As the saying goes 'To be the best, you first have to beat the best', and the Leafs did just that tonight as they down the league leading Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-3 in the team's first full 60 minute game of the season. From puck drop to the final, tonight's game was the most complete effort of the season thus far. No place is this more clear than in the boxscore where Matt Frattin had a team low 9:46 of icetime; the only player under 10 minutes. Think about that for a second. 17 out of 18 skaters played more than 10 minutes in a 60 minute hockey game. That's ridiculous, but it's paying off in spades as the team has looked much fresher in the 3rd period over the last two games, and is especially important because the Leafs play Ottawa tomorrow. This is simply great foresight and coaching by Ron Wilson.
More after the jump.
Another great coaching decision was changing up the look of the powerplay. Anemic in the first 9 games, the PP went 2-for-2 tonight in a combined 28 seconds. What Wilson has been is implement a modified umbrella powerplay with Phaneuf's big shot at the top and two forwards stack up in the middle of the ice; one in front of the net and another at the hashmarks. This creates tons of traffic in front as made evident on Grabovski's goal, perfect shooting lanes for a tipped shot. I only wish Pittsburgh would have gone to the box more so I could see how Wilson wants to use the two players on the boards (probably to draw their defender low and then set up Phaneuf on top). Sure it's only been one game, but I think we can definitely look forward to a much improved PP from this point forward.
Also bringing his A-game was Jonas Gustavsson who turned away 34 of 37 shots, a tremendous feat, and made it possible for the rest of the Leafs to win the game. In the last three games his play has only gotten better as he's shown the ability many thought he had when he first came to the league 2 years ago. Oh yeah and Phil Kessel now leads the league in goals (10) and points (18); and Dion Phaneuf is second in defensive scoring with 11 points. I wonder which one will get picked last at this year's All-Star game........
Really I could go on and on about how great the team played tonight, but it'd probably just devolve into nothing but happy dancing gifs. Great game tonight boys. Let's keep it up!