In their season and home opener, the Leafs fell to Montreal, 4-3 - but boy was it fun to watch them play. Max Pacioretty opened the season scoring, in what looked like a bit of a wake-up goal on Jonathan Bernier (and a bit of a "talented player beats Dion Phaneuf to the outside"). Nazem Kadri answered, thanks to a tip on Brandon Kozun's shot, and Tyler Bozak put the Leafs up 2-1 as Stuart Percy shuffled a carry-in into the corner, then gets up on the forecheck, wins the race to the puck and passes to the middle - from there, Bozak lays down a nice shot from in-close. A blind pass from Bozak through the neutral zone gets passed to Tomas Plekanec on a breakaway, who puts it home. P.K. Subban did what Subban does, Morgan Rielly answered back with a somewhat fortuitous bounce, and with under a minute to play, Plekanec put an equally fortunate bounce off Stuart Percy for the win. Here's your game in six:
There isn't a lot we can figure out about the Leafs' 2014-15 season from just one game, but there are a couple things that looked really interesting, and we might want to look out for going forward:
- Stuart Percy. 20 minutes on ice, time on both the PP and the PK, even zone starts at 5v5, and boy was he fun to watch. Polak posted strong 5v5 numbers, but I think a lot of it had to do with Percy coming up with creative plays to help out the pairing.
- When in their own zone, the Leafs actually challenged the defender, both at 5-on-5 and on the PK. It was glorious to see a puck-side winger actually cut off the outlet pass simply by staying above the half-boards.
- In the middle of the second, Winnik closed his hand on the puck and chucked it into the offensive zone - it was a penalty. Was it the dumbest penalty we'll see all season? Maybe.
- Ice time was a lot more equitable among the depth forwards - except for Matt Frattin (9.34) every forward outside of the first line spent between 10.07 and 12.01 ES TOI. The first line was on for closer to 15 minutes of even strength (and about 3 minutes of PP time).
- Mystery injuries: Phaneuf went to the dressing room after blocking a PK Subban shot on the PK. He was back shortly afterward. A couple people mentioned it on twitter, but Phil Kessel didn't look healthy either - a little slower than usual on the acceleration, and he opted for a pass on all four (or maybe five) rushes into the zone where he was on his off-wing. Not sure what that lower body issue during pre-season may have been, but it's worth thinking about going forward. Also, it'd be odd for Carlyle to play him so heavily if he were dealing with a significant injury, so maybe it's nothing (or maybe that's Carlyle).
- Clarkson looked lousy, but the Leafs' depth players actually spent time in the offensive zone. Yes, it's because Carlyle still gave the worst line some cushy zone starts, but that's still not something you could say at any point over the last, oh, three years (as far as I remember).
- It felt like there were a lot of blind passes. Getting creative is good, but the Plekanec breakaway goal came off a blind pass into the neutral zone, and a few wing-to-wing passes became turnovers.
- I think Bozak looked pretty Bozak tonight. Nice job crashing the net when Percy went into the corner, nice shot from in close, but Subban's goal came partly because he was soft in the corner (and partly because JVR was on the half-boards instead of the open man), Plekanec's goal came partly because of his blind pass through the neutral zone (and partly because Rielly does a little loop instead of finding the passing lane), and his line got thrashed in possession numbers. Hopefully increased trust in the depth players will allow for a little line juggling, but that never really showed up in pre-season despite Randy's lip service.