The Leafs won’t take home the Corsi Cup again tonight, but they will return to Toronto a 4-1-0 team thanks to Jonathan Bernier’s first shutout as a Maple Leaf and a good final 30 minutes in Nashville.
1 – The Leafs played a decent road period in the first. Toronto didn’t generate much, but didn’t give up a whole lot in terms of scoring chances, either. The Leafs actually had some of the better looks, and were only outshot 8-6 despite a laughable 17-5 faceoff deficit.
2 – Whether we’ve been able to successfully quantify the importance of faceoff wins or not, they’re important, and the Leafs are seemingly getting worse on the dot this season. Bolland is the average to slightly below average guy we thought he was; Bozak, typically a strong suit of his, went 1 for 8 in the first; and it continues to be one of Kadri’s biggest weaknesses. Bozak and McClement finished up at 43% on the dot, while Bolland and Kadri were at 38 and 36 percent respectively.
3 – The first 10 minutes of the 2nd period was nothing short of painful. Continuing the theme from the Colorado game, the Leafs went huge spells without a shot, this time going eight minutes without a shot on goal to start the 2nd period (after an equally long spell in the 1st). Nothing was connecting for the Leafs’ passes, and there did not appear to be a whole lot of urgency or desperation to their game. For the majority of period, the penalty killing and Bernier is all the Leafs had going.
4 – Kadri was the spark that finally got the Leafs going later in second period. Kadri rushed the puck up ice and floated a beautiful area pass in front of the net for Lupul to skate onto. Lupul missed the empty net, but it was the beginning of a good final 7 or 8 minutes of the second period.
5 – Bozak lost the ensuing offensive zone faceoff so clean it actually benefited the Leafs. Legwand won it straight through his legs to where there was no Predator waiting. JvR made a quick read, was first to the puck to the right of the Nashville net, and found Kessel out front before the Predators could get themselves together defensively. Kessel notched his second of the season, and 6th point, off a great pass from JvR.
6 – The goal seemed to inject some more life in the Leafs’ legs, as they continued to pick it up toward the end of the 2nd. The Leaf top line struck for the second time in minutes (by top line I mean JvR and Kessel). A good hard play by Dion down low to toss a Predator off the puck got the Leafs out of trouble before Gunnarsson threw a great diagonal breakout pass to Kessel, who was taking off on a rush down the right board. Kessel hit the outside of the post, and as Rinne tried to collect the bounce off the end boards, JvR nipped in and took the puck for a wrap around the (now-shallower) net. There are few better than JvR at working the area in tight around the goal. 2-0 Leafs.
7 – Preserving the 2-0 lead, Bernier made a shockingly easy-looking save off a pass to a wide open Predator in the slot in the early third. Reading the pass out of the corner and aware of the incoming Predator, Bernier made a quick shift and dropped into the butterfly to swallow a chance from below the hashmarks. If he doesn’t make that save, which was far more difficult than he made it look, the Leafs are in a much different situation after conceding early in the third. Bernier made another save on Seth Jones a few minutes later, after Jones slipped into the slot unmarked. Bernier aggressively challenged Jones and gave him nothing to shoot at except the chest of the new coolest JB to come out of Canada (sorry, Jake Gardiner).
8 – Morgan Rielly had an amazing shift half way through the third period. Bozak curled up in the Nashville zone and fell over, giving the Predators an odd man chance the other way. Rielly was initially caught up ice by Bozak’s failure to get that puck deep, but he covered the ground to swoop in and break up a pass before turning and leading a rush the other way. The initial rush didn’t work out, but he made another fantastic read in the neutral zone to break up a play and send JvR and Kessel on their way on a 2 on 1. That should’ve produced JvR’s second of the night and a 3-0 Leaf lead, but Rinne made an amazing blocker save to keep it at 2-0.
9 – A scary moment for Cody Franson with 7 minutes to go in the game. Retrieving a puck near the Leaf bench, Mr. Underwood rammed Franson into the stanchion, splitting Franson open and sending him to the dressing room for stitches. Provided Franson’s OK, it worked out for the Leafs as the 5 minute hitting from behind penalty all but sealed the game. Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.
10 – Bozak, who had a pretty terrible game, put this one on ice on the major powerplay. Kessel found Bozak to the side of the net, and Bozak’s attempted pass back across to JvR took a deflection off a skate and beat Rinne. To Bozak’s credit, it was a good pass and the right play, and if it didn’t go in off the Predator’s skate JvR was going to have his second of the night anyway. A Joffrey Lupul tipped goal padded the stats further before Carlyle deferred to the 4th line for the remainder of the powerplay.
Overall, the Leafs survived the first 30 minutes of this game before stealing a lead which forced the boring-est team in the league to start opening things up. Once that happens, you’ve got to like the Leafs’ chances. Final shot count was 36-26 Nashville.
Jonathan Bernier appears to have only needed two minutes of bad play from Reimer to take this crease by storm, as he’s been nothing short of brilliant while setting a franchise record for consecutive starts with less than 3 goals allowed by a new Leaf goaltender. The Leafs’ best players on forward and defence, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, continued their early season brilliance as well. I was glad to see Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri reunited for the most part. David Broll and Josh Leivo acquitted themselves fairly well in their regular season debut. Paul Ranger played his best game of the young season.
Morgan Rielly, who recorded his first National Hockey League point on the Tyler Bozak goal (he made the nice zone entry on the late powerplay), may well have just sealed his status as an NHLer for the full 82 games this season. He put in 19 minutes of strong work on the road, where Carlyle couldn’t fully control his matchups. We all knew about his obvious talents, but the way he’s reading the game and how unafraid he is to get involved in the physical battles bode well for his chances of sticking.
We’ll await word on Cody Franson, who has seen a big climb in his TOI in the early season and clocked 19 minutes before leaving the game. Hopefully it is just a dozen stitches and not a concussion.
Onto the next one.
Game in 6 Minutes:
Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators Boxscore
|Pekka Rinne (1-3-0)||L||26||22||0.846||60:00:00|
|Jonathan Bernier (3-1-0)||W||36||36||1||60:00:00|
|James van Riemsdyk||1||1||21:36||2||5||2||0||0||1||1||0||0|