The Leafs are the first team in the East to hit the 10-win mark thanks to a 4-2 win in Calgary. It was far from pretty, but in second leg of a back to back on the road, these are two points the Leafs will happily pocket before hitting the road further West to Vancouver for what will be their stiffest test of the road trip. The Leafs will remain top of the East thanks to two shorthanded goals (JvR, Ranger), David Clarkson’s first point as a Leaf (on Raymond’s goal), and a powerplay (basically) goal from Joffrey Lupul.
1 – Greg Cronin spoke about the coaching staff’s confusion surrounding the Leafs’ poor first periods before the game. He didn’t think the Leafs played well despite holding lead after 20 minutes in Edmonton. Different Albertan rink, same result: The Leafs were up 2-0 after one and it wasn’t representative of the run of play.
Leafs were under siege at five on five for much of the first, but Kadri-Kessel-JvR did have a few good shifts. They weren’t on the ice for the goal ultimately, but drew the penalty that helped open the scoring for the Leafs. It wasn’t the prettiest breakout leading up to the powerplay, but it worked. Phaneuf played it into an empty corner as both teams changed; Kadri came back to retrieve in the corner and got some good fortune as his soft ring on the boards made it up to Kessel. If the D is in control of the puck, sometimes one of JvR or Kessel will go straight to the other team’s blueline for the stretch option. These gaps in the breakout can get the Leafs in trouble some times, but they do have their time and place. It led to a powerplay as JvR took a slash from Dennis Wideman.
Some patient movement by the second PP unit, with Raymond, Gardiner and Kadri playing catch, eventually led to a point shot from Gardiner that bounded out front. After a couple whacks at it, Lupul deposited his seventh of the season to make it 1-0. Ramo was just kind of chilling to the side of the net waiting to see what was going to happen. Not technically a powerplay goal as the two minutes had expired, but may as well have been.
2 – JvR’s growing role on the penalty kill (up to 2:35 per game) has the added benefit of adding a shorthanded goal threat to the Leafs’ stingy PK units. With seconds to go in the first, JvR and McClement worked their up the ice before JvR fired a shot from the left circle that somehow went through Kari Ramo. A really soft goal, but everything van Riemsdyk touches turns to gold lately. I also don’t know JvR had so much time and space to skate the puck up ice starting from his own zone on a Flames powerplay. Anyway, this man is an all-situations beast.
The Leafs were outshot 13-6 in the first period, and 8-1 to start the game. They were largely outplayed at 5 on 5, and yet their dominant special teams and goaltending edge had them in control after 20 minutes.
3 – The first eight minutes of the 2nd period was the Jonathan Bernier show. The Leaf slot was open season for the Flames, be it blown clearances, giveaways, not moving their feet, or bad reads getting the Leafs caught up ice. For several consecutive shifts, Bernier turned away shot after shot from good scoring positions. After seeing the performance out of Ramo at the other end, the Flames players must have been just shaking their heads in disbelief. The Leafs spent the first eight minutes of the period passively reacting to whatever the Flames were doing, but thankfully Bernier was awake – and not just awake, but mustering superhuman feats.
4 – What’s so essential about the night-in, night-out excellence of the Leaf goaltending is that it’s bailing the Leafs out of the ugly spells where they have basically nothing going for them – this stretch of play would have been crippling if the goalies switched nets.
5 – The Leafs got what was coming to them after the Leafs were fortunate that a dirty hit resulted in only a fight between Carter Ashton and Shane O’Brien and off setting minors. The Leafs lost a defensive zone draw, Kadri got beat, and Carl Gunnarsson left his man in front. That man was Matt Stajan himself, who made it 2-1 through 40.
6 – The Leafs were holding onto the puck a little better for a sequence in the early third, twice sending back passes to the defence to try to maintain some semblance of extended possession. They got the insurance marker they very much needed at the six minute mark of the period. David Clarkson cut out a play in the neutral zone, walked in, toe dragged and fired on Ramo before Raymond neatly tucked in the rebound. There was no great mystery as to how the Flames were to be beat tonight – it was through getting pucks to the net and waiting for Ramo to spit out rebounds and/or take himself horribly out of position.
7 – The sheer volume of shots paid off for Calgary with 5 minutes to go in the third. The Leafs were in good shape after Gunnarsson recovered the puck to the left of the net, only for him to either fall or – as it seemed to me – get tripped. The Flames’ Stajan was first to the loose puck, the Flames worked it D to D, and got a bounce off of David Jones’ leg to set up an uncomfortable final five minutes.
8 – After a second missed call on Ramo for a trip on Kessel in front of the net, the refs picked Clarkson’s boarding out of the pile and gave the Flames a late powerplay in a one-goal game. This could have made for a dicey ending, if not for the much-maligned Paul Ranger. In a play similar to when he outmuscled Ryan Getzlaf and Kessel scored on the resultant rush, Ranger leaned his weight on Hudler, forced a turnover high in the zone, and with Hudler water skiing behind him, scored on the empty net to seal the win.
9 – Morgan Rielly was really good tonight. Good reads and smart defensive plays for the most part. This kid is sharply wired in addition to being immensely skilled.
10 – One of the concerns about the way the Leafs win some times is the habits it could instill. The more the Leafs get away with their slow starts and long spells of uninspired play by scoring opportunistically and having amazing goaltending as an available resource to lean on, it has to creep into the team’s psyche.
It’s hard to criticize wins period, let alone wins in a back to back scenario on the road with about 20 hours rest in between. There were long periods were the Leafs simply weren’t moving their feet and leaning heavily on Bernier. That could easily be a product of tired legs. Goaltending and special teams were the story for the Leafs in this one; Ramo was awful and Bernier was brilliant, stopping 41 of 43; a number made all the more awe inspiring when you consider he was not spitting out many second opportunities. You take wins like this one any way you can get them.
The Leafs are 10-4-0, and somehow the shooting and save percentages continue to rise.
Maple Leafs vs. Flames Box Score - October 30, 2013Leafs 4 vs Flames 2.
|7:56 AM||TOR||Joffrey Lupul (7) Wrist shot - ASST: Jake Gardiner (3), Nazem Kadri (8)||1 - 0 TOR|
|7:56 PM||TOR||SHG - James van Riemsdyk (7) Snap shot - ASST: Jay McClement (1)||2 - 0 TOR|
|5:03 PM||CGY||Matt Stajan (1) Snap shot - ASST: Curtis Glencross (3), TJ Brodie (3)||2 - 1 TOR|
|5:59 AM||TOR||Mason Raymond (5) Backhand shot - ASST: David Clarkson (1)||3 - 1 TOR|
|2:39 PM||CGY||David Jones (3) Deflected shot - ASST: Kris Russell (5), Dennis Wideman (7)||3 - 2 TOR|
|6:38 PM||TOR||SHG - EN - Paul Ranger (1) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE||4 - 2 TOR|
Maple Leafs vs. Flames Game Sheet - October 30th, 2013Leafs 4 vs. Flames 2.
|James van Riemsdyk||1||0||23:33||1||4||0||0||1||1||0||0||2|
|Karri Ramo (2-3-1)||L||21||18||0.857||58:16:00|
|Jonathan Bernier (6-4-0)||W||43||41||0.953||60:00:00|