Post game Stats: Kessel now has his 14th of the season and with a hot streak incoming, should be able to hit 30 goals with 8 games left on the schedule. The Leafs’ penalty kill continues its excellence with a man down as they killed off three of the Rangers’ 20th ranked power-plays. And what a game it was after a first period that put my ADHD afflicted dog to sleep.
1 – The Leafs are 22-13-5 and are now seven points clear of the Atlanta Thrashers of Winnipeg who sit in ninth place with an extra game played.
2 – It’s getting harder to justify Orr and McLaren’s presence in the line-up, especially on Grabovski’s wing… ON the fourth line. Sheesh. Orr’s first shift was an embarrassing 1:48 long and most of it in the Leafs end. When Gunnarsson tried to initiate the forward pass, Orr was already looking to hit someone instead of taking an opportunity to dump the puck in at the red-line. At some point, Carlyle is going to have to consider the playoff implications of having three lines instead of four. There’s little room for error in the playoffs and it’s time to start getting the team, including the press box players, prepared with eight games to play.
3 – The first period was a wash. The shots surprisingly favoured the Leafs at 11-8, but I counted two chances for the Leafs and one for the Rangers. However, it was a boring period of two teams testing the waters after the excitement of Monday night. However, the Leafs defense acquitted themselves well in this frame as they kept the shots to the outside.
4 – In the second minute of the second period, Phaneuf pulls in a couple of Rangers and gets the puck into the middle. Kessel picks off Callahan in the slot and scores, before anyone knew what happened. Kessel says, “I accidentally hit the net,” and it’s 1-0 Leafs!
5 – The Rangers seem to have gained control of the game in the second period with hard work, strong puck control, and good forechecking. While there are times I want to pull my hair out at the Leafs’ tendency to give up so many shots, it’s worthwhile to note how the defensive system works. When the puck is dumped into the Leafs’ end, one of the defenders covers the area around the net while one pressures the puck-carrier. The centre usually floats in and around the danger area while looking for an opportunity to force a bad pass or cover for a defenseman when he has to give up net (Note: Anthony touched on this very subject in Part One of his Notebook on Tuesday (link here). The wingers generally stay up high while acting as an outlet, to work the boards, or to provide point coverage. This system is, in part, made to help the slow defense cope with speedier forwards. It’s a classic example of a ‘bend but don’t break’ system that hides so many of the Leafs’ defensive issues that have plagued them in the past. Eventually, as Gardiner and Rielly develop, we should see shots start to drift downwards as more speed enters the blue line.
6 – In the 13th minute of the second period, the Rangers finally tied it up with some excellent pressure on the forecheck. On a second look, it appeared that Liles and Franson got caught standing around instead of watching for back pressure. Hagelin was taken to the ice, forgotten about, and got up in time to get the easy tap-in on the errant shot that went behind Reimer and bounced back to the other side of the net.
7 – The Rangers’ second goal was an unfortunate bounce on a John-Michael Liles’ clearing attempt off a linesman. The Rangers grabbed possession of the puck and with Ryan O’Byrne screening James Reimer, it’s 2-1 for the Rangers. On a third, fourth, and finally fifth look, I caught the linesman apologizing to the Leafs’ bench. So a bad bounce it is. Ryan McDonagh scored the goal for his fourth of the season. The second period tonight has not be a very good one for the Leafs. Lots of chasing the puck and standing around throughout the frame.
8 – The Rangers are 11-0 when leading after the second period and the Leafs’ big lines needed to get it going. But the Rangers’ defense did an excellent job of making the forecheck a very uncomfortable job for anyone who tries to generate chances off the cycle. Unfortunately, it appeared that after eight minutes into the third period, the zebras have decided to graze on the grass of whatever greenbacks Sather left lying around in the officials’ dressing room.
9 – And Kessel with another goal! On a 2-on-1, James van Reimsdyk was skating with a defenseman on his back and fired a puck over to a waiting Kessel. After several seconds of the hostile Rangers’ crowd cheering the save, Eugene Melnyk and his band of merry forensic scientists discovered that Kessel’s shot broke the speed of light and actually went into the net. It was a 2-2 game and the momentum was on the Leafs’ side.
10 – James. Fuckin’. Reimer.
11 – Dion. Fuckin’. Phaneuf.
12 – Phil. Fuckin’. Kessel. I love you Phil. Don’t ever leave. You too, James and Dion.
13 – And it’s off to over-time!
14 – I don’t even know what to feel any more. Can someone tell me why I love this damn team so goddamn much? Jesus. For all their defensive lapses and as much as Randy Carlyle tries to hide their defensive short-comings, this is a team that wants it. It’s amazing how many chances they generate with so little time spent in the opposition’s end.
15 – I think I’m three points past the game-in-ten. There’s so much to talk about and so little … goddamn, did I ever tell you how much I love James Reimer?
16 – The Leafs and Rangers were trading chances and the Leafs were all over the Rangers in OT, with straight chances from in close. Lundqvist was benefiting from a little puck luck. No such thing, says others. *glares directly at the Rangers’ second goal*
17 – The Rangers took it to the other end, some blueshirt was in front of the net with the puck, and Reimer out of ro– … KESSEL SAVED THE DAY! *throws this game in ten out of the window*
18 – My heart was racing with a minute left in OT. The Leafs had already grabbed an all-important extra point, but I. Want. More! The chances were flying as time wound down.
19 – With the Leafs all over the Rangers, Grabovski was back out after having an excellent third period. The Leafs’ trio of Liles, van Reimsdyk, and Grabovski put together an incredible passing sequence leading to another chance. Just incredible. Someone should .gif that.
20 – This game went to the shootout. One thing I like about Torts? He starts out his best players. No sense in hiding his best for later. Reimer with the first save on Rick “Toronto scares me almost as much as having to face Dion Phaneuf in the Playoffs” Nash.
21 – Bozak stopped by Lunqvist and Zucarrello zipped a shot through Reimer’s five-hole. At least we don’t have to worry about that in the playoffs.
22 – Unfortunately, the Leafs couldn’t close this one out. After a big stop by Reimer, Grabovski can’t grab the fancy super-skills NHL 08 thingy equalizer. But… the Leafs grab an all-important point on their way to gaining more point leverage against teams below them. On to Saturday where your Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto! Go Leafs Go!