In the clash of the Corsi outlaws, it was the Maple Leafs on the right side of a 40-24 shot count and a 3-2 final scoreline.
A physical, high-paced affair with loads of offensive talent on display, this was the best (at least, most entertaining) game of the Leafs’ 2014-15 calendar so far.
The Maple Leafs took this game over from the second period onward, outshooting the Avalanche 31-12. As the game wore on, the Leafs managed to attack in waves with their speed and establish something resembling a consistent forecheck. Worth noting is that the Avalanche were a tired team playing the second leg of a back to back with travel in between.
Building on the improved systems play in the last game of the pre-season, the hope is that the Leafs can morph into a team capable of actually defending and coming out on the right end of close games. It’s far too early to make such declarations, but the neutral zone play was better tonight than at almost any point last season, the breakout looked a little more organized, and lines 2 and 3 seem to be winning the possession battle at even strength. We’ll stop there for now before we get too far ahead of ourselves.
It’s pretty rare that the Leafs demand less than 25 shots of work out of their goaltenders. It’s a challenge in and of itself for a goalie to stay sharp and provide timely stops while seeing just 12 shots over the final 40 minutes in a tight hockey game, but timely goaltending is exactly what Reimer has been providing through two starts. He’s allowed four goals over two games and none can be even partially pinned on #34. Reimer will get a well-earned chance to keep running with the net.
Just like that, the Maple Leafs are back to .500, with three reasonably well played games to their name outside of the Pittsburgh debacle.
- Roman Polak – Some key shot blocks on the penalty kill. Beat a few times playing a little too aggressive against players with far superior skillsets. Killed a few cycles with his bear strength on the walls.
- Joffrey Lupul – The Leafs’ best impact forward since game #1. He’s not just playing physical, but occasionally crushing players. Winning lion’s share of his battles, creating chances .. Lupul is a real presence out there right now. Have to love his flare for the big goals.
- Phil Kessel – This game was a good example of why you have to keep going back to the well with elite talents like Phil. Off for most of the game, turning pucks over like crazy – including one shift in the third where he blew three passes in a row – he broke open a breakaway late in the third before winning it on his own in OT. Kessel has not played even close to his best hockey and he’s got two goals and five points in four games.
- Brandon Kozun – Played a little more than Holland and Panik thanks to the occasional PK shift, and made his impact on the game despite 5:50 of ice by drawing a penalty; kept his feet moving and negated a late Avs PP, putting the Leafs on the man advantage for a minute-thirty.
- Nazem Kadri – Still the penalty drawing king (drew 2 tonight), and looking a little bit stronger on the puck when he needs to be this season. Quiet start production wise, but his line looks good and it’ll come. Good night on the faceoff circle, going 69%.
- David Clarkson – Starting to find a groove. Getting way more touches on the puck below the hashmarks, which is his bread and butter. He had one moment late in the second period where he sent it back to the point to no one rather than taking the opening and driving the net with the puck. He’s taking the right steps, though, and is finding his home next to Santorelli and Komarov. Slowly gaining confidence back.
- Cody Franson – It’s such a frustrating powerplay pair with Dion Phaneuf when the unit isn’t already set up in the offensive zone. The Leafs didn’t even generate a shot on a late third period powerplay with a chance to win the game; on that PP, both Franson and Phaneuf attempted to carry in and gain the zone, and the puck was quickly shot 150 feet down the ice thereafter.
7 shots on goal from Franson tonight, however. He didn’t see Duchene sneak into the slot on his 2-1 goal, but you also have to tip your cap to Duchene’s shot.
- Stuart Percy – What more can be said? Barely edged out for the icetime lead by Dion (23:34), including over 5 minutes on the powerplay. With Phaneuf in the box after roughing it up with Iginla in the 2nd period, he spent nearly the whole PP on the ice and looked like a veteran PPQB. Seems like he has 360 vision sometimes and is generally unaffected by pressure; quite the knack for sucking in forecheckers and releasing a hard pass on the tape to get his team moving up and out of the zone.
- Richard Panik – Finally had a shift in the third where he got a few touches and worked the cycle briefly. Not really getting the ice time required to show anything, but the combination with Holland and Kozun doesn’t appear to the the answer on line four.
- Peter Holland – Line four with Panik and Kozun was the catalyst for the first Avs goal, getting pinned in on their first real shift of the game. Will Randy mix in Frattin and/or Ashton and try to revive the fourth line, or continue to use it sparingly, or both? It’s something we’ll be monitoring.
- Stephane Robidas – Carlyle is trying to ease him back into game action, with around 13 minutes and change in ice the past few games, but if he was younger and didn’t have the benefit of doubt he would certainly have been stapled to the bench after a few terrible shifts in this game. He was really lucky to have not lost this game on his own; he was burned on the first shift for a breakaway, negating it with a hook, and turned a puck over directly onto Duchene’s stick late in the 2nd for another breakaway against. He missed half of last season and almost all of preseason, so the veteran deserves some time and patience.
- Leo Komarov – Fantastic game, again. Gives this team swagger. Threw some great hits, including one that was just the right amount of dirty on Jan Hejda, and created a number of chances with his endeavours. Should’ve had a goal to cap it off.
- Mike Santorelli – Him and Komarov are the team’s worker bees and have not wasted any time at all providing this lineup with a proper checking line. As Anthony pointed out this morning, when does Carlyle bump Santorelli’s icetime up above 11 minutes? Another good game – the third line was the first to wrestle momentum back after a poor start to this game by the Leafs.
- Daniel Winnik – Consistently effective through four games. Forced the turnover on the Lupul goal, and set him up nicely for another good look shortly thereafter. Knows his role on the line and brings a repeatable, honest effort night in, night out. Just one assist so far, but with a couple of third assists where he was instrumental on a scoring play without touching the puck.
- Dion Phaneuf – Best game so far this season. A physical presence throughout, he nearly put Jamie McGinn on the IR had McGinn not got his head up at the last second. Didn’t hesitate or back down from Iginla’s challenge to drop the gloves. Picked up another assist on the game winner.
- Tyler Bozak – His line will always be scary in both ends, but he made a nice read to support Franson’s pinch, intercept a pass, and hit JvR for the fast break 2-on-1 that led to the 1-0 goal. Bozak also grabbed an apple on Kessel’s OT winner, bringing him to 6 points in 4 games; Bozak’s currently the team scoring leader in both goals (3) and points (6).
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Colorado Avalanche Possession Stats
|All Situations||Even Strength|
|#||Name||Position||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For%||Zone Start%||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For%||Zone Start%|
|21||JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||L||26||16||10||62||64||14||16||-2||47||44|
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Colorado Avalanche Boxscore
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||BKS||GVA||TKA||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||0||1||0||0||5||1||0||0||1||-||5:33||0:50||19:30|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer (W)||22 - 24||0.917||2||60:18:00|
|45||J. Bernier||0 - 0||0||0||0:00|