Sometimes all it takes is the right bounce.
The Leafs were off to a drowsy start and fell behind 1-0 before the first line got a fortuitous bounce off the boards that fell perfectly to Kessel, who dropped to JvR for his 3rd of the season.
The Leafs would fall behind again after a series of penalties — two by Lupul, one costly after a bad bounce landed on the wrong stick for Tavares’ 2-1 goal — but it was quickly apparent that the first goal was a lift that went straight to the first line’s legs.
Toronto was also a little hard done by in the first; it wasn’t as though they played well, but the first goal was clearly offsides and the PP goal came off an objectively weak call.
The Leafs had a great 2nd period after, coinciding nicely with Halak having a howler of a period, and won the game in the second 20. Two vintage Kessel snipes off the rush bookended one each from Polak and Clarkson off the cycle, all blocker side on Halak, sending the Leafs back to the .500 mark with their third win of the season.
Score effects took over in the third, with the Isles outshooting the Leafs 17-5. If Bernier doesn’t come up with a handful of good saves in the third, including an incredible paddle-down save on Casey Cizikas, this game probably gets interesting in the third rather than playing out as a mere formality.
Indeed, two good games in a row from Bernier and the top line bursting back to life are the big stories tonight, with a nod to Clarkson scoring his second goal this season, a feat which took him 25 games to accomplish last year.
One of the big questions facing this team going forward, besides its perennially suspect defensive play, is if they can win enough games when the top line isn’t able to carry the water. The Leafs still haven’t won a game without a Kessel point and that’s something that’s obviously going to need to change.
The fortunate part about the three-goal advantage going into period three is that Randy Carlyle kept all of his key contributors at or below the 20 minute mark, which should help for tomorrow night’s second leg of the back to back in Ottawa. Looks like Carlyle got away with 11 forwards in a back to back situation, for now.
- James van Riemsdyk – The goal in the first went straight to his legs. Great airmail pass to Kessel for the backbreaking goal at the end of the 2nd. TSN never showed a replay, but he threw a dirty shot at Clutterbuck off a d-zone faceoff; Clutterbuck reaps what he sows and was asking for it all night, so it was good to see a response. Clutterbuck threw a knee at Lupul and nearly put him out of the lineup for a few months before refusing to fight Polak after, so you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Tyler Bozak – Good view of JvR and Kessel’s work from ice level.
- Phil Kessel – The snipes are old hat for Kessel, but it was nice to see him keep his feet moving and battle along the boards to draw a powerplay in the second. Too many times in the early season he was getting caught flat footed, having to throw pucks away rather than protecting the puck and moving his feet when there’s no play to be made. Possession is valuable.
- Joffrey Lupul – Looked to be wincing and holding his knee a bit after the dirty play by Cal Clutterbuck; hopefully there’s no issue there. Quiet-ish night, but it’s still visible how he’s applied himself to recovering/digging pucks out in the offensive zone. Took a costly penalty in the first, the first of which was pillow-soft, but the second one immediately after was just a stupid decision.
- Nazem Kadri – Nonfactor for the most part, and forced a number of plays when he was on the puck. Fighting it right now and the media is starting to get on his case a little bit. Needs to break through soon.
- Daniel Winnik – Having a hang of a start to the season. He’s been a noticeable possession driver and penalty kill martial who can help generate offensive zone time in a couple of ways — better than we envisioned at carrying the puck over the blueline with control but also effective at retrieving pucks so far.
- Leo Komarov – Now up to 5 assists in 7 games — more than halfway to his total points (9) in his 42-game season in 2012-13. Helps when Kessel is placed on your line for a shift. Good stick on the penalty kill to break up a pass and alleviate a long spell of pressure. An assist, 4 hits, 3 for 4 on the faceoff dot, 4:45 of work on the penalty kill (which was 5 for 6) — just another day at the office for Uncle Leo.
- Mike Santorelli – It’s been said a couple times before in this space, but he’s the Leafs’ best center going on 7 games now. Had a shift with Kessel and immediately helped set up a goal. This guy is a swiss army knife and is doing a lot of the detail work for his line—and team—to succeed. Would be nice to have more players like him. Two assists takes him up to 4 points in 7 games. Did get caught “puck focused,” leaving a man in the slot for the 1-0 NYI goal.
- David Clarkson – Took 25 games to get his second goal last season. Not sure about Ferraro’s theory about his face shield making him forget about the rough stuff and stick to playing his game so much as he’s finally found a comfortable spot in the lineup. Was actually on the ice with the fourth line, alongside Holland and Panik, when he scored his goal.
- Richard Panik – Was given a small sample of powerplay time in this game at the end of one of the PPs, had a half breakaway set up by Winnik which he shot right at the goalie, and got a +1 from the Clarkson goal. Still not showing much overall but, hey, he’s on the board with his first shot of the season.
- Peter Holland – Grabbed an assist on Clarkson’s goal, played nearly four minutes shorthanded, and went 6 for 9 in the faceoff circle, including 4 for 5 in the defensive zone — the type of thing he’s going to need to keep doing to earn Carlyle’s trust and more icetime.
- Dion Phaneuf – Dion seems to get fired up when he has a marquee player to go up against, looking engaged in the game physically. The pairing with Dion and Franson still has its head-shaking moments, though. Tried to fight Clutterbuck and ragdolled him, only for him to refuse to fight. Dion doesn’t need to fight plugs, but he needs to stand up to players and be a catalyst for his team physically, offensively, or otherwise. Like to see Dion in the mix and ready to drop them.
- Cody Franson – Franson had an OK game. Had a lot of PP time and wasn’t able to get anything going or contribute, which is where he makes hay usually. Manhandled Clutterbuck at the end of the game and took a penalty for it, but that’s what needs to happen if there are no enforcers on the team. Also played a Tavares one on one perfectly late in the game, dropping him to the ice.
- Morgan Rielly – Didn’t get a lot of ice time and was so-so. He’s getting much better at his one-on-one battles; had a good one with Kulemin, who is north of 235lbs and strong as an ox. Was guilty of playing 2-on-1s incorrectly last year and it looks like he’s done some homework. Played a perfect 2-on-1 vs Strome; took away the pass, then angled off the shot, then got a shot block in.
- Roman Polak – Big goal for Roman and was a physical deterrent all night. He takes a lot of penalties, but with the team composition being what it is, there are instances where you don’t mind, like the penalty he took on behalf of Lupul.
- Jake Gardiner – Mixed outing for Jake. Was a real adventure defensively with turnovers and lost puck battles. With his defensive limitations being what they are, he’s going to need to make things happen more often offensively. Did have one good slapshot off the point and sent a nice pass into the slot for a Bozak redirect on the powerplay.
- Stephane Robidas – Didn’t have a great game. Was manhandled a number of times and was stripped of the puck a few times, iced the puck unnecessarily and was looking nervous on a number of occasions tonight.
- Stuart Percy – Had some trouble with his D-to-D passes with Polak on a few occasions and wasn’t moving the puck quickly enough (the forwards were also at fault for not coming back far enough down and giving him an outlet).
Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders Corsi
|Player||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||19||20||-1||49||43||11||11||0||50||30|
Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders Boxscore
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||1||2||2||2||2||2||100%||4:07||4:13||19:14|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer||0 - 0||0||0||0:00|
|45||J. Bernier||34 - 36||0.944||0||60:00:00|