The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the NHL season last night with a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Instead of giving you a recap of the game that you probably watched anyways we’re going to take a look at a few things that stood out about what we saw during the game.
Pucks On The Net
Many considered Toronto’s playoff appearance last season one largely based upon luck. They reached this conclusion as the Toronto Maple Leafs were consistently outshot, and rarely put an abundance of pucks on the net. After one game it looks like the Leafs may have been listening to their detractors.
The Leafs were credited with 38 shots, and had another 15 blocked. If they continue to put the puck on the net with this kind of frequency, they will continue to have success in putting goals on the board, and they might even get credit for their success this time around.
James Reimer Does Not Want To Be A Back Up
James Reimer and Johnathan Bernier are both very good goaltenders, and neither is going to be content as the back up on this team. Reimer, with his status as the incumbent starter was given the first opportunity to stake his claim, and while it seemed the Leafs defense wanted him to fail, Reimer came up huge on several occasions.
Reimer made 34 saves on 37 shots, with all 3 goals coming on questionable defensive plays by the Leafs. Bernier has his first chance to respond tonight when the Leafs head into Philly. This battle is quickly going to become one of the funnest things about watching the Leafs this season.
Blue Line Blues
No one was completely awful for the Maple Leafs, but their blue line outside of Dion Phaneuf had a bit of a shaky start to the season to me. Paul Ranger looked a little bit uncomfortable with the speed of the game, getting completely lost in his own zone a few times, but got stronger as the game went along.
Jake Gardiner (unjustly) assured he will likely be the one to sit out on Wednesday night in Philadelphia for Morgan Rielly with a few giveaways, including one that led to a Lars Eller a breakaway goal. Fraser is the one that should sit out (because he’s not very good), but that giveaway that led to a goal is the type of thing that Randy Carlyle isn’t likely to let go. C’est la vie.
Best Were The Best
Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, and Dion Phaneuf all had good games for the Maple Leafs. If the Leafs want to be successful this season they will require that their best players continue to be the best players on the ice like they were last night.
JVR led all shooters with 6 shots, he picked up a goal, and was a force in the offensive end, getting creative with several passes that led to scoring chances. JVR took a big step forward last season with the Leafs, and if he continues like this Philly fans are really going to start regretting that trade.
Kessel meanwhile was also all over the ice, registering 5 shots on net, darting in and out of the play like the water bug he is. He had a nice assist on JVR’s power play goal, and looked extremely involved the entire game.
Both Phaneuf and Kessel didn’t blow anyone out of the water with their performances, but each had a decent game in their own right. Kadri showed off that offensive flair we’ve come to love with a few slick passes including a beauty to set up Phaneuf’s bar down goal as he jumped into the rush. All in all a good start for both of them.