That the Leafs‘ offensive outbreak and first regulation win since November 19 (12 games) came against the League’s top team could be pivotal in restoring some confidence in the Leafs‘ game. This was a great win, keyed by better lineup decisions by Randy Carlyle, secondary offensive contributions, and some rookie scoring. Two goals for Peter Holland, two for Joffrey Lupul, a goal and assist for Jerry D’Amigo and Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel’s 17th of the season, four assists for Mason Raymond… The Leafs‘ first win over Chicago since 2003 was an emphatic one.

They outshot them, too.

Tonight’s lines:

JVR-Kadri-Kessel; Raymond-Holland-Lupul; D’Amigo-McClement-Kulemin; McLaren-Smith-Bodie
Gunnarsson-Phaneuf; Gardiner-Franson; Rielly-Liles

1 – The Leafs were skating well and looked up to the task to start the game. Shifty Mittens made a nice side step to draw an early PP, which thanks to failed zone entries led to only one shot.

A great shift by a line of D’Amigo, Kulemin and McClement, a theme throughout the night, got the ball rolling for the Leafs. With assistance from active pinching down the walls by Gardiner, this unit sustained a good cycle for over a minute. After the Hawks came back down the ice, Gardiner drew a penalty behind his own net.

2 – The second powerplay unit, which was great tonight, put the Leafs out to an early lead with well-orchestrated puck movement. Peter Holland gained the zone, dropped to Raymond, and Raymond sent the puck to the right point to Rielly. Rielly went D to D with Gardiner, who returned the puck to Raymond at the top of the zone; Lupul opened to the side of the net, Raymond sent it down low, and Lupul found Holland across the crease for the finish. Textbook. Rielly and Gardiner looked infinitely better on the PP than Phaneuf and Franson throughout the night.

3 – After a slashing penalty on Holland, a good kill was underway before a mindless penalty behind the net by Raymond while shorthanded. That 200-footer is the stupidest penalty the Leafs have taken this season, which is saying something. That’s the type of greedy penalty coaches absolutely despise. Raymond, to his credit, would make up for this and then some in the next period.

Patrick Kane got a deflection off of Phaneuf’s stick on the 5 on 3 to make it 1-1; nothing gained after a good first period. Shots were 11-11 after 1.

4 – The Leafs came out looking better prepared for the start of the period than the Hawks. Nik Kulemin put the puck on net with his nice release, generating a rebound for D’Amigo, who got in behind the Hawks D and one armed the rebound into the empty net. First NHL goal and point for Jerry D, who showed good speed and endeavour throughout this game.

The Blackawks ramped it up once down 2-1, with a scary five-six minutes from the Leaf perspective as the likes of Keith, Kane, Hossa were making some power moves.

5 – The Leafs opened some breathing room with eight minutes to go in the second. A great outlet pass by Gardienr got it started. Lupul, Raymond and Holland combined on a beautiful passing play for the second time to put the Leafs ahead 3-1. The Hawks were having trouble dealing with the waves of Leaf speed that were coming their way from lines 1-3.

That was the second or third time a pass to the winger on the sideboards, followed by a lateral pass near the blueline to a second forward speeding through the middle of the neutral zone, worked wonders for the Leafs. Nazem Kadri hit a cross bar on a similar play near the end of the period.

6 – A minute and a half later Morgan Rielly got caught for the 3-2 goal by the Blackhawks. He jumped on a loose puck and began wheeling it up ice, but didn’t identify that Hjalmarsson had pinched on the pass option to JvR and gave the puck away. Rielly either needed to gain the red line and dump it in or hold onto the puck and go himself. Young mistake. We saw Dave Farrish go and immediately correct it, and Rielly is a smart enough player to know for next time.

Patrick Kane beat Bernier between the legs coming back the other way to make it 3-2.

7 – Just a minute later came a response from the Leafs of paramount importance. Kulemin, McClement and D’Amigo put together another great cycle shift, eventually leading to Kulemin finding space in the slot and ripping another great release past Antti Raanta. Maybe one positive from the St. Louis game is Kulemin scoring; he appears to be heating up. That was a key pushback shift from this line.

A minute later, Andrew Shaw took a tripping penalty in front of the Leaf net. After more struggles by powerplay one, powerplay unit two again came to the rescue. Jake Gardiner smartly placed a shot into a tip-able spot for Lupul to direct home in front. Wow. The Leafs put five past the league’s premier team by the end of 40.

8 – Joffrey Lupul ensured this game wasn’t going to come into question with an early third period goal that beat replacement goalie Kent Simpson on his first shot against of the night. Less than stellar goaltending from a couple of young goalies helped the Leaf cause, but make no mistake, the Leafs were the better team for the vast majority of the night. Note that Antti Raanta entered the game 5-0-1 with a 2.12 and a .926 save percentage, if anyone tries to tell you the Leafs were simply the beneficiaries of rookie netminding.

9 – Sticking to the pattern of the night, the Leafs reacted to a goal against in the third (deflection in front by Brandon Saad) with a quick response the next shift; this time Nazem Kadri found Phil Kessel in the slot, who snapped it home for his 17th of the season. That’s a 7-spot on the Cup champs.

10 – It seems enough losing and a fear of the best team in the League coming into the building knocked some sense into the lineup decisions. Carlyle opted to counter a great, up-tempo skating team with a defence of his own that is fully loaded with puck moving ability and mobility. Quick ups by the D helped the Leafs stay out of their zone. Active pinching, with the mobility to pull it off, helped sustain a cycle and generate more offensive opportunity from five-man attacking units. This is a lineup that plays to the Leafs’ strengths, which is their speed game; the Leafs moved the puck better out of their own zone, and used their pace to pressure the puck all over the ice.

It was more like the game vs. Los Angeles as opposed to the game vs. St. Louis, only this time the Leafs got the result they deserved. A win to build off of? We’ll find out Monday versus Pittsburgh.

Enjoy HBO 24/7 Episode 1, for those who can find a stream. Should be more enjoyable after this win.

7:14:00TOR PPG - Peter Holland (4) Snap shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (8), Mason Raymond (11)1 - 0 TOR
16:14:00CHI PPG - Patrick Kane (18) Wrist shot - ASST: Marian Hossa (15), Duncan Keith (27)1 - 1 Tie
0:42:00TORJerry D'Amigo (1) Backhand shot - ASST: Nikolai Kulemin (5), Carl Gunnarsson (3)2 - 1 TOR
12:09:00TORPeter Holland (5) Snap shot - ASST: Mason Raymond (12), Joffrey Lupul (9)3 - 1 TOR
13:30:00CHIPatrick Kane (19) Wrist shot - ASST: Niklas Hjalmarsson (11)3 - 2 TOR
14:36:00TORNikolai Kulemin (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Jay McClement (3), Jerry D'Amigo (1)4 - 2 TOR
17:08:00TOR PPG - Joffrey Lupul (9) Tip-in - ASST: Jake Gardiner (10), Mason Raymond (13)5 - 2 TOR
0:28:00TORJoffrey Lupul (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Peter Holland (2), Mason Raymond (14)6 - 2 TOR
7:38:00CHIBrandon Saad (12) Tip-in - ASST: Nick Leddy (12), Jonathan Toews (17)6 - 3 TOR
8:35:00TORPhil Kessel (17) Wrist shot - ASST: Nazem Kadri (12), Carl Gunnarsson (4)7 - 3 TOR
3D. PhaneufD0002003000-4:00:002:03:0019:12:00
4C. FransonD0000016221-4:03:000:55:0024:56:00
11J. McClementC011201410350%0:00:002:16:0016:55:00
12M. RaymondL0441220000-2:42:000:26:0018:07:00
19J. LupulL2241032000-2:42:000:00:0017:24:00
21J. van RiemsdykL0000002100-4:03:000:40:0021:17:00
23T. SmithC000000100071%0:00:000:00:004:35:00
24P. HollandC213125320233%2:42:000:00:0018:40:00
26J. LilesD0000015100-0:00:000:04:0016:38:00
29J. D'AmigoR1122011100-0:00:000:29:0013:48:00
36C. GunnarssonD0223002210-0:12:002:06:0015:16:00
38F. McLarenL0000002000-0:00:000:00:004:39:00
40T. BodieR0000011100-0:00:000:00:004:32:00
41N. KuleminL1122044200-0:00:001:42:0016:00:00
43N. KadriC011003101047%4:03:000:01:0018:28:00
44M. RiellyD0000006610-2:33:000:01:0016:32:00
51J. GardinerD0111042411-2:42:000:55:0026:02:00
81P. KesselC1010060012-4:03:000:01:0020:03:00
45J. Bernier25 - 280.893059:13:00
95 %
90 %
80 %
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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at