Home Game Reviews
Everything you need to know about last night's Leaf game is broken down into 10 cogent points of analysis by an MLHS writer within minutes of the final buzzer.


Welcome back, Tyler Bozak!

1. The Leafs predictably start the game with some lackadaisical play which allows the Hurricanes to jump out to an early shot advantage of 7-0 after the first ten minutes. Having said that, the shot clock wasn’t totally indicative of the flow of the game. Zone time was even, and the Leafs had a few chances at the net. Kessel notably ripped a heavy wrister just wide, and the team made a few attempts to bring the puck to the net from the corner. Most of Carolina’s shots were weak perimeter wristers, save for one opportunity that saw Staal alone with the puck in front of a sprawled out Bernier. Luckily, the team recovered by the time Staal found the puck.

Also, Bozak looked good to start the game, and you can immediately see how he helps his line. He finishes his checks, and just generally helps them hold onto the puck a little better.

2. After a slashing penalty to Gerbe the Leafs start to go to work. The powerplay is a clinic in puck possession. Lupul gets a chance to go top shelf in front of Ward and just misses the crossbar. There are some neat deflection attempts, cross crease attempts, and a try to bring it to the net from the corner, but nothing will go. The top unit stays on the entire two minutes and then some. Good effort.

3. Shortly after the man advantage ends, the 4th line for the Leafs gets to go to work. D’Amigo and Holland do good work to cycle the puck and create a cross crease opportunity for a Morgan Rielly one timer that just misses. Carlyle goes right back to them after a Kessel shift, and they again create something in the offensive zone before the combination of Ranger and Orr manage to stifle the momentum. Still, even Orr looks more productive next to these two. Their play does beg the question – what would they look like with a Carter Ashton next to them instead of Orr?

4. Bozak’s faceoff prowess leads to a Kessel goal. After a battle at the dot, the puck gets free to Kessel along the goal line and he catches Cam Ward totally off guard with a quick back-handed wrist shot. It’s a bad goal, but Ward makes up for it as the Leafs start to surge in the aftermath. Kessel immediately creates an odd man rush on the next shift, and then gets a breakaway opportunity. Ward shuts the door on Kessel’s five hole bid.

5. The Hurricanes come out strong to start the second period. Or the Leafs come out flat; whichever perspective you prefer. Semin beats Gardiner to the puck in the corner and throws it to an undetected Gerbe in the slot, and he buries it short-side on Bernier.

An interesting in-game story is developing here though, with Gerbe at the center of a lot of after the whistle nonsense. Towards the end of the first period, he got away with a blatant slash after the whistle right in front of the official. Even Millen thought it was pretty bad that it went uncalled, and shortly after he scores a goal. It is crazy how it seemingly always manages to work this way. Getting away with something gives your team a lift, and that was certainly the case with Gerbe here – especially having already been called once for slashing.

6. Another missed call leads to the Hurricanes best opportunity of the period. Kulemin is obviously tripped and the normally dormant Air Canada Center crowd springs to life and lets the officials know, but to no avail. Gardiner trips and the play quickly turns back the other way for an odd man rush that sees Bernier make two outstanding saves that are easily his best of the night.

While the shots in the second period are heavily in Carolina’s favor, they haven’t had much in the way of legitimate scoring chances, whereas Kessel has had some really good looks in front of Cam Ward.

7. The momentum starts to shift back and forth a little bit as the top line gets some chemistry flowing, and Carlyle even throws the 4th line a bone by sending Lupul out in Orr’s stead. Some good chances materialize for the Blue and White before Kessel and J.V.R. work their usual 2-on-1 magic, and Kessel pots his second of the evening, and 20th of the season whilst attempting a cross-ice pass back to J.V.R. Hainsey angrily fires the puck down the ice having put the puck in his own net.

Almost immediately after, the Leafs are back in the Canes’ end buzzing as Jerry D’Amigo leads the rush and starts the cycle. Phaneuf makes a nice pinch that keeps the puck in the zone, and it bounces back to Kulemin who wires it past Ward for his 5th of the season.

8. Penalties make the closing minutes of the second frame very interesting. Ranger tosses Semin to the ice and is going to be going to the box alone, but after the whistle, Semin gets up and gives an unsuspecting Ranger a good shot, which knocks him over. Four on four hockey sees the Hurricanes get the upper hand. Phaneuf has a rough shift that sees him hit from behind, and then fail to clear the zone. Given the climate of the game, an extremely weak hooking call sends the captain to the box. A mistake by Phaneuf no doubt, but these are the calls that are hard to stomach when you’re letting far more dangerous and blatant infractions go. Regardless, the Canes almost immediately capitalize and make it 3-2 with a one-timer in the slot.

Perhaps realizing how bad the Phaneuf call was, Jordan Staal is called for slashing. Phaneuf, out of the box, goes straight to the net and appears determined to get it back. This is an exciting set-up for the PP, and the freshness of it clearly catches Carolina unprepared. It is the hungriest the unit has looked all year, and they create numerous grade A scoring chances to close out the period, but are not rewarded.

NOTE: During this segment of the game, Kadri was really struggling, and had maybe one of his worst shifts as a Leaf.

9. The powerplay isn’t as potent to start the final period, but still looking pretty dangerous and moving the puck well. Shortly after, Kessel is able to break free for yet another breakaway, and is again turned away by Cam Ward. However, the two goal lead is restored by Paul Ranger with a cannon from the point after Clarkson and Kulemin do a great job working the puck down low and in front of the net. They can be a real hand full. Somehow Bozak gets his 3rd assist on this play also – now on pace for 68 points over an 82 game season.

10. A terrible call on Clarkson for goaltender interference sends the Canes back to the powerplay, but the Leafs are looking a lot more confident in this regard now. D’Amigo and Kulemin do a nice job with clearing attempts, and Bozak’s return is surely helping. This effort really gives the impression that perhaps things can get back on track here a little bit.

The game ends with the Leafs just hanging back and trying to defend the lead. There are a couple dangerous shifts, but for the most part they hold back the Canes from gaining any serious momentum. The Clarkson line does a good job getting some offensive zone time shifts, too. Finally, Phaneuf seals the deal with a long rolling shot that ends up in the back of an empty net.

It’s hard not to recognize the impact that Bozak made in this game. Hopefully this will be the start of an upward swing for the Leafs. Onward to the 2014 Winter Classic!

Shot Location Data by Period

Leafs-Canes-1st-Period Leafs-Canes-2nd-Period Leafs-Canes-3rd-Period


3D. PhaneufD1013231111-3:40:001:10:0022:55:00
4C. FransonD0001015330-4:00:001:11:0023:22:00
11J. McClementC000200120063%0:00:001:20:0017:00:00
12M. RaymondL0000010000-0:00:000:00:0012:47:00
15P. RangerD1011223220-0:00:000:59:0018:30:00
19J. LupulL000003200167%4:00:000:00:0018:30:00
21J. van RiemsdykL0112022001-4:00:001:01:0021:42:00
24P. HollandC000000000071%0:00:000:00:008:39:00
28C. OrrR0000002110-0:00:000:00:005:35:00
29J. D'AmigoR0001002010100%0:00:001:01:008:04:00
36C. GunnarssonD0002002121-0:00:001:32:0018:22:00
41N. KuleminL1012032101-0:00:000:43:0015:53:00
42T. BozakC033200200456%0:00:000:16:0017:14:00
43N. KadriC000004311060%0:00:000:00:0012:16:00
44M. RiellyD0001003100-0:00:000:10:0017:38:00
51J. GardinerD0000033020-0:20:000:00:0019:32:00
71D. ClarksonR00022020100%0:00:000:00:0013:47:00
81P. KesselC2021050102-4:00:000:10:0023:43:00
45J. Bernier41 - 430.953060:00:00


Better than one point or zero, but all we can do is exhale and move on after this one. This was way too much of an adventure for a must win game against Buffalo. Still with just 1 regulation win in the last 19, this was the fourth straight Leafs game decided in a shootout. The Leafs led in the third period in three of them.


The Leafs are doing their best Mighty Ducks impersonation for the HBO cameras, taking three straight games to shootout. Except these shootouts don’t have Goldberg, knucklepucks, Gunnar Stahl, triple dekes, and shouldn’t decide NHL games.


The Leafs dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings tonight in Toronto. I missed a portion of the game due to various Christmas functions I was attending but a few things stood out from what I saw:

  • Reimer got pulled after a period and 3 goals against…again. Seems a touch unfair seeing as Bernier has yet to be pulled from any of his starts this season.
  • Carlyle’s insistence on using Raymond in the shootout over other options is becoming a point of frustration. Without the spin-o-rama in his arsenal I don’t know that he’s a good option in lieu of some other players on the bench.
  • 24/7 will have a good time breaking this game down, with multiple lead changes, overtime and a shootout decision.
  • Rielly just missed a game-winner in overtime, would have been an incredible accomplishment on home ice.
  • If the roads where I live are any indication, ice quality should be good for an outdoor game.

Hopefully everyone is staying safe in southern Ontario where the roads are closer to a rink than pavement. Merry Christmas Leafs fans!


Despite losses in two of three, the Leafs looked to be fighting their way out of a slump with some good efforts against some good competition in San Jose, Los Angeles and Chicago. A 50/50 game to the Pittsburgh Penguins was kind of a writeoff defeat. A loss as sloppy as this one to the Florida Panthers, though, suggests the tailspin is still very much in progress.


After the first period, this was a 50/50 game that the Leafs didn’t end up on the right end of. Toronto will be ruing some missed scoring chances and blown powerplay opportunities on the plane ride home.


That the Leafs’ offensive outbreak and first regulation win since November 19 (12 games) came against the League’s top team could be pivotal in restoring some confidence in the Leafs’ game. This was a great win, keyed by better lineup decisions by Randy Carlyle, secondary offensive contributions, and some rookie scoring. Two goals for Peter Holland, two for Joffrey Lupul, a goal and assist for Jerry D’Amigo and Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel’s 17th of the season, four assists for Mason Raymond… The Leafs’ first win over Chicago since 2003 was an emphatic one.

They outshot them, too.


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Randy Carlyle

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Phil Kessel vs LA Kings

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.

1st period

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.

2nd period

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.

3rd period

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 wont 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.


Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.54.10 PM

Shortly thereafter, Kadri got cross checked and absolutely filled in from behind by Voynov without the puck.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.54.51 PM

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 10.54.52 PM

Alas, Kyle Clifford came back the other way and scored. Insert dagger here. Game over.


Leafs/Kings Shot Location Data

Leafs/Kings Shot Location Data


The opposite of the typical Leaf game from earlier in the season. A decent even-strength performance by the Leafs, but the game was lost on special teams and an uncharacteristic bad goal on the Leaf netminder. The Leafs again played the Bruins pretty even, but can’t find a way to beat this team.


A game in Ottawa on a Saturday night. It brought the goals, the chippy-ness, the sloppiness, and the Leaf win we were all expecting. Bizarre stat – this was James Reimer’s third 49+-shot win over the Senators in his career.


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.


Two vastly different Maple Leaf teams showed up, but neither were enough to muster W, as the Leafs fell to the San Jose Sharks 4 – 2 Tuesday night.  Ex-Leaf Mike Brown, Joe Thornton, Brad Stuart and Logan Couture tallied for the Sharks, who won their 19th of the season and sixth straight.  Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel replied with power play goals for the Leafs, who dropped their fourth straight.  James Reimer made 37 saves in defeat, while Antti Niemi stopped 28 in his 24th start of the season.


Murphy’s Law is gripping this Leafs team at the moment. The performance wasn’t terrible in this one; it wasn’t exactly great, but there is a confluence of bad things happening to this team at the moment, some in their control and some not. The most disconcerting part about the conclusion to this month, as the Leafs enter a brutally tough December – 2 regulation wins in 13 November games.


Splitting the points with the Sabres over three games is far from a sign of promise headed into a tough December. Two of the Sabres’ 6 wins in 27 games have come against the Leafs. Thanks to Cameron for tonight’s Game in 10.

1 – The Leafs came out looking much better to start the game in Buffalo tonight. Granted, the bar wasn’t set high after their collapse in Pittsburgh, but they kept the Sabres off the shot clock for 11 minutes to open the game. However, even during this stretch, there were head scratching moments in the defensive zone. Decision making is really poor right now.

2 – Kessel put the Leafs on the board early. Gardiner made a nice chip up the boards and Bozak handed it off to Phil, who did what he does best, and sniped on Miller. Kessel showed some excellent patience moving in for the shot, waiting for Miller to drop and for something to open up.

3 – The Sabres picked up steam as the first period moved along. It’s becoming increasingly clear that very few of the Leafs defenders are capable of breaking out of the zone with any confidence. Fraser and Franson are looking shaky making reverse passes, and turning routine exits into heart-stopping moments. Gardiner is all over the ice and looking lost on numerous occasions. Ranger is handling the puck like it’s a grenade. It’s not pretty.

4 – The Leafs forwards were actually playing decently, though. Normally I like to point out the enormous gaps they create on the back-check, and their unwillingness to support the defenders down low in their own zone. Tonight they were making a better effort to get there. Everyone on the top line has a moment at some point in the game where they came all the way back and broke up a scoring play. The Kadri line did a good job cycling and getting some zone time.

5 – The second period saw a pretty big drop off in play. Reimer looked a bit rattled, and the defensive troubles started to intensify. It wasn’t helped by two Buffalo powerplays that both looked pretty good. Matt Moulson tallied for the Sabres at the tail end of the first effort after Smithson failed to clear the zone. The puck found its way to the crease and Reimer was down to make the save. As Fraser moved across the blue paint, his foot clipped Reimer, and pushed him right out of the net.

6 – A hard working shift from the Kulemin line put the Leafs back on top, but it didn’t do much to shift momentum. Within a few shifts the Sabres are back in the Leafs’ zone, exposing the defenders and making life difficult for Reimer. Eventually, Franson takes a boarding penalty (worth noting that the referees were not going to call this one, until Stafford sold it heavily, and they changed their minds). The Leafs killed it, but the momentum stayed with Buffalo.

7 – Luke Adam was left all alone in front of the Leafs net and the puck bounced to his stick for him to pot an easy goal. We roll into the third period evened up at two…
The Kessel line got things rolling with a good shift that ended with Bozak whiffing on an opportunity, but drawing an icing call. On the next shift, the Kadri line drew a penalty when Nazem took a high stick to the face in the corner. The Leafs got their first powerplay opportunity of the game. Not a lot of pressure generated, but they do manage an in-tight scoring chance with Kadri hitting the post. The pressure was actually better after the man advantage concluded and the Kulemin line started buzzing.

8 – The next ten minute segment of the third period was pretty even – a back and forth affair with maybe a slight edge to the Leafs. There weren’t really any outstanding chances for either side. Reimer continued to look uncomfortable and made some strange decisions, but ultimately those didn’t result in goals, or even chances. Kulemin seemed to be able to make something happen on every shift.

Also, credit where credit is due, the defense generally looked a lot more confident and less shaky in the third. The decisions were being made much quicker, and Ranger in particular broke up a couple plays quite adeptly.

9 – Despite all the criticism of Reimer, he had to make an amazing save with around seven minutes left in the third to prevent a regulation loss.

10 – In the end, Reimer’s save may have earned the Leafs a point, but it can’t make up for a final burst of bad decision making, and a terrible non-call from the officials. With under two minutes left in regulation Ranger took a dumb penalty, slashing and holding his man as he circled behind the net. However, on the ensuing kill, van Riemsdyk was hauled down on a breakaway with no call, and no penalty shot. Even Carlyle was livid.

The Sabres scored 35 seconds into overtime. Ehrhoff with a blast from the point. Game over. The Leafs fall to 6th in the Conference, and are tied with tomorrow night’s opponent in the Montreal Canadiens with identical 14-9-3 records.

2:12:00TORPhil Kessel (14) Snap shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (5), Jake Gardiner (6)1 - 0 TOR
7:57:00BUF PPG - Matt Moulson (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Ville Leino (4), Tyler Myers (5)1 - 1 Tie
10:23:00TORNikolai Kulemin (2) Tip-in - ASST: Trevor Smith (4)2 - 1 TOR
18:50:00BUFLuke Adam (1) Slapshot - ASST: Zemgus Girgensons (6), Christian Ehrhoff (5)2 - 2 Tie
0:38:00BUFChristian Ehrhoff (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Tyler Myers (6), Ville Leino (5)3 - 2 BUF

2M. FraserD000-1003800-0:00:004:04:0020:36:00
3D. PhaneufD000-1022400-1:58:003:37:0023:17:00
4C. FransonD0000403001-1:24:001:51:0015:56:00
11J. McClementC000002111042%0:00:004:28:0017:20:00
12M. RaymondL0000051000-1:24:001:41:0017:51:00
15P. RangerD000-1402201-0:00:002:21:0020:47:00
21J. van RiemsdykL0001230100100%0:36:002:41:0020:34:00
22J. SmithsonC000-100110083%0:00:002:17:008:42:00
23T. SmithC01100030000%0:00:000:00:0013:10:00
28C. OrrR0000001000-0:00:000:00:006:06:00
36C. GunnarssonD0000010310-0:02:003:37:0019:27:00
37C. AshtonR0000002100-0:00:000:00:005:23:00
41N. KuleminL1010023101-0:00:002:44:0014:34:00
42T. BozakC011100120140%0:36:001:11:0020:44:00
43N. KadriC000001400075%1:24:000:00:0014:13:00
51J. GardinerD0112002200-0:36:000:08:0021:23:00
71D. ClarksonR0000010000-1:24:000:00:0014:35:00
81P. KesselC1011070001-0:36:000:08:0020:16:00
34J. Reimer (L)26 - 290.897060:27:00

Leafs / Sabres Shot Data

Leafs / Sabres Shot Data


1. Countless odd man opportunities against.
2. Dreadful defense.
3. Bad breakouts vs. the trap.
4. Turnovers at the blueline.
5. Soft on the puck.
6. Too fancy offensively. Trying to pass it in the net.
7. Barely shooting (18 shots while chasing the lead the whole game).
8. Lupul hurt.
9. Outworked by lowly ‘Lumbus for the 2nd time.
10. Poor Reimer.

No sense in picking out individuals from the pile. This was the Leafs’ first real “blowout” of the season. How will they respond?