These Leafs are rolling.
Their first six game winning streak since 2006 comes thanks to another offensive explosion and a commendable effort in a back-to-back situation at mile-high altitude against a top team in the West. The Leafs chased goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was 11-0-5 in his last 16, with three goals on their first 10 shots.
The Leafs have scored 25 goals over their six game winning streak, as the top line is blazing hot, the Leafs’ offensive production from their defense has gone from famine to feast, their PP continues to be elite, and their goaltending continues to be great.
The first half of the first period was classic Maple Leafs hockey, making mockery out of even strength possession play with great goaltending and counterpunching quick strikes offensively. Outshot 11-2 with two penalties against to start the period, amid long spells of Avalanche possession, Dion Phaneuf sent a pass 180 feet for Kessel to outrace the Avs D and deposit past Varlamov. That was the 25th goal for Kessel and he was far from done.
The Leafs proceeded to get into a groove, get their feet under them and draw a couple of penalties while taking the period’s final seven shots. Franson and JvR worked more Leafy PP magic to make it 2-0, on JvR’s 20th of the season and Franson’s 21st assist. JvR’s off the charts hand-eye skills tipped another one home.
Cody Franson on van Riemsdyk's redirection abilities: "JVR’s got a no-fly zone. Put it in a certain airspace it’s going down."
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 22, 2014
The Leafs were asleep for a few shifts to start the 2nd period, but on their first real foray into the offensive zone they made it 3-0 after Nazem Kadri tipped in a well-placed Jake Gardiner point shot. That’s goals in two in a row for Kadri, who has six points in his last four games.
Just two and a half minutes later, Phil Kessel added to his account with his 26th of the season after a beastly net drive by JvR off the half wall produced a loose puck for him to pounce on. This tandem has now produced 46 goals between them in 52 games.
we had front row seats to the biggest sports entertainment extravaganza of the year and all the bad guys won, fuck pic.twitter.com/RK8Hmc4Xdm
— Anthrax Jones (@AnthraxJones) January 22, 2014
The Leafs were almost cocky about the way they were moving the puck on the PP with 12 minutes to go in the 2nd. They were just tossing tape to tape passes around across the zone like it was nothing while Gardiner and Rielly were on the ice.
The Leafs were having more fun out there at the end of the 2nd, as the confidence was visible in their legs and puck movement. A gorgeous breakout pass up the middle from Rielly to Bozak saw Bozie throw no-look backhand pass to Kessel, turning the play into a fast developing a 2 on 1 for Kessel and JvR. Kessel, passing up a chance for a hat trick, deferred to JvR, but Giguere was up to the task.
Perhaps the Leafs were a little too loose, as Nathan MacKinnon burned them on a 2 on 1 to make this a 4-1 game late in the 2nd. Between Bozak peeling for a half-assed change and Orr being the other forward, the Leafs had too few forwards on the ice and Phaneuf was caught at the end of a long shift.
Rielly, by the way, was tossing stretch passes around with complete confidence and often amazing accuracy. Seeing him and Gardiner grow together, beside one another on a pairing, into their ridiculous skillsets is a sight to behold. It is also going to feature some frustrating moments..
Such as when Gardiner tried an outrageous spinorama backhand pass attempt on the breakout a few minutes into the third period, leading to the 4-2 goal. Seemingly recognizing how good the kid pairing had been, Gardiner got sent straight back out after Dave Farrish gave him a friendly reminder about not doing stupid things with the lead in the third period, followed by a pat on the back.
The coaching staff deserves some commendation here for a willingness to live with the thorns that accompany the rose known as this “kid pairing” of Rielly and Gardiner, who didn’t miss a shift after that goal, much like last night in Phoenix after another costly Gardiner giveaway. You take the good with the bad, because the good outweighs the bad, and the potential is even greater. The good part is that the Leafs have gotten the goal support and it didn’t cost them the game, which Gardiner himself mentioned:
Gardiner on turnovers the last couple of games: "Guys are joking around with me, 'Thank God we're winning right now'"
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 22, 2014
Reimer was delivering huge save after huge save to prevent this third period from becoming, in the words of Wayne and Garth, “GAME ON.”
As the second period wore on this seemed to be going the way of a Leaf blowout, but don’t underestimate the importance of Reimer throughout the full 60 minutes. He saved the Leafs at the start of the 1st, start of 2nd, and through all of the 3rd.
The league’s worst third period team (not being snarky – they lead the league in 3rd period goals against with 61) was under siege in the final period, with Reimer the only thing between them and a three-goal collapse. That said, JvR and Kessel both could’ve added to their accounts with point blank chances on the counter attack.
It does seem logical that a team which relies so heavily on quick-strike rush attacks and the PP (the refs tend give out less powerplays when a team is trailing late in a game and trying to tie it up, as we saw when Bodie was blatantly felled in front of the ref), while collapsing in its own zone defensively, would be susceptible when trying to protect a lead late in the game. A team that can dump and chase effectively (the Leafs can’t) can get in and grind down some clock. The Leafs are dangerous on the counterpunch with the lead (as seen on the JvR and Kessel breakaways) as teams get more aggressive, but they cannot seem to burn out the clock without making things more interesting than they need to be.
Nonetheless, the Leafs did enough and Jay McClement deposited an empty netter to secure a 5-2 win. Joffrey Lupul made a risky but successful pass to the middle of the defensive zone to begin the breakout after the Avalanche left D had pinched down the wall. Despite a quiet game overall, that gave Lupul his second assist of the night.
A few notes…
– The Leafs penalty kill was 4 for 4, which moves them up to 11th in PK% on the road. They’re dead last at home and it’s not even close, with a 70.9% kill rate. Beats me.
– What a battler Reimer is. He’s barely been playing, but he stepped in and was huge in stopping 35 of 37 shots.
Reimer improves to a .930 even strength save percentage on season, tied for sixth in NHL among guys with 20+ starts. Big game by him.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 22, 2014
– He scared the crap out of us all night, but we’re all going to love Matt Duchene as a member of Team Canada. Those hands and wheels on the big ice… Wow.
– Nine points from the D in the last two games. What could this be a product of? The Leafs are giving the kid pairing of Rielly and Gardiner the green light to go out and create, which is great to see and Carlyle/Farrish deserve props for. Jake Gardiner has three points in his last two games, while Rielly has three points in his last four.
Cody Franson has been placed with a more defensively reliable, stay-at-home type in Gleason instead of Gardiner, which is perhaps freeing him up for more offense. He’s taking more shots, with 17 in his last 7 games. Overall, these pairings are providing some stability back there.
– Phil Kessel is now back to a point per game with 52 points in 52 games, placing him seventh in league scoring. His 26 goals put him on a 40-goal pace, and place him fourth in the league in goal scoring. Philthy.
– Just like that, with 6 points in his last 4, Kadri is back on a .66 points pace.
The Leafs are now at the 100-game mark if we combine the lockout-shortened season with the 52 games played so far during this 2013-14 campaign. They’re 53-37-10 over those 100 games while being outshot in 79/100. They’ve scored on 10.6% of their shots over those 100 games, and their goalies have stopped 91.9% of their league-worst 3443 shots against. Seems like great goaltending, opportunistic scoring and a great PP continue to defy the normal rules of regression.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Colorado Avalanche Shot Data
|James van Riemsdyk||1||1||20:00||0||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Phil Kessel Speaks:
Game in 6:
Everyone's pencilling Bolland on the third line when he returns... i dont know if he'll be able to keep up with the play after that injury and play that big a role successfully, or as successfully as we expect him to, especially after how awesome he was the first 10 games.... 4th line duty may be for him for the remainder of the season i feel, until he gets it back, if he can
Loiselle mentioned twice that the team needs to learn how to defend the lead in the third period. Twice. He mentioned the team needs to spend more time in the offensive end but how?
The Olymic break is a great thing for Bolland and the Leafs this year... two free weeks of recovery time...
That Reimer article said it would be hard to resign him cap wise, but I dont think thats the case at all. Heres my realistic guess of what we would have next year if we didnt have a major overhaul and kept Reimer.
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Tyler Bozak ($4.200m) / Phil Kessel ($8.000m)
Joffrey Lupul ($5.250m) / Nazem Kadri ($2.900m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($3.000m)
David Clarkson ($5.250m) / Dave Bolland ($4.000m) / Peter Holland ($1.000m)
Carter Ashton ($0.700m) / Jay McClement ($1.750m) / Colton Orr ($0.925m)
Frazer McLaren ($0.700m) / Jerry D'Amigo ($0.750m) /
Dion Phaneuf ($7.000m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150m)
Morgan Rielly ($0.894m) / Tim Gleason ($4.000m)
Jake Gardiner ($2.000m) / Cody Franson ($3.500m)
T.J. Brennan ($0.750m) /
Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m)
James Reimer ($3.250m)
Mike Komisarek ($0.000m)
Mikhail Grabovski ($0.000m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(estimations for 2014-15)
SALARY CAP: $71,100,000; CAP PAYROLL: $70,119,167; BONUSES: $850,000
CAP SPACE (23-man roster): $980,833
I really liked how Toronto looked last night. Except for a couple of giveaway gift goals the Leafs had their legs and enough gas in the tank not to look slow next to a very fast Avalanche team, but rather fought speed with speed. This is a very gifted team on the rush and turnover, they are more challenged in the possession game.
@sniperstar Thank god, some asshole wouldn't stop going on about the need to trade Reimer
@lukethenukeHaving him in the locker room will help big time.
@Pent_House Peg has been a LOT better since they switched coaches
@Pent_HouseDallas and Byfuglien are soft. There fixed it for you.
Can't the leafslunch guys ask good questions like how will the coach get the team improve with the lead
@rustynailWhat a bum. Time to pick up the slack Kadri or you're getting shipped out of here!
Anyways, more points from the back end is a good thing.
@Armchair GM we were debating yesterday about the possiblity that he could go on a conditioning stint with the Marlies. It could be done, but he would have to be sent down there before the movement freeze.
@Dangle_My_BerriesGame 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. He scores the Cup winning goal... again!
If you really wanted to upgrade the defense, then ya you move Reimer, and you would have about 7-8 mil free to get a defense and backup if you take oneof Gunner, Franson, or Gleason out. We will be totally fine IMO
@oldhockeyfan I didn't think the Leafs had it in terms of conditioning - just goes to show that some confidence and enthusiasm go a long long way in those back to back, 3 in 4 night situations. Remember, Carlyle said the game with Phoenix was basically a three line game. Tons of ice toime for the top forwards. So last nite's effort was awesome.
@MaxwellHowe The advantages of being in and out of threads due to having classes.
@wendelsfist that would be a poor question. Thats the coaches job, not his
@wendelsfistWhat would he say? That's Randy and the players' job to figure out?
Young team that needs to learn how on a consistent basis. Honestly, winning more faceoffs would help big time too. I know it's sound like a simple little thing, but the Leafs (and everyone else) play better when they start with the puck. Drives me nuts when they constantly lose at the dot. Shots against would come way down too.
@wendelsfist @lukethenuke and isnt that what he said... like playing in the O zone? The possible anwser would be for him to see the team swarm and chip it out less (aka trap less) and continue pressing like they should, but thats not for an assistant GM to say in the media because that may be Carlyle's strategy, if it isnt, and its just the players feeling the pressure and atatck, then, they are just young and need experience and vets (aka Bolland). All things he wouldnt say in the media.
And yes you add up the combined salaries and it usually is somewhere between 5 and 7 M.
Ideally something like Anaheim has with one at 4.5 and one at 2.4 is ideal as you then have a solid backup.
Reimer gets 2.8 as an RFA this year and bernier gets 4 if he completely takes over the job as the staff seems they are giving it to him.
@wendelsway1 I don't know that it is a luxury the Leafs can afford, and maybe one year is as long as they can take advantage of it. Choosing when to move one of them is tricky - if the Leafs wait until they have no choice - then the return on the trade may be limited. The Canucks played that little game and it didn't really go turn out as well as they had expected.
@MaxwellHowe @Jordan29 To me you always add up the 2 goalies and thats the cap hit. Problem with rolling say JUST Reimer or Bernier is, when they are hurt, not only do you have to go get a goalie to win games for you, but you have to do it at a limited cost, if their cap you can replace is only 3 mil. After next year when Bernier gets a payday, I dont think anyone can expect both to be here though, and then you have to find yourself a Scrivens like back up who you have faith in starting 4-5 games in a row if shit goes down
@Jordan29 @MaxwellHowe if we accept that both are very very good goalies, then ask yourself - why take up the cap space (not to mention forego the return either one mgiht achieve in a trade) for a guy (reimer or Bernier) who will only play 40 games - when either goalie is capable of paying as well for 60+ games. A dependable backup could be gotten for $1 - $1.5 million. If not for the cap I might agree with you, but i just don't see how it makes sense.
I mean, if you're on a limited household budget, why would you need two identical corvettes in the driveway? You can only drive one at a time anyway.
@Murph2417 The other things is, what elite teams carry two top notch starting goalies? Its a fine luxury, but neither the Wings, the Bruins, the Hawks, nor the Kings (who traded Bernier of course) have had such an arrangement. Do the Leafs need a good backup? Yes. But $3 million a year is a little steep for a position that, on most teams plays only 20 games a year.
@Pent_House @Jordan29 Theres still a mil to play with, but yes, Gardiner has been just as up and down as Franson and he signewd for 2 mil. Kadri only got 2.85 too with his insane season last year. Nonis has been great with bridge contracts. Holland really has nothing to show he should get more then a miil yet. Too small of a sample
I hate, no loathe the excuse that it was a weekday evening game. If the US can fill baseball games during the WORK DAY, then what is the excuse for evening events?... That's right they don't care, unless they're tops in the league. Not surprised, they were spoiled with the team they got when they first moved there.
The best part is hockey is made up of games being played during the week. It's not a new concept.
@DJBrianBurke That the Avs have attendance problems with the likes of Duchene and MacKinnon on the team speaks very poorly for the health of that franchise. Oh well fellas, if you ever want to be appreciated, we know a place you can play some hockey