"It's kind of fun eh? But its dumb." That is what coach Mike Babcock had to say about the wildly entertaining home opener for the Leafs. The high-flying offense continued to wear out the mesh, but poor defensive play raised concerns for the bench boss as well as the fanbase.
The blue and white opened the scoring 3 minutes in on a tip-in by former and current Leaf Dominic Moore. A minute later, JT Miller cashed in on a rebound to even things up for the Rangers. Then the onslaught began. Zach Hyman was robbed on a breakaway by Henrik Lundqvist, only to slide one by the king moments later off a turnover. The Leafs' speed and tenacity allowed them to completely dominate the ice. Gardiner dashed end to end on a powerplay and beat Lundqvist short side. Zaitsev scored on a perfectly placed point shot. Hyman outmuscled two Rangers behind the net and his centering pass deflected in past an exasperated King Henrik.A late Rangers marker on the powerplay from Kevin Shattenkirk did little to silence the roar of the crowd at the ACC and the hundreds outside at Maple Leaf square.
In the second stanza, the Rangers built off that late goal in the 1st and began to win puck battles and control the play. Mika Zibanejad roofed one past a screened Frederik Andersen to pull the visitors within two. Marc Staal's redirection made it a one goal game five minutes later. With the buds on their heels, Zuccarello deflected a shot past a sprawling Andersen. The crowd was stunned- a 4 goal lead had disappeared. The Leafs were heading into the 3rd period all square, 5-5.
The Leafs started the 3rd with the energy they didn't have in the 2nd. 7 minutes in, it paid off with Bozak snapping one home off of a terrific pass by Jake Gardiner. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault thought the play was offside and used his challenge. The play was reviewed and the goal stood, resulting in a lead for the Leafs and a powerplay right afterward. The Rangers never recovered and took several penalties afterward. The Leafs scored two insurance goals late in the game from Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri, both on the powerplay. Toronto won the game by a mind-boggling final score of 8-5.
- Another night at the office for the Leafs deadly powerplay, 3 more with the man advantage. Likely the best in the league, their PP is a catalyst for their success. Tough to stop the skill and speed without taking penalties, even tougher to kill the penalties.
- Not Freddy's best night in net. Some big stops to be sure, but he seemed to really struggle with point shots and made little effort to fight through screens.
- Rough game for Marner, didn't get charged with a penalty but essentially gave the Rangers a 6 on 4 by dropping his stick after the obvious infraction, also was responsible for all sorts of bad giveaways
- Could this be the year the Rangers fall apart? Lundqvist has looked awful so far and Pavelec is not a great option either. Their defence looks slow, they're weak at center.....
-Should be a good test for the Buds Monday against Chicago. Strong starts for both clubs. Chicago has handily beaten some good teams in Pittsburgh and Columbus so far. First real test against an upper echelon team for Toronto IMO.
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