So now that I’ve had the last couple days to over-analyze the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night loss to the Montreal Canadians (not to mention re-watch the game several times… thank you Leafs TV), It is safe to say the sky did not fall. I am disappointed in the loss; because it was to the Montreal Canadians (yuck) and also because I, along with thousands of other fans, have waited with such excitement and anticipation for the season to start, that losing the first game, in such unlucky fashion I might add, was a tough pill to swallow.
After a well-played first period, the Leafs took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room. Things were looking good for the home team. I thought rookie d-man Stuart Percy had an excellent first period. For a kid playing in his 1st NHL game, he showed tremendous poise and a great first pass. He had a hand in both Toronto goals, and I really liked his ability to take the hit to make the play.
Yet, somehow I didn’t feel confident going into the second frame.
Maybe it was last year’s disappointment still lingering on my mind, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the Leafs would come out in the 2nd period and lay an egg – and sadly… I was right.
I found the Achilles heel for the Leafs last season were 10-minute lapses, often found during the 2nd period of play that would dig the Leafs into a hole that they had a hard time climbing out of. Well, they didn’t wait long. It only took one game this season for another 10-minute lapse in the 2nd period that allowed the Canadians back into the game. The Habs were flying all over the ice and clearly had the momentum. They scored the tying goal early and also had several other scoring chances. Bernier stood on his head throughout the game, but came up huge with several key saves in the 2nd period, allowing the Leafs to remain tied after two periods.
The third period was much of the same, the Leafs on their heels and having a hard time containing the Habs top two lines. As much as it pains me to write this (and it does) Max Pacioretty was flying all night. After last season’s 39 goals, I almost considered drafting him in my hockey pool this season – Almost. Another Leaf breakdown in their own zone lead to a PK Subban goal (did anyone else notice how much Jim Hughson loved saying Pernell Karl?) The Leafs decided it was time to turn up the heat and play hockey. Another impressive shift by the Clarkson –Komorov – Santorelli line helped the Buds tie the game. The building erupts, the fans outside are going nuts, it looked like game 7 of the playoffs all over again! With under a minute left and overtime on the horizon, another bad Leaf turnover leads to Habs goal…yup, now it feels like game 7.
Takeaways from the game:
The first line
They didn’t look as dominate as they could and should have been. Multiple times the top line got stuck on the ice far too long, and that allowed the Canadians to have several scoring changes. Kessel, in my opinion, was overly quiet. Maybe that undisclosed “injury” is still effecting him.
Clarkson – Santorelli – Komorov
I felt this was Toronto’s best line overall. They did what they needed to do to be successful as a line – and that was chip pucks in and go hard on the forecheck. I was excited to see Clarkson and Komorov on the same line because I felt together they would give other teams fits.
Lupul – Kadri – Kozun
These 3 early on looked dominate showing great speed. On the opening goal, Kozun did all the work to work the puck around, get the puck back in the slot and got a good shot off that was eventually deflected by Kadri. However, as the game wore on the trio began to slow down. For all the great plays Kozun has made throughout camp and early in this game, he had an awful giveaway that lead to Plekanec's 2nd goal of the game and eventual game winner.
Did he play? Boy does he look like a shell of his former self. I truly feel that Frattin has lost a ton of confidence since he missed that breakaway in game 7 two seasons ago – I don’t know if he will ever get it back.
Percy - The aforementioned Percy had a good first NHL game. I was really impressed with his first pass and poise and both brought back glimpses of Thomas Kaberle. I myself would not complain he that is what Percy becomes. Of course his first NHL game couldn’t come without controversy as it was his skate the puck deflected off of to give the Habs the win.
Not much else to say besides a solid first game for Bernie – although I am sure he would like to have the first goal back.
After so much debate over the summer regarding the defence ( or lack thereof) I felt comfortable with how the defence looked – Robidas was steady, which is exactly what the Leafs needed. I thought Phaneuf looked good as well. He still played more minutes than I would like to see, however that is not the only coaching decision in the game I questioned. Polak lead the team in hits, and played a physical brand of hockey we haven’t seen from a Leafs defenceman in several years.
The “new” system has its kinks. I like the aggressive approach, speed and the forecheck, yet I see there is still an adjustment stage. The 4th line did play more than 2 minutes, and also didn’t beat anyone up. I questioned why, after scoring the tying goal in the 3rd period, coach RC went with the 4th line?
From a hockey fan perspective, the game was fairly entertaining. It’s apparent that the Leafs still have some work to do when it comes to competing for a full 60 minute game but overall, but I thought the Leafs played just ok – (not a shot at Randy Carlyle) considering it was the first game of the season
Finally, I don’t know why they introduced the “ref cam”. Maybe for us as fans to see what the ref is seeing – but if that’s the case I saw 3 penalties that should have been called – one late in the 2nd period with the Leafs already on the PP. That call in particular could have been a game changing moment as the Leafs would have started the 3rd period on a 5-3 power-play. But, like the Beatles said Ob – La – Dee – Ob – La – Da Life goes on.
Good luck against the Penguins - GO LEAFS GO!