While it's true that last night's game had its soft spots for the Leafs - particularly in the defensive zone in the first half of the game - overall, fans have to be quite happy with what they saw from the Buds last night. I'm not going to recap everything, just give a few thoughts.
- James Reimer had a good game, despite allowing three goals. He made some spectacular saves, and couldn't really be faulted on any of the goals. At least, he wasn't the main problem. Finishing the night with 34 stops on 37 shots is good for a .919 Sv%, which is a competitive act for Jonathan Bernier to follow tonight against the Flyers.
- Nazem Kadri wasn't exactly all over the ice, but he nevertheless has a couple very good chances on net, set up Dion Phaneuf for a goal, and those nifty mittens looked to be every bit as dangerous as last year. My sense is that the Leafs already have quite a good 2nd line center on their hands, and he's not finished getting better. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how he does this season. Ah yes, and he still draws penalties like a boss.
- James van Riemsdyk lead the Leafs with 6 shots, picked up a goal, and looks like he's in mid-season form. Solid.
- Phil Kessel had 5 shots, an assist on JvR's power play goal, and we're all thrilled he's back for 8 more years. What else can you say about the guy? He's awesome. Healy complained that Kessel didn't get back on one of the goals against, but that's bunk. Gunnarsson lost his footing and the Habs were able to take advantage. Not Kessel's fault.
- Dion Phaneuf looked strong throughout the game. He had a beauty of a goal, going bar-down on Carey Price, after jumping into the rush. Even though Phaneuf and new/old partner Carl Gunnarsson were on the ice for a goal, it was good to see them back together. Props to Randy Carlyle for that.
- Speaking of Randy Carlyle, he's in the good books for this one. It was perhaps a strange move to put Paul Ranger on the power play, but I'm certainly not opposed to giving him a shot. Mason Raymond is also maybe not the best option on the power play, but while Clarkson is gone and the team is figuring things out it's no big deal. Heck, MayRay wound up scoring the winning goal.
Before the game, Carlyle came out with the rather eyebrow-raising statement that he wanted his team to hang on to the puck more and he actually used the word "possession". Even spookier was that the team actually did pretty well in terms of Corsi/Fenwick numbers during this game. [Glove tap to @vaswani_ for that link. Seriously, check that site out.] Yeah, yeah, it's only one game, but it still beats watching the Leafs chase the puck all over their own end for one game. The power play clicked (though they allowed a shortie on a Jake Gardiner giveaway), the penalty kill was perfect and even added a shortie. I also think some credit is also owed to Carlyle for starting Reimer. To top it all off, Carlyle sounded very reasonable in his press conference. WE ARE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, PEOPLE.
- Mayson Raymond may not be the best person for the Leafs' second power play unit, but he's got wheels, a nose for the net, and, quite frankly, has impressed me every time I've watched him, whether it was in training camp, exhibition games, or last night's opener. With the cap hit he's got, he's a candidate for pickup of the summer. Given equal ice time and linemates (an impossible hypothetical I know), I'd bet he could score at least as many points as David Clarskson.
- The fourth line actually looked OK last night, and it's in large part thanks to Troy Bodie. I loved what I saw of him last night, driving the net, showing some good speed, using size to protect the puck. Eager to see more of this guy.
The Bad (But not awful.)
- Well, OK, there was one awful thing, but it wasn't something a Leafs player did. The George Parros injury was scary. The arena was like a library for a good 15 minutes after that. Parros has a concussion and is in hospital but was tweeting earlier. At least he's... well, he's not OK, but it could have been worse. Carlyle had some nice words about Parros after the game.
- Nobody was awful in this one, though as I already mentioned a few Leafs defenders had a shaky start to their games. Jake Gardiner was the culprit on a few giveaways, most notably late in the game to give Lars Eller a breakaway. That Eller managed to score on that chance probably means Gardiner sits in the next game for Morgan Rielly, but we'll see. It wouldn't be the worst move, but I don't want Gardiner sitting out for 9 games, either.
- Mark Fraser is what he is. He's not an offensively-minded guy, isn't very fast, and is a long way from a stalwart in his own end. He threw a nice hit or two, got into a scrap with his helmet off (against medical advice - his skull is screwed together with a metal plate). Oh, and he took an extra penalty for flattening Brendan Prust (OK, a little funny) and removing his helmet during the fight.
- Paul Ranger looked totally confused on the Habs' first goal (c-o-v-er-age?) but got better as the game wore on. He didn't look awful on the Leafs' power play, but the Leafs also probably have better weapons. Besides, it's not like he was used much on the PP in Tampa.