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.
1 – 58 seconds into the game, Kadri did what he does better than anyone in the league, earning a powerplay for his team. After the Leafs got set up with the trademark drop pass to Kessel for the zone entry, Phaneuf backed up across the line to the middle of the ice, threw the puck on net, Kadri jammed at the rebound, and JvR finished the play off. I was told Phaneuf can’t quarterback a powerplay and always misses the net by taking dumb slapshots. Very confusing.
2 – After a bounce got past Cody Franson at the blueline, the ensuing scramble after Mika Zibanejad missed on the breakaway led to a tripping penalty. Jay McClement in the box meant bad news for the PK units already missing Bozak and Bolland. A roaming Clarke MacArthur found some space in the slot, Trevor Smith was late picking him up, and a one timer beat Reimer through the legs. 1-1 half way through the first.
3 – The Leafs gave up 19 shots in the first but took 12 of their own, as both of these teams have a habit of giving up a ton of shots and taking a lot of penalties due to extended periods spent puck chasing. Three minors by each team, naturally, boosted the shot count. By the end of the game, 12 minors were assessed split 8-4 for the Senators.
4 – Even despite all the refereeing involvement, I thought this was a well officiated game. Almost every penalty was deserved, and a good non call was key in the build up to the Leafs’ goal early in the 2nd period. Zack Smith hit the ice as Kadri removed his stick from between his legs with no contact, and the refs were right to let it go. The giveaway by Smith sent JvR in on a 2 on 1. Watch this play and marvel:
JvR planted a saucer right on Kessel’s stick, who had the hand-eye dexterity to direct it home before it even hit the ice. Watching these two work their magic on 2 on 1s is a true pleasure.
5 – Another good non-call led to a Leaf goal 12 minutes into the second period. With the top line out pinning the Senators in, as they did an effective job of for much of the night, Gardiner skated the puck from left to right, identified that Marc Methot had tossed JvR into the net opening up the short side, and buried his first of the season. That’s just the fourth goal from a Leafs defenceman this season. Overdue from Gardiner, who has too much talent to have as few points as he does.
6 – Can you ask much more out of one winger than what JvR is giving the Leafs? He has breakway speed off the rush, he does all the dirty work a coach can ask for in front, he has delicate hands, he can take a shift killing penalties if asked, he outmuscles defenders down low .. all in a 6’3, 200+ pound frame. This guy is some kind of athlete.
Your nightly reminder – He’s signed until 2018 at $4.25 million, and Brian Burke acquired him in a straight-up exchange for Luke Schenn.
7 – The Leafs scored 2 goals on 7 shots in the second second, and in general played a much better period. Would they be able to close?
8 – Nope. The Leafs were out shot 9-1 to start 3rd, and took two penalties in the first 10 minutes of the period. A team that isn’t executing a consistent forecheck and cycle game is not going to be able to kill out games – that’s the nature of it. Blame coaching/systems or the personnel as you may, but it’s no wonder this team hasn’t won a game in regulation in two and a half weeks.
9 – Either a miscommunication with Reimer or Gardiner just didn’t know he had a forecheck on his back, but two minutes into the 3rd Gardiner got beat to the puck after Franson played it into his own corner from the blueline. No real excuse for Erik Condra not to be picked up in the slot, either. 3-2 Leafs, this one was officially going to be uncomfortable.
A too many men penalty eight minutes later put the Leafs on the penalty kill, and Erik Karlsson finished wide open on the backdoor to tie this game up. This penalty is showing as a Phil Kessel spearing penalty in the NHL.com boxscore, for some reason. Much like Thursday’s game against Dallas, a penalty kill with Mark Fraser featuring prominently for all the wrong reasons led to the tying goal in the third period.
10 – Heart racing, end to end stuff in overtime. Among the countless opportunities, the Senators had a 3 on 1, while Kadri floated a genius pass for Gunnarsson for a breakaway that Gunnar lost the handle on. The shootout saw JvR continue being awesome, James Reimer flash the glove hand we have been told actually sucks, and Mason Raymond clinch the win in the second round. The Leafs are 4-2 in the shootout. That’s right, THE LEAFS.
There were two new guys worth complimenting tonight for their efforts:
- Jerry D’Amigo put in a good 8:13 of work, and earned two penalties by keeping his legs moving. Jerry D made a couple of good plays on the penalty kill, as well, where he played 2:19 on the night.
- He seems to have already earned more trust from Carlyle than Carter Ashton. Ashton played a minute and a half tonight. Holland played only 3 and change. Was Smith deserving of 21 minutes after taking a couple of dumb penalties? I’m not so sure. Carlyle rode the top three lines hard, which could hurt the team’s energy level tomorrow night against Boston.
- What’s the difference between JM Liles and Tim Connolly? Both given bad contracts by Burke maybe (Conolly’s a considerably shorter term without much risk), but consider the way the two dealt with their respective demotions to the Marlies. Burke believed enough in Liles’ character to give him a long term deal. Call it a bad contract, but Liles is a true pro who is getting a raw deal and taking it in stride. He could easily play regularly in the NHL. For as long as Bozak is on the LTIR, he should be kept around if possible. That’s the type of guy I want Morgan Rielly learning from.
- Liles broke up some plays and got the Leafs out of trouble a couple of times with a good first pass. Good first game in the NHL for him this season. Deserves to be in the lineup. Fraser doesn’t.
This game was a track meet, and it went 65 minutes plus shootout with a late 10:30 finish. Carlyle played Holland, Ashton or McLaren barely at all; Phaneuf played 28 minutes and the top line was in the 24 minute range. It’s going to be a tough task against Boston tomorrow, although the Bruins are also in a back to back scenario.
The Leafs needed extra time in both, but picked up four out of four points against two non-playoff opponents in Dallas and Ottawa. That’s what they needed to do in the worst way, as the upcoming five games are going to be brutally tough. Hopefully this eases some of the pressure so the Leafs can try to go out and steal some points without feeling the tension of a slump.
For a team without Joffrey Lupul, and one that is lining up Smith, McClement and Holland at center behind Kadri, we have to take the points any way we can get them. Maybe we can’t expect “convincing.”
|1:37:00||TOR||PPG - James van Riemsdyk (13) Backhand shot - ASST: Nazem Kadri (11), Dion Phaneuf (10)||1 - 0 TOR|
|9:44:00||OTT||PPG - Clarke MacArthur (9) Slapshot - ASST: Mika Zibanejad (4), Jason Spezza (14)||1 - 1 Tie|
|3:05:00||TOR||Phil Kessel (16) Tip-in - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (11)||2 - 1 TOR|
|11:37:00||TOR||Jake Gardiner (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Phil Kessel (13), James van Riemsdyk (12)||3 - 1 TOR|
|2:23:00||OTT||Erik Condra (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Colin Greening (4)||3 - 2 TOR|
|10:30:00||OTT||PPG - Erik Karlsson (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Mika Zibanejad (5), Jason Spezza (15)|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||2||3||2||0||5||4||1||2||0||0%||6:46:00||0:31:00||24:06:00|
|34||J. Reimer (W)||47 - 50||0.94||0||65:00:00|
Carlyle Post Game: