Marlies propel Leafs to Victory
After a lengthy but magnificent pre game ceremony, the puck finally dropped on the Leafs’ 2013 season. It didn’t take long for the
excitement to begin as 46 seconds in it appeared as if the Montreal Canadians opened the scoring; however, it was immediately waved off as Ryan White ran over Ben Scrivens a la Brian Gionta, and got two minutes for goalie interference. The penalty was killed off rather easily, but the Habs then shot themselves in the foot again by taking another penalty. This time, 4:51 into the game, Nazem Kadri, fresh off making the team out of training camp for the first time, potted a powerplay goal with assists going to Kessel and Kostka. A few minutes later, the first scrap of the Leafs season occurred, and it was Brown, not Colton Orr, dropping the gloves against Brandon Prust for a spirited affair. Making the start in goal was Ben Scrivens, and although he had played in the AHL all year, he looked rather shaky early on.
The second period got off to a bit of a slower pace with numerous faceoffs really slowing down the flow of the game. Unlike the first, which had a lot of back and forth rushes, the second was more of a grinding period with individual battles being much more prevalent. One line, however, was extremely dominant throughout the period. Kadri, van Riemsdyk and Komarov dominated the period and came close to scoring several times. If not for Carey Price both Kadri and Komarov would have potted goals on gaping cages. The Leafs went to the powerplay after Tomas Plekanec earned an unsportsmanlike call by snowing Ben Scrivens. Tyler Bozak made the Habs pay, as the one fans affectionately are calling “Flowzak” for his lengthy coiffe, scored on a rebound from a Phil Kessel shot. Lupul did an excellent job of screening the goalie, and Kessel a great job of getting the puck through. Phaneuf had the other assist. Scrivens was much more reliable in the second, coming up with some big saves while the Leafs were shorthanded. He looked much more comfortable, but you have to give credit to the Leafs for doing a great job of back checking and clearing players from the front of the net. Near the end of the period, Nazem kadri was called for a boarding penalty against Andrei Markov, although, it sure looked like Markov turned his back last second, and he sure did his best soccer impression making a nice dive to draw the penalty. In any case, those calls will come all season long as expected, and perhaps Brian Burke’s “bear hug” suggestion should get a look sooner than later. The Leafs would kill it off, and finish the period ahead in shots 10-7.
The third period was played mostly in the Leafs’ zone. For the most part the Leafs did a good job of keeping the play to the outside, but they could not keep it out for the whole period. After a slashing penalty was assessed to Grabovski at 12:02, Gionta found a loose puck in the crease – as Phaneuf was caught out of position – and scored Montreal’s first goal of the game at 13:51, setting up a pretty crazy final few minutes. The goal could have also been avoided had Kulemin cleared the puck when he had the chance, but this wouldn’t be a Leafs game if not for a few heart-throbbing, “don’t blow this lead” minutes. To the Leafs credit, they were not fazed and kept their composure, ultimately coming away with the 2-1 victory. Final shots were 26 for the Leafs and 21 for the Habs.
After a shaky first period, Scrivens looked more comfortable as the game went on, and played well enough to warrant another start on Monday. A big credit goes to the team for limiting Montreal’s chances and clearing rebounds.
When I saw Phil Kessel fighting to win a puck battle on the boards in his own end, early in the first period, I knew it was a good sign. As a team, the Leafs did an excellent job of keeping Montreal to the outside, and limiting scoring chances in the crease. Carlyle’s “individual battle” message was well received, it would appear. For the most part they did a good job of clearing the crease of opposing players, and when Montreal scored their goal, the Leafs, instead of falling apart came together and closed the game out successfully. Carlyle consistently used the Grabovski line to shut down the Gionta line, and it sure is refreshing to see a coach who plays the matchups.
Debut of JVR:
James van Riemsdyk was an integral part of the Leafs best line, using his size to create room for the shifty Nazem Kadri. He wasn’t overly physical, but that’s not really his forte anyways. He was called for a questionable interference minor (looked a lot like a makeup call for the Plekanec snowing of Scrivens). He constantly went to the net and as first impressions go, this was a good one.
- Mike Kostka had an excellent debut. Playing alongside Phaneuf for most of the night, Carlyle continued to play Kostka against the opposing teams best players. He also saw Powerplay time, and sure looked like a real bright spot.
- While only playing a shade over 9 minutes, Kadri made the most of his opportunity. He was all over the ice, making things happen whenever he was called on, and of course scored the first goal.
- The Leafs were 2 for 5 on the powerplay and Montreal was 1 for 5
- The Leafs next game is Monday against Buffalo at the ACC