The Maple Leafs played their best game of the season, but were dealt a taste of their own medicine with a sublime goaltending effort by Martin Jones, ultimately thwarting a plethora of fantastic chances and a game full of uncharacteristic sustained offensive zone time by the Leafs.
The first minute of the game had the makings of yet another one of those games where Toronto was going to spend way too much time in their own zone (“The Leafs have difficulty getting the puck out of their zone™”).
That quickly changed at the 18 minute mark, with the Rielly/Gardiner pairing moving the puck with efficiency and in the proper direction.
The initial fears of the game going the way of L.A. domination were scuttled at around the 16:50 mark; Lupul’s first touch was a scoring chance for Kulemin off the rush and should have been buried but for a fantastic save.
Come the five minute mark of the first, the shots were 5-3 Toronto. LA’s slow defense was having to hurry pucks on the breakout, and Toronto seemed more committed to a fast forecheck. If not physical, they were putting a lot of pressure on the Kings, who were being made to look like, well, the Leafs on any given night this season.
The penalty kill still continues to plague the Leafs game, and sunk them early. Despite taking the play to the slower LA Kings team, this was their chance to set up, control the play and get their 1-0 marker, which as an elite team they proceeded to do.
Despite the score, the shots were 9-4 Toronto late in the first.
One of the habits creeping into the Leafs’ heads more and more: their inability to close out periods and games. Inexplicably, the last minute and a half the Leafs were hemmed in and looked like they would concede another goal.
The Leafs got off to a nice start to the 2nd period.
Toronto’s defence was pinching and activating on the rush regularly, and it was giving the Leafs a chance to show off their speed more than they have this season. The D pinching down the wall was giving the Leafs more zone time than as long as I can remember, as reflected in the shot and shot attempt count (as close to a proxy for possession as we have). The Rielly/Gardiner pairing got regular shifts with the Kessel-Kadri-JVR, and they were fantastic in every area of the ice. They held the zone well, made great tape-to-tape saucer passes, pinched with great timing and, of course, lugged the puck as you would expect; lots of clean zone exits, zone entries, and controlled set ups in the offensive zone.
With Phaneuf injured, it’s forced Carlyle to do things he never tries, which is having Gardiner/Rielly on PP#1 and Gardiner/Franson on PP#2. The puck carrying duties went to Gardiner on the breakout and the Leafs achieved easy zone entries by not having, without fail, Phaneuf and Franson on the same PP unit. The dynamic duo are able to pinch with efficiency and still have the skating ability to get back into position on time.
As the 2nd period was winding down, it was apparent that this was the longest stretch of good hockey Toronto has sustained this season.
The Leafs finally evened the game on a 5 on 3 powerplay. It was Gardiner/Franson again, with Leafs getting a flurry of great chances. More great play from the Leafs in front of the net drew a penalty. On the ensuing 5 on 3, Frason scored on a beautiful switch with Kessel on the powerplay. Franson and Gardiner finally called the audible and switched sides (which Carlyle seems to coach them not to do), opening up two one-time point shots.
The Kings were previously a perfect 8 for 8 on 5 on 3s, but that changed tonight. The small victories, right?
That was a hell of a 2nd period for Toronto.
The Leafs were exposing the LA Kings lack of speed; worth noting the Kings were in the 2nd leg of a back-to-back on the road.
A note I made before the game: I was hoping that the addition of Lupul would open up the lines a bit for Toronto and allow Lupul to avoid some coverage, and for the Leafs to roll two lines properly. He looked like the Lupul of old and had a number of great chances tonight; he was hard on the puck and drove the net with reckless abandon. It makes the Leafs a tougher team to play against.
The pinching was a bonus for the Leafs tonight, but it has also cost them with the go-ahead goal by Jeff Carter. A pinch from Ranger resulted in a 2 on 1. Fraser was in a tough spot; he can play it like a 2-on-1 and take the pass away, which he does for the most part, or take the shooter with Ranger closing in on the pass option. He correctly elected for the latter and Carter got off a sneaky hard shot through Bernier’s legs to make it 2-1 Kings. That’s a game breaker goal that Bernier has to save and he didn’t. This was a decidedly average performance from Bernier; he needed to be better tonight. You wonder if starting Reimer against a team that doesn’t have the book on the goalie (like LA did) might have been the better decision.
Once again evident in the period, Gardiner and Rielly were dynamic tonight. Where they usually are a high-risk/reward combination, they were all reward tonight and moved the puck up the ice with skill and speed, making plays that are both exciting and effective. They beat LA’s heavy forecheck, as puck-moving defenseman are want to do, when they play the game at a high speed.
There was a surefire holding penalty on the JVR rush missed by the refs late in this period. It was a free-hand hold, which is usually a call on every.single.play in every.single.nhl.game. While my tinfoil hat is currently at the dry cleaners, the calls against the Leafs this year are, quite frankly, staggering. I’ve never seen officiating as poor in the NHL in my decades of watching hockey. Perhaps coming out of the 2005 lockout when new rules were implemented, but that’s not saying much.
JVR blew by Regehr, but Regehr impeded JvR’s progress with the loose arm. That’s called holding.
Shortly thereafter, Kadri got cross checked and absolutely filled in from behind by Voynov without the puck.
Alas, Kyle Clifford came back the other way and scored. Insert dagger here. Game over.
Mirtle: Carlyle finally unleashes young Leafs, positive results follow
Great shooting it with everyone,but we have a foot of snow here with another on the way...time to fire up Buelah.
This game tonight will help us learn whether last night was a one off, or if our team is turning a corner
I dropped some sincere "fuck!"'s last night. Best game i've seen us play this year excluding our goaltending and PK. Brutal we didn't get at least a point but our last 2 games have been much better so let build off that. Loved McLaren's game last night too.
Kulemin needs to start burying his chances
Bernier was disappointing
Raymond had some amazing sequences with the puck
Gardiner should've ripped a couple wide open shots but played great as did Reilly
Best cycle efforts all year, Lupul huge boost
Kessel is great but his lack of tenacity on the puck drives me nuts sometimes
JVR needs to take that puck to the net like a boss and not just look for Kess
Kadri got cross checked into the boards before their 3 goal, big no call
D'amigo's game has continued to impress in that role
We needed to be drilling Doughty every chance we got and we didnt
KEEP THAT PLAY UP BOYS AND WE WILL BE A FORCE IN THE PLAYOFFS GLG
No doubt it has been posted, but Declan hit the nail on the head. The best game of the season for our heroes, hands down. If they could find that intensity every night, they would be a playoff club . Unfortunately , last night was a real departure from the way these guys go about business ... chancy line rushes up ice, sloppy D zone coverage , and soft along the boards . It makes you mad when you see how they CAN play, when most nights, we have to put up with stinkers and see our goalies face 40-50 shots . Carlyle must be developing facial tics by now. Anyway, there is some solace in knowing that this team can actually put together close to sixty minutes of true team hockey, supporting each other as they go . I like it, I want more of it .
While I'd agree that benier is more efficient in terms of goaltending, I think he doesn't battle as much as reimer to see the puck when there is traffic
I think who is more composed is up in the air.
Hey guys anyone See that Stamkos commercial where His dad Trades him with Eberle and Mackenzie ? Thats based on a true story, The Guy is in my office now, we are getting a big laugh out of it, but the cheap Pricks at Coke gave him nothing for it other then the sweater from the commerical, it has 2 mil views on you tube and they gave him squat, not even tickets
@Burtonboy Unbelievable the Toronto MSM is completely backwards. More concerned with Style of gameplay than substance, errr. i mean wins.
From the article
"Now put aside the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Los Angeles Kings in this one."
No I wont' Myrtle. This is NHL hockey about winning. Not some "EMO school system" where participation is rewarded. Take your friggin MOM GOGGLES off and see this for what it was a loss. A LOSS.
Style of play that wins is somethign that is needed and this new style hasn't won yet and hasn't won consistently lets hold off on the praise and buckle down on the brass tacks of finishing in front ofthe net and putting the puck in the net by any means necessary
@Burtonboy Deal Lord, jesus
@Burtonboy Stupid things like this would stop if people were fired publicly. Common sense seems to be in such short supply these days.
@wiski Alright phaneuf of that !
good point.....i have always been one to say that ref calls for and against eventually even out but lately i have been really shaking my head because the calls against us have been game changers and have cost us points.....Malkin non call? JVR's call? Kadri into the boards mentioned above? Seindenberg on D'Amigo?......what next?
@The Truth Hurts Three words
J V R
facial tics.............2 funny....agree on playing their best game so far......now take this team + bolland + bozak= a much better pk and playoff team!
@HeatherRickAkin all we have to do is keep to keep Phaneuf out...we play our best game since I've seen since God knows when and no Phaneuf ..... go figure :)
I'd trade his ass at the deadline for pics and /or prospects...7 mil for that lump is sickening.....if Nonis does that he will regret it big time....sure, he might be playing his best hockey but Nonis needs to realize that its contract year...what happens when he signs a lucrative deal? watch and see.....he becomes an even bigger lump...trade him.
@The Truth Hurts Nope we are just excited that you are here bro :)
@The Truth Hurts guarded optimism
@wendelsway1 What are the possible changes? Ashton in? Is Liles even feeling okay to play?
Same lineup I think,he had our best players that are available right now out there
but Liles and Reims are good to,soo they could take a couple spots
Guys were saying last night that reportedly Nonis has had some "influence" of late
Doesn't bode well for Randy if true
@wendelsway1 Might be a good idea to get some fresh legs in there. I think they're in St. Louis, so that decision, if it involves Marlies, has probably been already made. Liles for Fraser so he can rest that bum knee. No doubt Reimer will start
@Mind Bomb No problem, trade Coke for a Pepsi
I thought it was a swipe at Doug Gilmour
Common sense might not be common, But just plain merciless retribution for stupid acts might fit the bill.
Walking home in the shade of a thousand eggs about to land on this school officials head would at least knock some common sense into them. And hey. If there's no consequences to this stupid school boards actions it will just happen again.
@The Truth Hurts Defence looked Ok to me
@The Truth Hurts Strecthed his points streak to four games. Played 26 minutes.
@The Truth Hurts How'd you like Gardiner's play last night, HH?...hee hee :)
Yes,we were musing about last night too.
That or JML's bell was still ringing from the last game...he got drilled.
They were saying it was reported by the MSM
Doesn't make it any truer of course ;)
That Weber's guy is my neighbour
Made a killing off that Hwy 11 joint.
Never understood lining up for 45mins to get a burger.
Get to the cottage an hour early,fire up the BBQ and have three beers down before the yuppies arrived :)
Indeed..most have fallen by the wayside to corporate food pushers
Peeps need their familiarity and Moms/Dad's don't venture off the mainstays
Have seen many a wonderful greasy spoon close shop once a Timmies or Mickey D's opens nearby... sadly.
The gyros were unreal...2 lbs of goat meat on a pita rolling in garlic sauce
Great late night drunken feeds :)
They still have a Barrie Burger or two in Barrie..one on Anne,the other Yonge.
I think Pete's kids run it now.
Great greasy spoon.
We had a famous burger joint in Barrie in my youth called,of course....Barrie Burger
Pete the Greek and his dad were so Belushi you'd swear they patterned off them!