-Mcclement neew I say more?


    I like Trevor Smith. He’s been solid this month.

  • Omac13

    The Good news is we only have the sens next we can beat them even when we are playing bad…..Bad news is Boston is after that

  • Black_Hawk

    wendelsway1 straight up

  • rustynail

    wendelsway1 thats all I want is wins

  • whalz

    Burtonboy lol..all do respect BB maybe re-watch the game

  • wiski

    Thank fuck for Bernier is all I have to say

  • LeafsForLife

    Great job Nikhil! Always enjoy the GiT.

  • whalz

    Burtonboy bernier stole us 2pts

  • ingy56

    Omac13 Bad news for Boston

  • rustynail
    Leafs centre David Bolland spotted in corridor, in a walking cast. It is black. Doesn’t match his leather shoe. But still. Fashionable.

  • Nikhil Daljeet

    They came out hard to start.  Faltered in the third while holding two leads to a Dallas team that I’ve seen dominate many others in a similar fashion. Wasn’t perfect by any means, but compare this effort to their previous few.

  • wiski

    Omac13 B’s having trouble with the habs tonight

  • Wilbur

    Burtonboy I thought the game got away from them a bit in the last 5 minutes of the second which I would have ignored except for the fact the ice was pretty much tilted in Dallas’ favour for most of the 3rd. But we won. RIght now we need points any way we can get them.

  • Nikhil Daljeet

    Thanks for reading!

  • Burtonboy

    @whalz Burtonboy Don’t need  to but I think you do . Leafs weren’t terrible is the 1 st and 2nd.. 3rd period sucked

  • Cameron19

    Nikhil Daljeet They were far better in San Jose

  • PeterZeroOne

    Carlyle presser was a bit disappointing.  Yeah, he acknowledged the lack of o-zone time as an issue, but no one asked him about the TOI of Holland or McLaren, or why Fraser keeps getting played, etc.

  • leafsinsix

    Burtonboy outshot 15-7 in the first as well.

  • B_Leaf

    Wow I really don’t know how we are holding on to a playoff spot.   I sure hope we find ourselves real soon.  We just lose so many puck battles, teams skate all over us without getting touched, and we can’t string two passes together on our side of centre ice.

    Besides the GK’s we have Dion and JvR playing, but after that it is rough right now.