Game Review: Game #61, Islanders 5 vs. Leafs 4 (OT)

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UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 27: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs braces for a shot by Lubomir Visnovsky #11 of the New York Islanders (not shown) at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 27, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs gave away a point tonight with their own boneheaded mistakes. That’s pretty much all there was to it, as they gave up the lead on three separate occasions and conceded five goals mostly through a series of avoidable giveaway errors.

Jonathan Bernier wasn’t at his sharpest in his first game back from the Olympic Break, either. You could tell he was a little off from the first shot against. His first save was on a shot from outside the blueline he seemed half asleep on, kicking a huge rebound into the slot that nearly led to a 1-0 NYI lead.

The Leafs opened the scoring on a goal that looked almost too easy from who else but Philly Snipes. Kessel swooped into the slot from his off wing and Tyler Bozak found him after rushing the puck down the right wall. Kessel’s 32nd goal (The Phil laughs at the idea of Olympic hangovers) was dedicated to Curtis Rush.

The Leafs seemed to be in good shape in this first period, conceding just two shots in the first 9 minutes, before a powerplay from hell somehow left them 2-1 down in the span of 48 seconds. With two shorthanded goals off the stick of the same player, Michael Grabner, this was a rare and ugly feat by the Maple Leafs. Grabner feasted on Leafs giveaways with his speed and endeavour throughout the night and the Leafs were fortunate not to concede a hat trick from him alone.

The first goal was Jake Gardiner’s gaffe, as he was simply too soft with his pass with Grabner bearing down on him in front of the Leaf net. 48 seconds later, Bernier came out to play a dump in and made the crazy decision to turn the puck back toward his own net rather than go hard off the boards and out, or at least into the corner. He was worried about Grabner bearing down on him, but turning toward his own net 10 feet out from it was the last thing he should’ve done. Rielly standing two feet away from the goalie didn’t help, but it was apparent he never anticipated Bernier’s decision.

What is it with Nassau Coliseum and bad Leafs goaltender gaffes, eh? Can’t wait until they move to Brooklyn.

As I was saying, Grabner could’ve had a hat trick before this game was half over as the Leafs continued to shoot themselves in the foot. A Gardiner giveaway at the blueline led to a breakway, this time with Bernier making a point-blank save look easy; he took away the top half of the net and showed off his ability to abandon the butterfly, read the shooter and make an athletic save when need be.

The Leafs were on the powerplay for the second time in the second period (fourth time in the game), but it seemed to be a case of “what’s going to go wrong next’ on the powerplay tonight. Phaneuf’s stick shattered, and with Grabner nearly taking a breakway pass for his shorthanded hat trick attempt, Dion negated the break with a smart play using his broken-twig-turned-ringette stick.

The scoreline remained tight at 2-1 up until the 48 minute mark. There was an offensive explosion in the final 12 minutes of the third, and it was who else but the top line leading the way for the Leafs. With 12 minutes to go, Kessel led the rush up ice, JvR collected, drove wide and flipped the puck off the cross bar. Paul Ranger was following up the play and jammed in the rebound.

After the Leafs gave up a grade-A chance that Josh Bailey fired high over the net, the top line completed the third period comeback. JvR caused a turnover with a good stick lift on the boards before finding Bozak in the high slot; Bozak found Phaneuf pinching down for a rocket of a one timer, his sixth goal of the season.

Carl Gunnarsson got beat and took a penalty shortly thereafter. On the penalty kill, which held steady for the first three kills of the game, Phaneuf chased up the boards trying to force the puck out and the Leafs’ PK lost its shape. The puck went D to D and Calvin De Haan found Josh Bailey to the side of the net; Bailey set up Anders Lee cross-crease for his first NHL goal. The Leafs’ PK is still 17 for its last 19, which is not too shabby.

Again the Leafs should’ve ended this game late in the third, only this time it was Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri chipping in after a quiet game from that second line. Lupul led a rush up ice, working a give and go with Kadri and lifting a backhand top corner on the far side for another beautiful quick-strike goal off the rush by the Leafs.

The Leaf giveaways were too much to overcome in this game, however. A failure to get the puck out by David Clarkson started the play off in the build up to the 4-4 tying goal, sending a blind clearance up the boards. Again, this wasn’t Jonathan Bernier’s best game and it cost the Leafs late; a squeaker slipped between his legs after a pass out from the corner, with a late whistle by the ref not helping matters.

In overtime, a turnover in the slot by the Leafs was the fitting conclusion to the game. This one was more misfortune than poor decision making, as a puck rolling on edge was fanned on by JvR and Anders Lee scored the game winner, his second goal in his first ever NHL game.

Notes:

– The Leafs continue to lead the league in third period goals against, now with 70 through 61 games. Not pretty.

– Positive note: 12 goals from the defence in the last 15 games after Phaneuf’s sixth of the season in the third period.

– Another positive note: as bad as the powerplay was, it’s usually very good and the Leafs manufactured four goals all at even strength. Their even strength offence has been much improved since they turned the season around around 14 games ago; their 114 goals at 5 v 5 put them 10th in the league and they were seriously lagging in this area (near the bottom in the League, if I recall correctly) during their protracted slump.

– On the note of the powerplay, I don’t like the dynamics of the second powerplay unit. It should run through Kadri or Lupul, not Mason Raymond. Kadri is also a lefty but has far better playmaking skills or, alternatively, Lupul is a right-handed shot who could actually step into a few from that half wall position (latter scenario would require Clarkson in front).

– Interestingly, Tyler Bozak, who had nearly the same primary assists per 60 minute rate as Frazer McLaren last season at five on five despite centering one of the league’s most dynamic duos, is leading the team in 1st assists per 60 at five on five with nearly 1.2/60. That’s not just good enough to lead the Leafs; that’s top five in the league among players with significant minutes played and just a notch below the likes of Thornton, Malkin, Getzlaf. Bozak had two primary assists tonight on the Kessel and Phaneuf goals.

– Tyler Bozak was also 68% on the dot tonight, schooling Brock Nelson with 7 out of 8 draws won. Nikolai Kulemin won 63% of his draws, mostly facing Ryan Strome. Nice to beat up on some rookies in the circle, I suppose.

– Paul Ranger made good use of his 12 minutes of ice time. He comes in handy on the penalty kill, where the Leafs can use his strength in front of the net. He prevented a goal with an impressive show of strength, clearing out a Isles attacker before he beat him to a loose puck for a sure goal. He both saved a goal and scored one of his own after following up JvR’s drive to the net in the third period.

– Could be alone here, but still think Kulemin beside Kadri and Lupul is the best option on line two if Bolland returns on Saturday, with Clarkson next to Bolland, which looked good before Bolland went down to injury.

Fenwick chart for 2014-02-27 Maple Leafs 4 at Islanders 5 (OT)
Photo: ExtraSkater.com

Leafs-vs-Isles

Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders

NEW YORK STATISTICS

GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
Evgeni NabokovÊ(11-12-5)W22180.81861:55:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Josh Bailey0117:21-2021191202
Eric Boulton006:12027001000
Casey Cizikas0112:37222541100
Cal Clutterbuck0015:12020101010
Calvin de Haan0123:11-100002610
Michael Grabner2018:14060000142
Mike Halmo009:01010004000
Travis Hamonic0123:27032002003
Thomas Hickey0016:47100000200
Anders Lee2012:21140011000
Andrew MacDonald0022:55010000100
Colin McDonald0012:06000004000
Brock Nelson0020:10-1104132210
Kyle Okposo0019:26-220330121
Brian Strait0018:10010002101
Ryan Strome0114:04140340000
Thomas Vanek0019:01-240002002
Lubomir Visnovsky10:0020000200

TORONTO STATISTICS

GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
Jonathan BernierÊ(22-16-6)OTL35300.85761:54:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Troy Bodie007:24030000000
Tyler Bozak0222:192001780100
David Clarkson0016:20010001000
Cody Franson0019:12000003100
Jake Gardiner0018:57-212000021
Tim Gleason0013:43025001000
Carl Gunnarsson0121:18202000100
Nazem Kadri0118:25-1108101001
Phil Kessel1123:01230000001
Nikolai Kulemin0013:21000532100
Joffrey Lupul1020:05-110001100
Jay McClement0010:59000450101
Dion Phaneuf1024:47:00134003001
Paul Ranger1012:28110001100
Mason Raymond0014:57-230000000
Morgan Rielly0014:25-210000100
Trevor Smith006:03000010000
James van Riemsdyk0323:13120000001
Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Forwards
85 %
Defence
50 %
Goaltending
50 %
Special Teams
40 %
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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at brownscombealec@gmail.com.
  • loomx

    Well, that was somewhat of a disaster.

  • Belfour20

    Dion looked like shit!, Bernier played like shit, Gunnarson played like shit, Gardiner was his usual shit. The offense could not bail out the defense tonight. absolutely terrible game by the back end tonight. Way to come out of the Olympic break strong boys!

  • DJBrianBurke

    Can the Leafs stop giving up leads? Just wondering… Would be nice.

  • Black_Hawk

    Get it back together for the Habs saturday boys

  • Ydargo

    GameCenter wouldn’t let me play the game tonight……who looked good tonight? Looking for positives

  • The_Polish_Cannon

    DJBrianBurke  they would have to be capable of playing defence in order for that to happen. Carlyle has had more than enough time to have these guys executing a system efficiently. It looks like they’re all unsure of where they should be out there

  • The_Polish_Cannon

    Ydargo  first line and Dion looked good

  • jimmyg65

    Gardiner’s play tonight was one of the worst performances by a D-man I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been a supporter of his but it’s getting harder to justify him being on this team when Reilly is clearly so much better at playing the role of puck-carrying D-man. Trade him while his value is still high…

  • wiski

    Belfour20  I thought we looked pretty good till that pp and two shorties against had the boys nervous after that.

  • jimmyg65

    PS: almost the whole team looked like crap tonight, so I’m not blaming it all on Gardiner

  • wiski

    Fingers aren’t supposed to bend that way. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23mnwild&src=hashhttps://twitter.com/search?q=%23stoner&src=hashhttp://t.co/EGCL0bGezd

  • Ydargo

    Good to hear, it sounded like a frustrating game…………..wanted something positive
    I’ve watched over 90% of the Leafs games…..what does everyone think of moving Gardiner for a veteran presence with a little more of a physical presence (ie: Myers for Gardiner)
    Another thought would be one of Franson or Gunnarsson for Bieksa

  • BingoDabber

    Great thoughts. Always amazed by how quickly these are posted and how much you guys notice. Thanks

  • wiski

    Well done Alec, something about the Islanders they seem to have our number.

  • Cameron19

    Pretty sure we could dress Doughty in a Phaneuf jersey and people would still bitch and make baseless criticisms.

  • The_Polish_Cannon

    Ydargo  I don’t know it’s a tough call. PMD usually have a longer development arc so it might be early still to give up on him. But at the same time Rielly has a higher ceiling than Gards it seems and is developing like so. We have too much of the same thing on D so it might be wise to trade Gardiner for a solid Dman.

  • The_Polish_Cannon

    Cameron19  yeah I can’t stand the false narrative on Phaneuf. I get in arguments with friends constantly about Phaneuf. It’s exactly like the Kessel arguments over all these years and people have finally shut up this season

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Cameron19  I thought he was good tonight. Looked energized.

  • The_Polish_Cannon

    Bruffins The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  people eat up whatever these idiots on sportsnet say

  • Cameron19

    Alec Brownscombe Cameron19  Apparently he was absolute shit despite the goal and +1 rating in a game with 5 goals against.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Bruffins The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  Talked to a former draft pick of the Lightning at the Winter Classic who said he was worse than Ranger and Fraser. “At least Fraser’s tough.”
    Unbelievable

  • DJBrianBurke

    The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19I always ask who they would take over him honestly, a lot of times the list stops much shorter than they even excepted.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Definitely looked like a game where neither team had played for a while.

  • lukethenuke

    Pretty sluggish game I thought… entertaining cause both goalies were off and defense was no good both ends…. mishandling the puck all over by EVERYONE.  No one really stood out positively… was disappointed by Phaneuf and Lupul who I thought would be charged up and ready to go but were not… flat footed and gliding around following the play…. but then they both score so now they had a good game I guess (guess thats how it works right lol).  Bernier was waay off today but looking around the league, doesnt look like a lot of goalies were on tonight so missing 3 weeks must do that.  Hopefully everyone will be ready for Saturday.

  • ProfessorRance

    Edler sure would look nice for us tonight.

  • lukethenuke

    Cameron19  Well had a flat game (like everyone else) and got a goal off a rocket,.. you can rank this game however you will.  No need to defend when it clearly wasnt the greatest of games or near

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  
    Love for someone to name a defenceman from the Leafs in the past 20 years that was better than Dion.

  • lukethenuke

    Bruffins  he was surprisingly one of the best for sure!

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Bottom line. You give up 2 SHG in a game, you likely lose

  • Alec Brownscombe

    lukethenuke Cameron19  Wasn’t his best game ever? Shit all over him!

  • lukethenuke

    Alec Brownscombe lukethenuke Cameron19  wasnt a real good effort from the CAPTAIN, fair assessment… lol sorry you have a stiffy for the guy

  • Alec Brownscombe

    lukethenuke Alec Brownscombe Cameron19  Sorry your inability to argue your position means you take it to a level where you say I have an erection for a player.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    DJBrianBurke The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  
    Was saying to Alec on Gtalk before the USA/Can game and noticed they lined up Kessel vs Keith. I said: “Kessel is going to be walking Keith” 1st shift, 10 seconds in, Kessel blows by Keith and then the same shift it happened again (Kesler, if I remember correctly). 
    Norris trophy winner.

  • lukethenuke

    Alec Brownscombe lukethenuke Cameron19  why you think he wasnt behind the play, slow, mishandling the puck, and really just slow in every aspect of the game besides his rocket? I really wish that wasnt the case but when the evidence is there how can anybody dispute it i have no idea.  Credit when credit is due, but scolding when deserved

  • Belfour20

    DJBrianBurke The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  I could give you a 8-11 defenders I would take over Dion. That 4th goal was absolutely brutal…He’s in the crease with Lee I believe it was and he was fucking man handled…This is big strong Dion, getting handled? are you kidding me?!?!? 

    The 3rd Islander goal, although on the PP, why are you chasing your man so high up? you are short fucking handed, once he’s out of reach, fall back down so theres not an odd man situation down low. notice he slammed his stick after that goal? He fucking knew he over played that shit!

  • Wilbur

    Alec Brownscombe lukethenuke Cameron19  This was a “we haven’t played a game in three weeks” game. They’ll be better on Saturday. Frankly, I thought Gards was brutal and Gunnar just average but other than that the rest of the D looked fine to me. Pretty much looked like a first pre season game…

  • lukethenuke

    Bruffins lukethenuke  yup, a great adjustment in his game. About time… wonder if he made it on his own, or if others told him, but good on him and finally!

  • Belfour20

    DeclanK Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  

    Bryan Berard
    Larry Murphy
    Dimitry Yushkevich
    Danny Markov
    The entire 93/94 Leafs D-core
    Hell even Bryan McCabe at first was better than Dion.

  • lukethenuke

    Wilbur Alec Brownscombe lukethenuke Cameron19  yup agree… no one was really good tonight, especially the leaders on the team but then they both score haha funny how it works.  But I cringed everytime the puck was near him, or dumped in his corner… really slow and below average game from him… like wise for our others (who we can ACCEPT that from).  Franson looked better out there than usual, maybe sticking out cause he was better than the rest of the d i dont know but good on him

  • Wilbur

    lukethenuke Alec Brownscombe Cameron19  Evidence has to be interpreted. It’s interpreted through a set of lenses so depending on the lenses you put on…

  • Wilbur

    DeclanK Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  Yanick Tremblay…

  • lukethenuke

    Belfour20 DeclanK Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  Leech was past here for like 20 games but the others are fair assesment

  • vinoa

    Shift_Disturber1  In the case of the Islanders it’s been almost the whole year.

  • lukethenuke

    Belfour20 DJBrianBurke The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  he was really SLOW in every aspect of his game today like i said… just best way to summarize his play today… when hes slow, hes soft… when hes soft and not aggressive…. when that happens, fans have the right to call him pylon and i accept that because it does appear that way.  but that was one game, hopefully rust is gone

  • lukethenuke

    Wilbur lukethenuke Alec Brownscombe Cameron19  pivoting to get puck, forechecker 100 yards away, 5 seconds later arrives at puck, opponent beats him to puck and proceeds…. repeat… just that type of game

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Belfour20 DeclanK Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  

    Not sure we’re going to have a rational conversation considering the players you’ve just named—save for Leetch. 
    Going to tap out here.

  • Belfour20

    Bruffins Belfour20 DJBrianBurke The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  

    Keith 
    Seabrook
    weber
    Doughty
    Chara
    J-Bo
    Shatenkirk
    Pieterangelo
    Vlasic
    Suter
    Cam Fowler
    Giordano
    Ekman Larsson

    I’m leaving EK-65 off the List and Subban too, both are nightmares in their own zone.

    So tell me now you wouldnt take any of these guys ahead of Dion?

  • Belfour20

    Bruffins Belfour20 DJBrianBurke The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  Even a guy like Vlasic, sure he’s not perfect, and he’s not going to get the points Dion gets, but he is solid in his own zone. 

    With the kind of offense we have, we don’t even need him for the points. This is the reason I like Gleason so much, that guy is a warrior in his own zone. He is just too fucking LAZY for me.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    https://twitter.com/KatsHockey/status/439262268061409281

  • Belfour20

    DeclanK Belfour20 Bruffins Alec Brownscombe The_Polish_Cannon Cameron19  Yushkevich and Markvov for sure were better than Dion, come on! Those were heart and soul guys on the backend, they would block shots with their faces if they had to.