The Toronto Maple Leafs, playing guest in a home opener for the second night in a row, managed to escape with the win as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on the back of an impressive goaltending performance from (one of) their prized off season acquisition Johnathan Bernier.
While the Maple Leafs looked like a team playing their second game in as many nights for much of the contest, Bernier was able to hold them in the game until the Leafs could right the ship. He was instrumental in holding the Flyers to 1 goal despite their 7 power play opportunities.
Enough with the game story though, as you can read that anywhere! Here we take a look at our armchair reactions to what we saw.
Straight Beastin’ Bernier
James Reimer opened the season in Montreal with a solid performance in the Maple Leafs 4-3 win, reminding everyone that he was indeed the starter last season and this is his job to lose. Johnathan Bernier made his first start last night and threw down the gauntlet letting Reimer, and the rest of the NHL know that he’s ready to be the star everyone thinks he will be.
Bernier was absolutely sensational, stopping 31 of 32 shots against, including an outstanding 12 – 13 while the Flyers were on the man advantage. He looked poised and under control for much of the game, always seeming to track the puck with ridiculous ease.
Bernier’s biggest save perhaps was with 3.9 seconds left in the second period when Wayne Simmonds was awarded a penalty shot. The stop really felt like a turning point for the game, and prevented the Leafs from giving up two goals in the game with less than 10 seconds remaining in a period.
This goaltending competition might already be my favourite thing about this Leafs team, having two goalies that the team is confident can win them games is a huge asset going forward, and will allow the team to ride the hot hand all season long (hopefully towards the playoffs).
Paul Ranger Needs Some Time
Paul Ranger is a great story, but it has become clear through 2 games of the season that he’s not quite ready for the “top-4 minutes” that Maple Leafs brass was talking up in the preseason in an attempt to gain leverage on Cody Franson.
Ranger has looked a step behind through 2 games, struggling to make the proper reads, and seemingly lacking the situational awareness required in his own end. An adjustment period for a guy that was out of the NHL for almost 4 years should have been expected, but was perhaps forgotten amidst the preseason hype surrounding both him and the team.
While he did play all of last season in the AHL, it’s still a massive jump back to the big times. It’s going to take him some time after 4 years between NHL games, but I have faith he’ll be able to get his feet under him before long. I will be very surprised if after even 5 or 6 games we’re still having the same worries about Ranger.
Phil Kessel Be Earning That Cash
Kessel directed 6 shots on net and scored his first goal of the season last night while leading all Toronto forwards with just over 20 minutes of ice time. Kessel was once again flying all over the ice, creating chances off the rush, and just generally being awesome even though it was his birthday.
Dave Bolland had a solid game with two goals earning the first star nod, but it was Kessel that was the Leafs best forward to me, dictating the pace of play for much of his time on the ice, and frequently getting the puck towards Steve Mason, which is never a terrible idea.
If Kessel is able to keep throwing the puck on the net with the frequency that he has through the first 2 games of the season, he could be in store for his best season yet. He might even be able to score 40 goals, finally shutting up everyone that constantly likes to remind me that he’s never done so.