A good first period featuring first-ever NHL points for Stuart Percy and Brandon Kozun – on Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri goals, respectively – gave way to a disappointing 30 minutes of hockey as the Maple Leafs dropped their opening game of the 2014-15 season.
After Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban put the Habs in front 3-2, the two teams traded bad-bounce goals in the final two minutes of the game — both were passes from the sideboards that bounced in off defencemen in front — in a bizarre way to decide game one of the season.
A streak of four straight wins over the Canadiens in season openers comes to an end.
Some thoughts on game #1:
– The Leafs started this game brightly. Excuse Phaneuf’s blown pivot/hit on Max Pacioretty leading to the weak shortside goal on Bernier and the Leafs would’ve deserved a 2-0 lead, skating well throughout the first 20 and outshooting the Habs 11-6.
– It wasn’t surprising to see the Lupul-Kadri-Kozun line open the Leafs’ 2014-15 scoring account after the first period they had. They did fade as the game progressed, but they were a bright spot for the most part.
– The Maple Leafs top line was really frustrating tonight. They had their moments offensively, as they always do, but they were buried for much of the evening, finishing up at a combined -19 Corsi. Tyler Bozak looked to be lacking in game shape having missed most of preseason with injury; he was behind the pace for much of the game, going through the motions defensively, and yet he could’ve scored a hat trick if he bore down on his chances. Phil wasn’t really himself, firing just 1 shot in the first two periods. He also missed a chance to salvage a point with seconds remaining, failing to get the puck up on a point-blank chance in tight.
– Stuart Percy set up a goal and led the team in ice time (7:36) in his first ever period of NHL regular season action. Arguably the Leafs best defenceman, it’s really impressive how well moves the puck under pressure, how he sees the ice, and how he slows the game down in the right situations. Broke 20 minutes in his NHL regular season debut.
– It’s obvious there’s been a mandate for the D to step up and be more aggressive in the neutral zone and at their own blueline. Polak does this pretty well for the most part; he did get burned once, but recovered well enough to prevent a clean breakaway for Gallagher. If Polak doesn’t overextend himself, he’ll be a good bottom pair defenceman for this team. He’s so strong and ruthless in his 1-on-1 battles that it can kill a cycle at the point of contact.
– Dion Phaneuf had a game to forget and then some in 23 minutes of action, looking out of sorts defending on the leftside. His pivots were jagged and clumsy time and again, he was half at fault on goal #1, and he just looked really uncomfortable overall, finishing up as a 39% Corsi player for the night. Might be a reason he’s been on the right side for much of his career.
– David Clarkson didn’t really get anything accomplished, but it looks like he’s going to get a chance to play in a more suitable situation on that line with Santorelli and Komarov. Both of his linemates will take the play to the wall and cycle. Clarkson still killed some plays on his own, but he was more involved throughout. Baby steps. It’s maybe just a case of getting some confidence back now.
– Speaking of Santorelli, he was the Leafs’ best center tonight, tirelessly covering the ice throughout the game, but he needs to be better than 14% on the faceoff circle. For the team overall, 26/63 on the circle just isn’t going to cut it.
– JvR got blamed on the broadcast for the 3-2 Subban goal, but Jake Gardiner and Tyler Bozak need to win one of those puck battles versus Desharnais on the wall/in the corner.
Each of Leafs’ bottom three lines had their strong spells – The 2nd line had a good 1st, the 4th line of Holland, Frattin and Winnik came on in the third, and the third line was fairly good throughout. Surely Brandon Kozun and Stuart Percy won’t be the Leafs’ best players most nights, while Phaneuf, Bernier and the Leafs’ top line almost certainly won’t be that bad going forward. On to the next one.
Notes by Declan Kerin
- James van Riemsdyk – Had a rough night out. A number of bad defensive plays, including blown coverage on Subban’s goal. Was well marked all night and didn’t have time or space to make plays, but had a few chances in close.
- Tyler Bozak – Bad night on the dot (42%), was poor defensively, but nearly had a hat trick off some opportunistic play.
- Phil Kessel – Struggled and was covered well all night. Was a little soft on pucks and inconsistent defensively.
- Joffrey Lupul – Didn’t have a tonne of ice time, but that’s part and parcel with having a 4-line team. Was visibly furious with himself on a couple of occasions and was perhaps squeezing the stick a bit too much.
- Nazem Kadri – Some good shifts early on with Lupul and Kozun, but as the game wore on, Naz had a few poor shifts turning pucks over and losing board battles he should be winning. Should not have played 7 minutes less than Bozak.
- Brandon Kozun – Really good showing his first game. More of the same carried over from pre-season; first in on the forecheck, determined in his board battles and certainly set a tone for his line in terms of being hard on pucks and not giving up on plays easily. Great job on the Kadri goal.
- Daniel Winnik – Worked well as a sound north-south 4th liner. Made some curious decisions not driving the net with the puck on his stick, but can cycle and drive play north.
- Peter Holland – Didn’t look good to start the game, but got better as the game went on. Moved play in the right direction and is a nice upgrade over Orr/McClement/McLaren.
- Matt Frattin – Had a couple of good bursts, but is still fighting the puck. If Holland, Frattin and Winnik can get used to playing together, I think they can be a good 4th line.
- Leo Komarov – Leo had a good game and was his usual self: creating chaos, being 1st in on the forecheck, hitting with reckless abandon and was on the most effective line all night. Glad to have him back on the Leafs (can’t say that enough).
- Mike Santorelli – Was Toronto’s best center again tonight. Has a lot of detail to his game and is good at a number of things: sheilding the puck, keeping plays alive, keeping his feet moving, being determined on pucks and distributing the puck well. Was absolutely destroyed on the dot tonight with only 14%. He was over 50% last year, so that should come up.
- David Clarkson – Not a bad game for Clarkson. The Santorelli/Komarov combo is going to play game on the walls and at a slower pace for Clarkson, which is exactly what he needs to do to be successful. I’m sure he can’t wait to get the cage off.
- Dion Phaneuf – Dion really struggled tonight and looked bad from start to finish. The left side is a struggle for Dion, and we’ve groaned about the D pairings that have been trotted out to start the season. Dion back to the right, please.
- Stephane Robidas – Was out of sync with Dion, but is a bulldog on most plays and never gives up. Supplies flat, clean tape-to-tape passes for the forwards.
- Stu Percy – A case could be made for Percy being the best defenceman for the Leafs tonight. Was able to beat 2-man forechecks with ease and looked like a 10 year NHL vet, was unbelievably patient with the puck, had a couple of really nice clean zone entries, had some PP time, and set up a beautiful goal.
- Roman Polak – Played well and was a good partner for Percy. Made simple, safe plays, had 7 hits and pushed play in the right direction.
- Jake Gardiner – An eventful game for Gardiner. I don’t know that this is a good long term pairing with Rielly; I think that neither look as good on their off side. Looked weak in a few one-on-one battles, was guilty of some bad turnovers, and looked shaky on the PP.
- Morgan Rielly – ‘Give it to Rielly:’ He was great to start the game, but was overpowered in one-on-one matches and was chasing the play in his own zone a lot all night. Made a lot of great things happen offensively.
- Jonathan Bernier – Bernier wasn’t even ‘just OK’. He needs to play better and be sharper. The Canadiens got better goaltending tonight and it won them the game.
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||-2||0||3||2||50%||3:08||1:35||21:44|
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens Corsi
|#||Name||Position||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi|
|21||JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||L||19||26||-7||15||23||-8|