Don't cut across the blueline kids.
The Toronto Maple Leafs held on for dear life as they beat the Ottawa Senators 6-5. I'm not entirely sure what happened but I suspect that the Leafs were just doing their part to keep James Reimer grounded by reminding him that he needs their help to win games. At least, I think that should explain why the Leafs absolutely fell apart and almost allowed a team that had been overmatched for most of the opening 40 minutes steal a point..
A team can only beat the competition that is in front of them so wins over a Habs team destined for the battle for 6-10 in the conference and the favourites for 30th in the NHL aren't the stuff dreams are made of. Luckily, there are no style points in the standings so the Leafs' 2-0-0 record gives them the same four points that Philadelphia gets for beating the Bruins and the Devils. The powerplay again looked lively and the penalty kill was strong for the first 50 minutes (you'll see a recurring theme) which is nice to see continue.
So despite the almost Chernobyl-like meltdown that the Leafs had, the game did have its fair share of good . Stephane Da Costa will forever be alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Matt Carkner in highlight reels showcasing Senators that got dummied. As @SuicidePass said, Dion hit him so hard he broke his last name in two.
Here Lies Stephane Da Costa
"The one thing that bugs me is when you make a clean hit, guys come in and expect you to fight" said Phaneuf after his hit caused Chris Neil to pick a fight with Luke Schenn shortly afterwards. "I don’t have anything to prove to them, I’m going to play the style that I play. That’s the one thing I don’t understand."
Credit to Da Costa for taking the hit, saying it was his fault for cutting across the blueline (Rock 'Em Sock 'Em hockey never made it to France), and that it was a clean hit. Not only that, he came back and scored the Senators' goal. After the hit you'd have expected him to either join the Maple Leafs or head to the dressing room.
- Phil Kessel was an absolute beast. His hat trick highlighted his speed, his great wrist shot, and the predatory instinct he possesses.
- Dion Phaneuf picked up another assist on Mikhail Grabovski's opener to give him three points and one player turned to dust this year. Someone on Twitter noted that it gave him 25 points in his last 38 games. Second Half Dion is a pretty good hockey player.
- The Matt Frattin Experiment looked good again alongside Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. He skated well with them, hit a goal post, and made a few nifty plays. With Wilson suggesting that Nazem Kadri might drop to the Marlies for a conditioning stint and some games before coming back to the Leafs it will be interesting to see how this next week pans out now that Clarke MacArthur has served his suspension.
- Joffrey Lupul quietly had a three point night and if not for a spectacular save by Craig Anderson he would have had two goals.
- James Reimer's first 40 minutes were exactly what everyone is hoping for this year. He was well positioned, controlled his rebounds, and looked like he was headed towards a second straight shutout.
- For most of the opening 50 minutes the Leafs were clearly the dominant team. The Grabovski line especially was having its way with the Senators and only some good goaltending helped keep the score down.
Colton Orr scored a goal. It was a nice story when Matthew Lombardi potted one in his first game back after a concussion and it's just as nice that Orr could do it. It actually seemed like it was the hilarious cherry on the sadsack sundae that is the Ottawa Senators. And then a funny thing happened...
- Noted Leafs killers Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson were given free rein to orchestrate the Senators resurgence in the third period. They notched two points each after being muzzled for the first two periods.
- Erik Karlsson did a good Darcy Tucker impression as he picked up three assists and still finished the game -2.
- The Leafs penalty kill gave up two easy goals against which is a shame because they had been pretty damn good before those goals.
- Via @HockeyAnalysis: "Jake Gardiner was -2 in 12 minutes of ice time tonight. Had just 13:37 against Montreal. He needs to be with Marlies to play and learn." As competition steps up, there'll likely be more that he needs to work on. He's strong with the puck but he needs to improve without it.
- If people want to wax poetic about the "honour" of the league's fighting class then they might ask Zenon Konopka and Chris Neil to actually fight with their peers. Although I'd like to extend a hearty thank you for bleeding all over himself and handing the Leafs' a powerplay that helped build their ultimately unassailable lead. As Tyler Dellow noted, it wasn't clear if all of the momentum that the Senators got from Neil's fight was cancelled out by the PP goal they gave up.
- The way that the Leafs mentally checked out of the game after they got up 5-1. Sure, seeing Colton Orr score a goal must probably make you think you can hit cruise control but a better team would have completed the comeback. It's a good thing there's a week between games so that Wilson can hammer that lesson home.
- Senators fans trying to convince me that Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy are homers...FOR THE MAPLE LEAFS! I thought that Senators fans' Leafs Derangement Disease was bad but I had no idea it was that bad.
Game In Six Highlights