From the day that the schedule was released this game was circled on many Leafs fans' calendars. These two original six rivals meet far too rarely nowadays so meetings between the two, regardless of the Leafs' fortunes (since the Wings' haven't flagged in 20 years), generate a great buzz. Last night's 4-2 Red Wings win was no different. That was evident throughout the game as the fanbases roared out duelling "Let's Go Red Wings" and "Go Leafs Go" chants. Our boy Eyebleaf made the trip although I'm not sure he had the best experience with the locals.
The Leafs' play of late has been encouraging but tonight's game highlighted the gulf in class that remains between them and the league's elite. No rational Leafs fans were in any doubt of that fact but the game still provided a useful measuring stick to keep in mind. The Red Wing's powerplay was lethal at 2-for-3 on the night in part because their system seems pretty straight forward: Screen the goalie, blast it from the point. On the other side, their PK was a perfect 4-for-4 in large part because of their puck pressure. They didn't concede the blue line to the Leafs, making dump ins difficult, and when Toronto did get possession in Detroit's zone they were constantly harrassed. At even strength the Leafs were stymied for the most part by the Red Wings' almost impeccable neutral zone trap.
Nazem Kadri scored his second career goal on a nicely delayed wrist shot through a screen.
Dion Phaneuf played a beastly 30 minutes, picked up an assist, was +2 and broke a pane of glass with a dump in.
Joffrey Lupul scored his best goal as a Maple Leaf. After crashing the net and being dumped on Jimmy Howard by Kris Draper he slid the puck around his own prone body and into the empty net.
The Leafs were shredded at the face off dot: 61-39. This was a large part of the reason why the powerplay struggled so mightily. They were always starting the PP in their own zone.
Bruce Arthur said that having Todd Bertuzzi essentially end your season was one of the worst ways to go. I can't imagine of worst ones but it's not over yet. SkinnyFish will have the updated Death Clock today. It's not midnight yet...
Toronto Maple Leafs v. Detroit Red Wings Highlights