The Toronto Maple Leafs visited the Consol Energy Center for the Penguins' home opener, and got to play the spoilers as the Leafs won 5-2. Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring with a PPG slick goal and then Clarke MacArthur answered back off a beautiful feed from Nazem Kadri. James van Riemsdyk put two in the net tonight, split by Sidney Crosby's 1-on-0 wrister that beat James Reimer 5-hole. Mikhail Grabovski filled his tank and got the insurance goal after a fortuitous pass by Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak put the game away with a 5 on 3 goal. Here's your game in six:
The big concern from this game is that Joffrey Lupul took a Dion Phaneuf point shot to the forearm, and broke it. While the team hasn't issued a formal timeline for recovery from his injury, the expectation seems to be 4-6 weeks. The Leafs' top line left winger will probably be replaced by JVR or MacArthur, with Matt Frattin being brought up to fill the second line hole. It's days like this that it's nice to have some depth at the wing.
Some thoughts on the team:
The PK looked good. I think the biggest improvement the Leafs have made - and it makes them way more enjoyable to watch - is the ability to reliably clear the zone. They're tipping pucks out, dumping pucks out, carrying pucks out - there's a lot less of the "to the line and not out" or "turnover at the blue line" that builds stress.
The PP looked bad. There was no player movement - players without the puck were stationary. There were times when only one Leaf was moving at a time - a stark contrast to Pittsburgh's shifty passing plays and constant rotation. Carlyle's thoughts from the post-game:
Carlyle on PP: "Our puckhandling, we were slow on moving it. I thought we were in men's league hockey there for a while. It got better."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 24, 2013
Some thoughts on individuals:
Player of the game: James Van Riemsdyk. Great play crashing towards the front of the net, followed by a beautiful snipe on an intercepted pass. I'm hoping he gets the slot on the Kessel line.
Kulemin looked really good. His first assist came on the prototypical "power forward" move, where he drives wide, protects the puck, comes in towards the center of the ice, and makes a pass. MacArthur looked good too - generated chances, and got a goal off a very nice - and creative - setup by Kadri, who had a fairly quiet night, with his ice time back down to 12 minutes (as one would expect for a sheltered player in a game against a difficult team).
I missed Gardiner's skating. I don't think he had a particularly meaningful game,but it's fun to watch him jump into the rush. Mike Kostka needs to stop playing against top pairing competition. I think he'll be an effective depth player, but distributing the defensive ability looks to be dangerous. As another note on this defense: I'm not sure why Mike Komisarek played and Cody Franson didn't.
Reimer did well. I think if a goalie comes out of a game only giving up goals to elite scorers Malkin and Crosby, a it's not bad night. The first goal against was a power play goal where Malkin snapped a quick pass from Crosby on goal. Reimer fell a little behind the play and didn't get his pad down in time. The second goal against Reimer was a 1-on-0 with Sidney Crosby. He looked a little slow when the puck was behind the net, but it wasn't an issue. But these two goals aren't enough to disregard the rest of Reimer's play.
The Leafs were outchanced 19-14 (13-7 at ES) in this game according to Cam Charron and even though the shots were close, the third period had a lot of Penguins puck control (excluding the 5-on-3, of course). This save series - a major source of the Pens' scoring chances for the game - deserves some sort of extra recognition:
The Leafs play the Islanders tomorrow night. It'll be interesting to see who gets the start and how the Leafs will generate goal scoring without the $5.25M-dollar-man.