The high-scoring Maple Leafs won a game over a reeling opponent in mostly-convincing fashion, extending their points streak to five games and improving their record to a solid 13-8-2.
The way Dallas is playing has to be close to giving Lindy Ruff a coronary: Cheating for offense, undisciplined, losing a lot of their puck battles, heavily offense-first, and passive defensively and through neutral ice. There is a lot of skill on that roster, but they’re not playing anything close to sound hockey; more than a few people on Twitter remarked on their similarity to the 2013-14 Maple Leafs. They won’t go anywhere soon in the West if they don’t correct some of this stuff in short order.
The Leafs seemed happy to trade chances at points in this game (they can beat most teams at this brand of hockey), but did look a little more organized in their own zone and in neutral ice than Dallas did. They got caught on long stretch passes a few times and struggled defending off the rush here and there as Dallas looked for the deep option quite a bit and threatened at points with their speed and skill up front.
An early goal off the stick of Tyler Bozak came off a turnover just inside the blueline by Dallas, but fault mostly rested at the feet of Keri Lehtonen, as it was a harmless shot that got through him. From there on out, Lehtonen was excellent despite four more goals against, which is a testament to how poor Dallas was defensively. The Leafs were gaining the blueline with ease, coming straight up the middle at points and generating ‘grade A’ chances at a consistent rate.
The new line #2 of Kadri, Santorelli and Lupul struck with five minutes to go in the 2nd period as Santorelli jumped on a broken play in the neutral zone, gained the zone with speed, pulled up, protected the puck nicely and found the trailing Kadri for an unstoppable wrister that went bar down and in. Phil Kessel added to the lead just 56 seconds into the 2nd; after the Leafs worked the puck across the top of their powerplay umbrella from Kadri to Phaneuf to Kessel, Phil released a no wind-up snapper from the circle while JvR took away Lehtonen’s sightline in front.
Jason Spezza drew one back for Dallas after Jake Gardiner was caught out of position over on the right side defending a rush, anticipating a pass from Erik Cole in behind his d-partner Korbinian Holzer (to Patrick Eaves) that never came. Cole instead moved the puck to Spezza on Gardiner’s vacated side, and Spezza took advantage of the time and space afforded to him to rip an unstoppable slap shot past Bernier.
Line two struck again to restore the three-goal lead. A great effort by Kadri to pester Alex Goligoski led to a horrible turnover at the Dallas blueline; Lupul and Santorelli worked a give and go, Santorelli sent it to a wide open Franson on the right side, and Lupul bore down on the rebound to make it 4-1.
Dallas briefly hung around in the game thanks to a 4-2 goal from Ryan Garbutt off a lost defensive zone faceoff for the Leafs at 4 on 4 following a Santorelli tripping penalty. Kadri lost the draw clean and released his man to pressure the puck in the high slot while Gardiner inexplicably abandoned his post and Franson was left to defend a rebound against two Dallas players in front. It was the second egregious error of the game on Gardiner’s part.
It was again Lupul putting the game at a safe distance for the Leafs just three minutes later. A good initial retrieval by Lupul was followed up by a few back and forths on the cycle between Santorelli and Kadri before Kadri threw the puck in Lupul’s direction on the far post and Lupul buried his second empty net finish of the night. That line was buzzing for most of the game with lots of skill and a high work rate on display.
The Stars scored one more in garbage time as the Leafs certainly didn’t shut down the game convincingly, but Jonathan Bernier made sure it mattered not. Bernier was excellent in this game, fielding 38 shots and what looked to be no shortage of quality scoring chances for Dallas (we’ll have to look at Evan’s numbers for a better feel). He made a few saves on Seguin and Spezza from scoring positions look a lot easier than they were and was managing his rebounds effectively all game.
The Leafs are now starting to roll on home ice after their bad start to the season at the ACC; they’re 8-3-0 at home in their last 11. The offense is sizzling for the Leafs at the moment with 23 goals scored in the five games since the Predators blowout. With Bernier heating up over those five starts as well, it’s going to be fun to see if the Leafs can keep this ball rolling throughout the homestand.
And hopefully Leo is back soon.
Shot Location Chart
James van Riemsdyk – His high point totals are masking a poor larger body of work on the season. The 1st line struggled getting a cycle going and JVR wasn’t engaged in playing down low. On 3 different occasions, Kessel and Bozak started a cycle which JVR killed by not being on the boards ready to receive a back pass, seemingly nonchalant about playing properly. No points tonight even though Bozak and Kessel both scored while he was on the ice. He was able to take games over last season and he’s yet to do that this year. Had a couple of good chances, but he has another gear and he’s yet to hit his stride this year.
Tyler Bozak – “Mr. Dependable” with a very quick (0:27secs in) goal to get the Leafs off to a great start and it certainly went straight to his legs. 54% on the dot and was really good at forechecking with speed, hurrying up the D to make plays and forcing turnovers. Had some messy shifts at the end of the game; was coasting to puck carriers, not playing with any urgency and was part of the problem on the 3rd goal, which should never have happened and can’t if the Leafs want to keep making progress in the standings and when they play good teams. That sort of play against good teams will lose you games in a hurry.
Phil Kessel – Good to see Kessel get a PP goal. Next to no windup and the release was ridiculous, as you’ve come to expect with him. He might be fighting some sort of injury, as he doesn’t have a tonne of jump in his game. Was able to send some fantastic passes to his teammates, but the telltale sign that Phil is fighting it is when he defaults to curl ups at the blue line vs trying to make a play, and he was certainly doing that all night. Hopefully his lower body injury heals up quickly, as the rest of the team is firing on all cylinders.
Joffrey Lupul – 3rd game back for Lupul (2nd in the top 6) and it looks like the Lupul-Kadri-Santorelli line has potential to be a really good one for them. 2 goals and was hard on pucks, has really bought into better puck management, is trying to eliminate high-risk turnovers and is tracking back defensively as well as he ever has as a Leaf (along with the rest of the team) Was able to finish off plays started by Kadri and Santorelli (and himself, to a degree).
Nazem Kadri – Kadri was flying tonight. 6 SOG. 1g, 2a – After a good shift started by Santorelli’s good board play, he protected the puck well and curled up with a pass on a silver platter for Kadri, who ripped a great goal on a bit of a rocket from the top of the circle. Could have reasonably had a hat trick tonight but for some poor luck and bad shot selection, using the same backhand move on the same short break.
Mike Santorelli – 3 assists and was a force all night. He’s setting the bar for his line with his tenacious play and excellent puck management. Rarely throws pucks away, and if he does he makes sure it is a last resort and in a spot that is hard for the opposition to retrieve. Made mistakes, but generally fixed them all night long. Early returns: this is one of the better free agent pick ups in some time for the Maple Leafs.
Richard Panik – Was looking fired up tonight and looking like he was trying to make a case to keep him in the lineup (not going to happen when Leo comes back), but you’re not forgetting about him. Made a couple of strong power moves to the net, had a big hit and made the most of sparse ice time.
Peter Holland – No points, no shots and a -1 on the night. Played a large amount on the PK. Had a few shifts where Dallas dominated his line, but overall not too much to complain about. Opted to keep the puck twice on 2 v 1s, missed the net once and was easily stopped the other time.
David Clarkson – Looked like a game that could get out of hand and he played disciplined game. Had a couple of beautiful solo plays where he was unlucky not to bury them—I had to double check to make sure it was Clarkson.
Daniel Winnik – Typical game from Winnik. Was a beast on the PK, was intelligent and didn’t throw pucks away. Was good with Holland generating on 2 on 1s with tenacious puck pressuring, but was never going to receive a pass lefty-to-lefty.
Trevor Smith – 10 games, 1 assist. He’s taking a shift and that’s about it at this stage. Now the Leafs have established good 4th line wingers, it’s time to have a centerman that can make things happen with under 10mins of ice time. He’s not awful, but he’s not improving the team and there are better options at this stage.
David Booth – Hard to get a good handle on his game and we’ll need to see him higher in the lineup or with a better centerman than what Smith is currently providing. Is fast and strong on his skates—to be sure—and makes smart plays with limited ice time (6mins) and was able to get one good shot off.
Cody Franson – Really good game from Franson, who continues to be a force offensively and is getting better defensively. 2 assists on the night and was great on the PP.
Dion Phaneuf – One of Dion’s better recent games. Nicely timed pinch that started off the sequence on the first goal. Did a good job denying entries and battling down low. Looked gassed to end the game and was reverting to intentionally coming in second on battles and opting for one-armed flushes. 26:32mins on the night and 2 assists. More production from the backend is a great step for the Leafs.
Morgan Rielly – Mysteriously played only 13mins tonight. 0:06 on the PP and there wasn’t a visible reason for it. It’s hard to make excuses for why Gardiner is getting more 5v5 and PP time than Rielly right now.
Stephane Robidas – Was easily one of Robidas’ best games as a Leaf. Likely fired up to play his old team and made safe plays, played every shift hard and move the puck in the right direction.
Jake Gardiner – Some really curious decision making from Jake tonight. He’s really fighting the game and his tentativeness is making him a liability for the Leafs right now. On the Spezza goal, there was no reason for him to be on the right side of the ice at all and these are common occurrences with his game right now. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him scratched for a game if this continues.
Korbinian Holzer – Solid game from Holzer. Was physical and played with a good amount of snarl, which he’ll need to stay at the NHL level. Was able to sneak a couple of shots through and moved the puck safely, for the most part.
Jonathan Bernier — Good game from Bernier. Looked amazingly composed for almost the entire game and can’t really be faulted on the goals that were scored.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Dallas Stars Boxscore
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||1||0||3||3||100%||9:03||0:35||21:09|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer||0 - 0||0||0||0:00|
|45||J. Bernier||35 - 38||0.921||0||59:58:00|