IT’S OVER. The Maple Leafs are playoff bound after 9 years on the outside looking in as the clinch has been sealed with a 4-1 victory in Ottawa Saturday night. Enjoy this moment, Leafs fans.
1 – Pretty bad hockey from both teams in the first. For the Leafs, it was a story of repeated icings throughout the first due to continued struggles with the breakout. Failure to provide a good safe available outlet led to a number of dumped pucks for what must have been 5 or 6 icings in period 1.
2 – Frazer McLaren and Matt Kassian squared off early in period 1 in one of the sloppier bouts of the season, with both combatants looking exhausted and sluggish. There were some cries about a headbutt from McLaren, but it didn’t seem to be anything malicious to my eyes, McLaren just seemed off balance throughout.
3 – Do the refs ever have the courage to acknowledge force-ins on goaltender interference calls anymore? The Leafs were robbed on a call reversal in period 1. The initial contact Komarov made with Anderson becomes irrelevant to the goal; it wasn’t whistled down as a penalty. The contact in question was Komarov getting pushed into the post shortly thereafter, preventing Anderson from pushing into the shot on his near post. The refs were seemingly guilted into calling that one back and the Leafs, to their credit, shook it off really well.
4 – The O’Byrne-Liles pairing was trouble tonight, especially in the opening 20 when they were underwater for all of their first period shifts. At one point, Reimer bailed them out big time with two pad saves on a wide open Erik Condra. I’m not going to point fingers, but I don’t think this was Liles’ fault. The banged up Carl Gunnarsson meanwhile looked to be struggling with his mobility in a number of instances tonight. He still helped stabilize the top pairing, but it’s concerning nonetheless looking ahead to the playoffs.
5 – The Leafs were looking punchless for much of the first half of the game, but 9 minutes into the 2nd the Buds got a bounce off a Cody Franson point shot as the puck deflects through Anderson off of James van Riemsdyk’s leg. That seemed to inject some belief back into the group.
6- 5 minutes later, Colton Orr does something everyone can like by getting high sticked in the face to send the Leafs to the powerplay. Franson, Kessel and Phaneuf working the puck around up high, and Kessel pulling the trigger with JvR standing in front, proved to be the working recipe again as JvR potted his second dirty one of the night, his 18th of the season. 2-0 Leafs.
7 – Hard to describe what the hell was going on in the final minute of the 2nd period for the 2-1 goal. Phaneuf and Zibenajed were practicing slow motion wrestling take downs in the corner, Grabovski got leveled by a pinching Senator on the board but managed to get the puck to Lupul in the middle of the zone, Lupul inexplicably decided to do a pirouette pass attempt leading to a horrendous giveaway, and an innocent looking point shot beat an unscreened Reimer. Ugly.
8 – What’s that, you were wondering where Nazem Kadri (awesome play/pass off the boards by Kulemin leading to his goal, btw) and Joffrey Lupul went? A little help from Anderson and both made hay on Scotiabank ice for the second time this month to put this one in the books in the third period. Kadri is tied for the team lead with 18 goals after a bit of a quiet spell.
9 – The Leafs were handily outshot again, more than 2:1 (50-22), but obviously played more like the team that has succeeded in spite of the shot count disadvantage throughout the season. Shots were kept outside for the most part and Reimer benefited from good sightlines throughout. It’s a shame the Leafs can’t play the Sens in round one (4-1 on the season series).
10 – This was pretty much your textbook Randy Carlyle win. Outshot and not always convincing, but patient, tight-ish defensively and offensively opportunistic. Congratulations, fellow Leafs fans, we finally have the playoff team we deserve.