There will be some debate after this win as to whether the Leafs were just that good or the Bruins were just that “off.”
Zdeno Chara and David Krejci were out of the lineup and that’s a big factor, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
On the flipside, Chara wasn’t in the lineup in the late October 4-1 Bruin win in Toronto. The Bruins weren’t playing anywhere near as good then as they have been recently, either; they were plugging along at .500 when they entered that game. The Bruins were 8-2-0 in their last 10 and riding a five-game winning streak entering tonight.
Which is to say, let’s not be too hesitant about enjoying this game for what it was and the promise it portends: It was a four-line, 60-minute performance dominating one of the hottest teams in the League, one of the upper-echelon clubs for the last 5 years and the Leafs’ bugaboo rival of the past several seasons.
There wasn’t the slow start we’ve often complained about of late. They didn’t sit back with the lead, a persistent trait of the past couple seasons under Carlyle. Despite a 5-1 lead entering the final period, the Leafs limited the Bruins to 26 shots. Very un-Leaf-like, as we‘ve known them in the past two years.
It started with shift number one, and the choice to go with the Komarov, Santorelli and Holland line to set the tone. They got in fast on the forecheck and drew an icing call; the top line came over the boards and Bozak hit the post the next shift. It was the right way to start a hockey game.
Cut to and Dion Phaneuf makes a play up the boards, the Leafs get a fortuitous bounce and Kessel did as Kessel does.
There was a spell in the second half of the first period where the Leafs got turnover happy and nearly gave up a 1-1 goal, if not for a couple of Bernier bailouts. That was big, because Kessel scoring a second, near-identical snipe to start the 2nd period was a backbreaker for the Bruins; they folded after that. A great play to start the breakout and follow up on the play by Morgan Rielly a minute and change later, his second goal of the season, and the Leafs were off to the races.
Just like the real Leafs weren’t as bad as the team that got trounced by this very Bruin squad in late October, they’re not the team that killed the Bruins 6-1 tonight either. It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it for what it was.
In the bigger picture, the Leafs now sit third in goals-per-game, 14th in goals against per game (early, but a big leap forward), 11th in penalty killing (early, but a big part of the big leap forward), and 6th on the powerplay. Their 5v5 goal for/against difference is 1.07 compared to last season’s .92.
Most of all, they’re doing it with—theoretically speaking—more sustainable percentages. Their Corsi For percentage in 5v5 close situations is at 49%, up significantly from a putrid 42% last season. Unlike the other-worldly goaltending performance the Leafs were benefitting from in their hot start last season, the Leafs sit 12th in 5v5 save percentage, which stands to improve as we go along if it can be reasonably argued the Leafs have a top-10 tandem in Reimer and Bernier.
(Also interesting—and probably in-part contributing to improved possession numbers: The Leafs won the faceoff battle in this game 29-23, against one of the League’s best faceoff teams in Boston, and are up to 10th overall at 51.2% on the dot, a year after finishing 25th at 48.3%).
It’s still early, it’s still a case of wait and see. But the Leafs’ 9-5-2 looks and feels more true to life than the 11-6-1 record the Leafs were sporting on this day last year.
Shot Location Chart
Notes by Anthony Petrielli
- Phil Kessel – It felt like his goals were almost too easy tonight. Darren Pang on the Sportsnet panel did a great job discussing how Kessel hides the puck before he shoots and his stick is actually in front of the puck instead of behind it loading up his shot. He ripped a puck by Rask glove side and blocker side, so Rask got his full money’s worth tonight. Leafs coaching staff shut him down in the 3rd as he only totaled 15 minutes. Kessel did miss a breakaway for what would have been the hat trick.
- Tyler Bozak – He keeps producing. A little over 16 minutes played with time on the PK and PP, Bozak had a goal and two assists. The 16:02 from Bozak was his lowest ice time of the season and he deserved the break. On the JVR goal, Bozak actually did intentionally tip the puck (unlike JVR); last season Bozak had 5 PPGs in 58 games, through 16 games this year he has already matched that total.
- JVR – 14:32 of ice time was his lowest of the season and he had three points. On his tip goal, he wasn’t even looking at the puck, but he did have a beautiful give and go with Bozak off the rush on the PP for a nice passing-play assist. His line did get hemmed in their own zone a few times still, which is concerning long-term.
- Daniel Winnik – This was a good game for Winnik to get back into the swing of things after the concussion, considering the Leafs were able to coast for the 3rd period. He played nearly 18 minutes — 4 of which were on the PK — and didn’t have a SOG, but he recorded 4 hits. He had the highest offensive zone starts on the team and the worse corsi, which is interesting. To my eye, he was used against Bergeron a lot and some of that had to do with score effects, as well.
- Nazem Kadri – As touched on in Leafs Notebook, Kadri is getting tasked with more difficult minutes and is holding his own reasonably well. He had a few excellent back checks to himself bailout and his wingers, including a diving play to just break up a scoring opportunity. Kadri had a few ridiculously good zone entries tonight, as the Bruins stacked the line and he was still able to stick handle his way in, curl, and make a play with the puck. He is playing a fundamentally solid game and doing the dirty work defensively. Kadri was also 90% at the dot and didn’t break 15 minutes.
- David Clarkson – Not everyone can have a great game. Clarkson didn’t play poorly or anything, but it wasn’t a noteworthy game by any means. He played under 14 minutes, had 1 SOG, and did his job taking a regular shift. Clarkson did stand up for Winnik in a scrum with McQuaid, but he also missed Kadri a few times with passes just behind him.
- Leo Komarov – Set the tone the first shift of the game getting physical and forcing an icing. Komarov had an assist on Holland’s PP goal, 4 SOG, and 6 hits with his regular PK role and some PP time because of the blowout. Just another day in the office for Leo. He also got a good shot in on Marchand, which will make every Leafs fan smile.
- Peter Holland – Had 2 SOG today. The first one was an intentional shot-for-rebound that went right to Morgan Rielly for an easy finish. The second was on the power play, driving the net and beating the goalie 1-on-1. What was really impressive about Holland’s goal? He had Loui Eriksson right with him, dropped his shoulder, pushed the puck to a spot only he could get to, and let his size, reach and skill do the rest. That’s a good sign for a guy starting to figure out how to use his natural abilities at this level. He has 7 points in his last 7 games.
- Mike Santorelli – Was able to break the Bruins wall on the blue line and enter the zone for some quick scoring opportunities, but also chipped and chased with some puck retrieval and forechecking. Like his line-mate Komarov, he too had 4 SOG, PK and PP time, and an assist, all in under 14 minutes. The Bruins really struggled with the Leafs overall speed, and Santorelli was one of the guys that was backing them off.
- Richard Panik – Panik was husting on the forecheck all night, including drawing a power play once because he kept his feet moving. One of his bigger struggles early has been exiting the zone, but tonight he was working the defensive walls well with a few solid chip outs and outlet passes, which was nice to see. He was rewarded with a little over 12 minutes of ice time, and had 1 SOG.
- Trevor Smith – Had a solid, unspectacular game that Carlyle will appreciate from his 4C. Played 11:34 with some PK and PP time and 1 SOG. Smith was the high guy while Panik and Leivo did their thing in the corners, patiently covering for them and reading the play. He did have a brief 2v1 and tried to pass back instead of shoot; if the pass went through it was an empty net tap in.
- Josh Leivo – Had 2 SOG in a little over 12 minutes of ice time, but is by and large showing he is an NHLer. The question with Leivo will be how good is he going to be and how much offense can he realistically contribute? Leivo was a beast on the wall tonight holding the puck down low, and a few times he won battles against multiple Bruins. The Leafs should be happy with what Leivo has shown so far.
- Dion Phaneuf – Went after Lucic a few times which was nice to see, but had some problems throwing the puck up the boards instead of using his partner. Phaneuf didn’t have a SOG on the night, but did play nearly 22 minutes. A few times they were hemmed in their zone; however, some of that was score effects which make games like this tough to judge.
- Cody Franson – Might have won the record for most turnovers in a shift by a Leaf for the season tonight. It wasn’t a banner game for Franson, yet he had 2 assists. He can be forgiven considering how good he has been overall on the year; these things happen. He had a few miscommunications with Dion outlet wise and passing wise, including one cross ice pass in the offensive zone that nearly got turned into a breakaway. Did have a nice pass to Bozak in the neutral zone to get his goal going.
- Morgan Rielly – Was active on the rush tonight, which resulted in an easy goal for him off a Holland shot. Rielly played nearly 17 minutes and had 4 SOG, as he was easily able to walk the line, create space for himself all night, and breakout with ease as he had one of the best possession games on the team for the night.
- Roman Polak – Like Phaneuf, Polak too went after Lucic a few times and actually got some contact on the big man. Polak also went after Marchand, having more than a few conversations with the pest, and was generally a physical presence all night. He led the team with over 26 minutes of ice time for the night as it looks like Randy and Horachek just love the new addition on the whole.
- Jake Gardiner – Played nearly 22 minutes, had an assist and 1 SOG. A few times Gardiner was able to turn the corner around his own net and breakout nicely. Gardiner had the worse possession numbers of any d-man on the team tonight despite the highest offensive zone starts, but he was engaged in the corners and battling harder than he has shown at times this year, so I think it was a positive step in the big picture. He’s settling in on the top PP unit and beginning to look very comfortable and in control of the unit.
- Stephane Robidas – Robidas got walked around early in the game and that almost resulted in a goal against, but otherwise he settled in and played reasonably well. He played nearly 18 minutes, got PK and PP time, had 2 SOG, and had high offensive zone starts on the night. Still looks like he’s finding his game, and it’s tough to say when he will really settle in considering the injuries he’s trying to return from and his age.
Leafs Possession Stats vs. Bruins
|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%|
|JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||L||16||18||-2||47||50||13||18||-5||42||43|
Leafs Player Stats vs. Bruins
|PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||BKS||GVA||TKA||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||2||3||2||0||1||0||1||0||1||-||1:23||0:00||14:32|
|GOALIE||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|J. Bernier||25 - 26||0.962||0||60:00:00|
Game in 12