Big sigh of relief as the Leafs pull one out in the shootout to stave off .500 and move to 18-16-3. Another one-goal effort here, but the Leafs generated enough chances for a regulation win if the top line could’ve buried.
Let’s switch up the format to keep things fresh.
Reasonably happy with the energy level to start. Jerry D’Amigo set up the best opportunity for either team in the first 5 minutes.
Noticing zone time is less of a problem lately, with less of those extended spells in their own end thanks to better exits. Rielly and Liles were excellent in the first in this respect, and are looking like a good fit beside one another. Randy: Thou shall not tinker with this defence group.
The Leafs still haven’t been winning, but the shot counts have been closer as a result. I’m not liking the lack of finished plays; opponents are getting a free pass too often with not enough bumps and rub outs. The only three showing some physicality outside of Dion were Bodie, Kulemin and D’Amigo.
Speaking of which, a good battle down low by D’Amigo got the Leafs going in the build up to the opening tally. Carlyle rotated Holland onto the line with D’Amigo and Bodie rather than playing Smithson, which was a good choice. After D’Amigo scrummed the puck, Holland retrieved, drew some coverage, and feathered a saucer pass to Franson on the point. Bodie went to the front of the net, as he should, and picked up the garbage for his first as a Leaf. Chalk up another point for Holland, who is becoming a revelation. Thumbs up to depth scoring.
Generally a good enough first period.
An early Leaf powerplay opportunity was snuffed out by a hilariously bad call. Franson lifted Halpern’s stick and Halpern either fell over or dove. The ref who made the call had a poor view from the far corner and likely made an assumption after Franson reached in with the stick and Halpern went down.
After the 4 on 4 and brief Coyotes powerplay ended, Rielly caught Boekker, who is fast, on a potential breakaway/2 on 1 situation after Gardiner overskated the puck at the offensive blueline. Couldn’t have done that from Sweden.
Clarkson mustered his first positive contribution in some time, coming out from behind the net with a down-low power forward move we hoped to see more of out of #71.
Reimer was on his game in this second period; his first good save was a strong positional stop and a part- lucky one on a dangerous redirect right in front.
The first real Leafy spell of sustained own zone time in this game came 12 minutes into the 2nd against Hanzal, Vrbata and co. The Coyotes managed to bring some fresh legs into their cycle against tired legs of Clarkson, McClement, Kulemin, Phaneuf and Gunnarsson. The Leafs survived.
The next shift, Lupul drew a hooking call on a good chance in the slot. A second powerplay was negated by a Leaf penalty after Morgan Rielly got beat wide and hooked Antoine Vermette. That’s the right situation to take penalties in, if there is one.
There was a good chance on the 4 on 4 for Peter Holland to add to his account as Lupul, Franson and Holland went in on a 3 on 2. Mike Smith was up to the task.
The Leafs sagged and stopped moving their legs as the second period wound down, with the Coyotes coming on strong. Some big saves were needed from James Reimer after some late pressure by the Coyotes in this period. Reimer needed to be sharp and close the five hole on a dangerous one timer from Mark Stone on a pass out from behind the net, in particular. That’s a tough play to track and a big save to make.
A good backcheck by Clarkson may have saved a goal six minutes into the period after Vrbata got through the Leaf D coming across the net.
The airmail to Kessel was a play the Leafs attempted regularly in this game; JvR tried it three times and Rielly once, where Kesel flew the zone as soon as the Leafs gained possession. On the last attempt in the third, Kessel fell with a breakaway waiting for him, but a scramble in front eventually ensued as Kessel, JvR and Rielly all had cracks at the net with Smith down and out.
Phoenix’s dangerous offensive defencemen were activating throughout the period, pressing to even it up and giving the Leafs fits. The Leafs were hanging on and playing with fire.
Sure enough, clinging to a one-goal lead is rarely a good idea. Gunnarsson got himself in trouble and Phaneuf laid off instead of stepping up on a 50/50 puck to initiate the sequence, but ultimately it was a wrap around along the ice that should’ve been stopped. In Reimer’s defence, that is a tough one to read. Hanzal had his back to the goal, and it’s pretty tough to hit the far side of the net from there; Hanzal’s 6’6 wingspan threw a curveball, I think.
The response at 1-1 was better from the Leafs. Phil Kessel had a great chance to win this game with three and a half minutes left after an amazing backhand feed from Kadri. Kessel’s not bearing down right now. Could’ve been 4-1 off his stick alone.
A long stretch pass was again available for Kessel in the OT but he couldn’t get on the end of it.
Holland lost the puck at the offensive blueline for a breakaway opportunity for Ribeiro; Ribeiro at the end of his shift + Liles’ wheels and determination prevented the slick dangler from going in on Reimer alone with the game on his stick.
Ekman-Larsson was imposing his will on the Leafs as he did in the third. Impressive player.
Eff the shootout I love the shootout, we won! Right on, Lupul.
- Drop the overtime shots from Phoenix and the Leafs are averaging 27.8 shots against over the last 4 games. That’s an average of 8 less shots against per game than they were averaging before. I call this the less-Mark Fraser-and-Paul Ranger effect. The Leafs are playing with better odds lately if they can get back to their opportunistic ways offensively.
- Phaneuf was back to form after an off game or two since the suspension; back to winning battle after battle and flushing pucks out with strong pokechecks.
- That’s 7 points in the last 7 games for Holland. Sounds strange to say, but the Leafs would be pretty screwed right now without this acquisition.
- Smithson played 3:27 in his return. Holland played in his place on the 4th line shift for the opening goal.
- Bodie played just 2:28 despite the goal.
- Kessel has 1 goal in his last 7, not for a lack of opportunity tonight. JvR has one point in his last 7.
- Kadri played a good game, skating with purpose, despite his absence on the scoresheet. Surely this top line gets back in action soon.
- I’ll repeat, Randy: Leave these defence pairings in tact and roll with them.
- PK has been less of a problem lately because it’s been put to work much less.
- Love that Reimer started after being let down by his team twice in a row and showing some passion and accountability after the Florida loss.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||0||0||5||2||0||0||0||33%||1:51:00||0:33:00||22:41:00|
|34||J. Reimer (W)||34 - 35||0.971||0||65:00:00|