With the chance to flip Wednesday night’s script, the Maple Leafs showed some killer instinct by outplaying a tired Wings team.
Even a hot goalie in Petr Mrazek couldn’t replicate James Reimer’s herculean midweek effort, however, unable to keep his team hanging around in this one as the Leafs, now the highest scoring team on a per game basis through 29 games, showed off their scoring depth by attacking the Wings relentlessly from the second period onward especially.
The first period was split fairly evenly, with the Leafs carrying the play for the first half and the Wings coming to life in the second half of the period to sustain some pressure and manufacture the game’s opening tally. Kronwall’s goal came off a point shot on the powerplay after the Leafs’ top line spent a long shift in its own end and JvR took a penalty in the neutral zone.
The first line made up for it on a powerplay of their own after a penalty drawn by Richard Panik. It was redemption time for JvR as he took the punishment in front and had a Kessel snap shot from the half boards go in off his leg.
It was a typically mixed period for the top line, but after the first they went quiet and it was the Leafs’ supporting cast coming to life. The line of Winnik, Santorelli and Kadri put on a dominant display (really, from start to finish) and outworked the Wings all night. A remarkable 20-shot period (the Wings had just 5) by the Leafs saw the Leafs’ second and fourth lines (with Smith back in the lineup playing alongside Booth and Panik) make significant inroads in terms of generating offensive zone time.
Thanks to Mrazek’s play, it looked like the Wings might escape the second period and flip Wednesday’s script on the Leafs. Enter Dick Panik. After a nice play to break up a pass at the top of the circles and identify Panik coming off the bench by Korbinian Holzer, the Leafs’ October waiver claim took a stretch pass and buried nicely on a breakaway (it appeared he meant to get the puck back to his forehand and it trickled through the legs of Mrazek off his backhand, but it looked nice anyway).
Morgan Rielly looked likely to make an impact all night with some purposeful rushes and smooth zone entries. Sure enough, early in the third, the Leafs got the key insurance marker when he took advantage of the Wings changing with the puck in neutral territory, rushing down the left wing and beating Mrazek far post, below the glove and above the pad.
The Leafs closed out the game strong, allowing just 11 shots in the period despite a two-goal lead for most of it. While it’s not always been convincing, that takes the Leafs’ record to 12-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes, and it’s hard to pick at results as good as those. Good goaltending covers up all sorts of transgressions, but tonight Bernier really didn’t have to do all that much to secure the victory (his best save was his fantastic pad-stack turn-away in the first). The Wings were playing tired, but it was a good team win and a strong 60-minute effort.
Shot Location Chart
– During the 2nd period, I noted on Twitter how well Daniel Winnik finishes shifts. Throughout the season it has leapt off the page to me how hard he closes out long shifts; he’s got an amazing engine. Watch the Leafs’ third goal back from early in the third period: His line is at the end of its shift, but Winnik is still engaged on the backcheck, pokes the puck loose in the neutral zone and then breaks up a pass, enabling Rielly to jump on the puck in neutral ice as both teams’ forward units changed. If he eases up and peels to the bench, the Wings probably get that in deep instead.
Two well deserved points for Winnik tonight. Alongside Santorelli, the pair stood out as the hardest working players on the ice for either team. The Kadri, Santorelli and Winnik line finished up at 69, 60 and 59% Corsi For with just 44% offensive zone starts.
– You wonder about spreading the wealth considering arguably the Leafs’ three best possession players are all on one line, but it gives Carlyle a go-to trio in the big matchups. It played against Zetterberg’s line quite a bit and kept him in the right end of the rink. There’s a lot of value in that, and for now it seems Carlyle is content to look the other way on the top line’s harm-to-good ratio at 5v5 provided they’re producing. I’m still far from convinced the top line should be allowed to carry on like this long term, but it’s tough to know how much Kessel’s injury is exacerbating things.
– It was difficult to discern if Carlyle was rewarding the fourth line with more minutes (Smith, Panik and Booth averaged over 9 minutes), conserving for the back to back, or both; either way, it was nice to see them get a chance to build on a few good shifts. They were the second best line tonight, generating ozone time, drawing two penalties (one leading to JvR’s PP goal), chipping in a goal, and Panik threw down for the Leafs’ first fight in quite a while.
– Richard Panik’s 6 goals come on a crazy 26% shooting percentage which obviously won’t last, but he was pacing at 22 points last season in a lower roster role and he’s on a similar pace this season. He also draws penalties: He was averaging 1.4 penalties drawn per 60 minutes before tonight, when he drew another leading to the JVR goal. That’s second to only Kadri among players who have played more than 10 games. Panik hits to hurt and he has an agitating side to him; Brendan Smith wasn’t the first to lose it on him this season and he won’t be the last. That’s a nice overall fourth line contribution from the waiver pick up.
– The Leafs were given an early Christmas gift by the schedule makers in the form of another back to back set with a 5 p.m. start tomorrow against the Kings. The one thing we don’t know is if Reimer is fully healthy after leaving practice a few days ago, which would change the situation entirely. That said, there’s no sense in overthinking these things and drumming up controversy where none need exist. You have two good goalies, they’ve both stolen games in the past few weeks, so (health permitting) play one in one game and one in the other. It’s really that simple. So far Carlyle has done the logical thing every time in the back to backs.
– Some numbers to chew on:
Leafs were at 35 pts, +3 in goal differential, with 12 regulation-overtime wins at game 29 last season. 37 pts, +17 GD, with 16 ROW this yr.
— Alec Brownscombe (@MapleLeafsHS) December 14, 2014
Not bad not bad pic.twitter.com/UppVaTIKJx
— Alec Brownscombe (@MapleLeafsHS) December 14, 2014
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings Boxscore
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||0||1||1||2||4||0||-||4:00||0:27||17:15|
|NO.||PLAYER||EV||PP||SH||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|45||J. BernierÊ(W)Ê12-6-3||25 - 25||02-Jan||01-Jan||27 - 28||0.964||0||59:39:00|