The Leafs take a tough loss tonight vs the New Jersey Devils, though it was in overtime so they gained a point. It was a fairly enjoyable game. Leafs went down 2-0 early on two Devils powerplay goals from Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, as the Leafs just didn’t have their legs from playing last night in New York. But the Leafs battled back in the period. They were very good throughout the 2nd and were rewarded with a lucky goal off the skate of Phil Kessel (hey, they all count, right?). It went under review, but it was a clean goal no question. Then midway into the 3rd period Matt Frattin busts in down the left side and goes right around rookie Adam Larsson and it’s a tie game! In the overtime both teams play kind of conservatively until Carl Gunnarsson fans on a slap-shot – no his stick didn’t break, just missed – and the Devils come back the other way and David Clarkson scores off a great pass from Dainius Zubrus to end the game. This drops the Maple Leafs to a, still very good, 15-10-3 and has them tied for 4th with the Rangers and Flyers in the NHL standings.
Now, of course, all the good and bad and whatnot.
- When the Leafs were just running around in the beginning minutes of the first period, who was strong then and throughout the entire game? Luke Schenn. He was a force trying to him anyone and everyone in an attempt to rally the team, and it worked as the Leafs picked up their play. He logged the 3rd most minutes on the team and was solid once again.
- I got on him last game but Jake Gardiner sure showed me. He had the most minutes on the team and moved the puck very well. He got back to his same defensive game that he’s played with all year. It was another Jake Gardiner-esque performace by the rookie defenseman.
- Last year, I was the only one who believed in Matt Frattin among all my friends. Including the Leafs fans. Some of them even thought he wouldn’t play a game. Well, he’s showing them and proving me right. He had a key goal and he was one of the best Leaf forwards tonight. I was also thinking: someone really needs to give him a good nickname.
- There’s no surprise here, Phil Kessel was a monster once again tonight. Going in, people expected him to thrive vs. the Devils’ lacking defense, and he did. He used his speed effectively all game and got off some good chances in OT only to be thwarted by Martin Brodeur (who had a good game). He had 8 shots on net and got back to his goal scoring ways.
- I’ve been his biggest critic all year but tonight, Philippe Dupuis had (in my opinion) his best game of the season. Despite having two powerplay goals scored on him, he was effective on the penalty kill and had a great scoring chance. Let’s hope this continues in the future.
- The Leafs’ newest papa, Mikhail Grabovski, must have been inspired by his new born son’s (Jaeger, great name by the way), birth as he played a great game with the aforementioned Matt Frattin. He made a terrific pass on Frattin’s goal and was around the net all game.
- No, this isn’t just because of the shot in overtime but, that does factor is as to why Carl Gunnarsson is on here. He’s usually very solid on the back-end with Phaneuf but tonight, he just looked really sloppy. On both offense and defense. Gunnarsson isn’t the guy you always notice, even he if he has his best game, but tonight I noticed him, for the wrong reasons.
- He’s usually a very good third wheel, but I felt that Tyler Bozak kind of held the ‘Big 2’ back tonight. He just didn’t seem to have that extra kick in his game tonight. Now, I don’t expect Bozak to be a #1 type player every game, because he’s not that. But, he just wasn’t there tonight.
- I don’t usually put goalies here but James Reimer could have been a bit better tonight. Don’t get me wrong, he made a bunch of key stops to keep the Leafs in it but the OT goal was a softy. It’s only his second game back so I won’t be too hard on him and the other 2 goals were on the powerplay where he had no help in front of him. I assure you, he’ll be ok next game.
Speaking of next game, that will be this Friday vs. the struggling Washington Capitals and new coach Dale Hunter in Washington. The Leafs should be able to pull at least a point out there. So, that’s 3 out of a possible 4 points in back-to-back games, something the Leafs have been pretty good at this year despite some of the results.