The Toronto Maple Leafs played the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night and -- oh, sorry, there was a goal against during that introduction. The Leafs lost the puck following the opening face-off, had no answer for the quick rush down the wing, and Blake Comeau put up the first goal 26 seconds in. Evgeni Malkin scored a power play goal later in the period, but the second was all about Leo Komarov: Two goals. Comeau matched Komarov with a tipped goal in the second, but Tyler Bozak scored on a short-handed breakaway to send it to OT...where Blake Comeau completed the hat trick. I thought Crosby touched it, but see for yourself in the game in six:
A few scattered thoughts about the game:
Let's get one thing straight: Despite Comeau's hat trick, Malkin's plays drove the offense for the Penguins. Malkin is very good at ice hockey. I feel like he's been washed over by the Crosby/Ovechkin/Stamkos discussion, but it was impossible to miss him last night. He exposed the passive play of the Leafs' PK with a sick slap shot from the high slot, but it's not really like you want to overcommit to the high man and risk leaving Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, or Comeau open. I'd still prefer to see the high forward challenge more there, but ok. It's easy to see why the Penguins have the league's top power play.
Nazem Kadri continues to draw penalties with a vengeance. Malkin hooked Kadri while he was puck handling in the offensive zone, and boy those are all things you wanna see. He had some great plays setting up Komarov, too, getting into the zone and maintaining the puck through pressure. Despite this, he's been placed on the second power play in favor of Lupul, Holland, and Clarkson (the last of which also enjoyed some cushy zone starts).
Leo Komarov's offensive game was on point. Both goals from going to the net, which is what he was brought in to do. Speaking of offensive outbursts, I really enjoy Tyler Bozak on a breakout. They're both fun to watch when they're in the offensive zone on the rush.
Jonathan Bernier's game looked average at best. A whole lot of scrambling, and it's a shame that he got beat by two (fairly similar) tipped goals, and maybe a slight variation in his butterfly would've made the save, but I'm not sure it could be expected of him.
On the game winner, Dion Phaneuf made a great play on Crosby in the corner, but then let him get to the net. I think the Leafs' defensive positioning (with respect to covering a man between you and the goalie) tends to be problematic -not necessarily as a product of systems, but of something. And it's not like they're particularly adept at taking the body instead (see picture above). Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, and Phaneuf all seem to do a poor job being in an advantageous spot and tying up their man when the puck inevitably gets to them. I'm not sure if it's worse than average, but forwards seem to do a great job protecting the puck in close against Leafs' defense.
Stephane Robidas and Korbinian Holzer were slaughtered in terms of possession, but it's explained in part by their zone starts. That said, whoo boy was that pile-up in late in the third embarrassing. Holzer's lucky he didn't get a penalty for covering the puck.
One other thing: I think the Pens' D seems to have more support when they jump up into the rush than the Leafs'. Often (and at least last night) when Rielly or Gardiner jump into the rush, it's one-against-the-world. When Letang did it, there were obvious passing outlets and a man covering his position. Like with the d-zone positioning, I'm not sure it's worse than you'd expect, but considering how much of an asset the Leafs' mobile defensemen could be in terms of zone entries, it'd be nice to have a little more structure.
At the end of the day, I'm happy to get a point away from a team that I still think is better than the Leafs, even if it's the first in three games against the Penguins. Toronto's next game is Saturday night against the Capitals. Go Leafs Go.