When fans were told a big surprise was in store for team’s centennial ceremony, many speculated that Dave Keon was about to become only the third ever Leaf to have his jersey number retired by the organization – a break from the previous club policy of only honouring numbers except in rare circumstances such as Bill Barilko’s unexpected disappearance in 1951.
It turns out all seventeen honoured Leaf greats, all of whom – save Keon – were unaware until the ceremony started, were getting their numbers retired. Gone are the days of watching the likes of Jonas Hoglund, Darby Hendrickson and Matt Stajan wear Dave Keon’s #14, or Colby Armstrong sport Ted Kennedy’s #9, or Garnet Exelby don Tim Horton and King Clancy’s #7. Long overdue, to say the least.
A great read from @VintageLeaf
on Keon from earlier this yr.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) October 15, 2016
Unlike some past Leaf teams on ceremony nights, Toronto came out flying once the game started, showing the emotion you expect to see from the home team in a home opener. Nazem Kadri fought David Backes, and acquitted himself well, in a rematch from last season’s visit to St. Louis. On the following shift, Mitch Marner took a healthy run at Brad Marchand, drawing a powerplay for the Leafs. A three-goal first period, powered by Connor Brown’s first of the season, Mitch Marner’s first NHL goal, and new #25 James van Riemsdyk’s first of the year, put the Leafs in the driver’s seat.
It also marked a second NHL record in as many games for the Leafs, another involving their young talent. The Toronto Maple Leafs of 2016-17 became the first team in the NHL’s expansion era to have its first six goals of the regular season scored by rookies (Auston Matthews x4, Connor Brown, Mitch Marner).
After a late first-period powerplay marker by David Pastrnak kept things interesting, the Maple Leafs let off a little in the second period with the long change. There was some exciting, back-and-forth, track-meet style hockey, but the Leafs were outpossessed 63/37 at even strength in the second period, and had Frederik Andersen’s best period in his young Leaf career to thank for keeping the difference at two.
The Leafs came out with more jump in the third following adjustments at the intermission, and played a solid period with the lead, splitting possession evenly overall and generating a number of shifts with sustained periods of offensive zone time. A Milan Michalek tip-in off a Morgan Rielly slap-pass put the game to bed, with only a Zdeno Chara outburst on Matt Martin (drawing an instigator penalty) to note following the 4-1 goal.
The Leafs move to 1-0-1 on the season, and now take a three-day break before hitting the road for a tough three-games-in-four-nights stretch against the Jets, Wild and Blackhawks starting Wednesday in Winnipeg.
- The powerplay moved to 0 for 8 through two games, and looks like a major work in progress in the early going. Jim Hiller and his units will have to find an answer for when their PK opposition, as the Bruins did, adjust to take away the drop play on zone entries. The Leafs struggled to cleanly set up the zone at times, and they were predictable and uncreative when they did set up successfully, unable to adjust to the Bruins pressuring the half wall and the points aggressively. Just three shots on goal in eight powerplay minutes.
- The Leafs’ fourth line got the team on the board first via Connor Brown, who jumped on a loose puck after a faceoff win by Peter Holland and point shot from Matt Hunwick while Matt Martin occupied the attention of two Bruins in front of the net. Five points in his last six NHL games for Brown, who was a sparkplug in this game.
- Nazem Kadri’s head to head with David Backes: One fight, 8 minutes head to head at 5v5, 14 shot attempts for, 7 shot attempts against (66.7% CF). His line neutralized the Marchand unit at even strength, forcing them to play 200 feet away from their goal more often than not and even dominating them, on a few occasions, for entire shifts, one of which led to the Milan Michalek goal in the third period. This was an excellent performance from Kadri individually, who got his team fired up early with the fight, was dominant on the dot for the second game in a row (back-to-back 69% games), and won the lion’s share of his one-on-one battles throughout.
- Two firsts in one: Nikita Zaitsev’s first NHL point came on Mitch Marner’s first NHL goal. Zaitsev’s breakout pass up to the middle to Bozak was relayed to a streaking Marner, who collected the puck from behind his body while seamlessly maintaining his momentum through neutral ice. Anton Khoudobin would’ve wanted the goal back, but Marner found the sweet spot above the pad and below the blocker. Heckova goal to call your first in the NHL.
- Nikita Zaitsev may have been the Leafs’ best defenceman in this game. Defensively — specifically in defending off the rush and the dangerous areas of the ice — he was excellent, maintaining good gaps and utilizing his poke and sweep checks effectively. Elusive under pressure, moved the puck crisply, and physical but disciplined.
- Babcock rolled his defence pairs pretty evenly — the entire Leafs defence corps played between 19 minutes and 21 minutes — and five of the six came away with a point in a better performance overall from the Leafs’ backend. Doesn’t hurt the perception, either, when the group gets a few key saves from their goaltender. The Leafs kept a clean sheet at even strength.
- Much quieter night for the Auston Matthews, Zach Hyman and William Nylander line, except for a few flashes. The puck wasn’t following them around as much and they fought the puck at times. Despite Babcock controlling his matchups and getting this line over the boards against the trio of Riley Nash, Dominic Moore and Noel Acciari for 5 minutes of even strength action, Matthews and Hyman were in the 35% CF range including a dismal 14% CF against that Bruins fourth line.
- A important 24-save bounce back performance from Frederik Andersen, who was calm, collected and came up with the key saves when called upon. His puck-handling was also better tonight — he sent a few rockets down the weak side off of Bruins line changes and cleared the zone himself on the penalty kill in the third period. He had no chance on the lone Bruins goal.
- We’ll leave you with this: Mitch Marner’s spell-binding shift midway through the second period that brought the ACC to its feet.
This Mitch Marner shift. Wow. pic.twitter.com/jLikVTEUSD
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 16, 2016
Leafs 4 vs. Bruins 1 – 5v5 Shot Attempts
Leafs Player Possession Stats - Leafs 4 vs. Bruins 1 - Oct. 16, 2016
|Name||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For%||Zone Start%|
|JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||12||11||1||52.17%||55.56%|
Game Sheet - Leafs 4 vs. Bruins 1 - Oct. 16, 2016
|J. van Riemsdyk||13:58||1||0||2||2:30||0:00||2||0/1||0|