"Tyler Bozak penalty shot" has become music to my ears, as the center scored on a chance after being hooked on a breakaway. Nazem Kadri would then collect a rebound from Nikolai Kulemin and put it past Henrik Lundqvist to put the Leafs up 2-0. The Leafs would, in the Leafiest of ways, give up two short handed goals on the same power play to tie the game at two. But never fear, as Tyler Bozak would take a doorstep shot to beat Lundqivst for the win. Here's your game in six:
The Leafs first line got absolutely buried tonight - having spent almost the entire game against Derek Stepan-Chris Kreider-Rick Nash and Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonaugh - but oh man does Tyler Bozak look good over this recent hot streak. I really like his effort to drive the net with some short bursts of speed, and his play that drew the penalty shot is a good example of that. I think one thing that gets underdiscussed about Bozak is that his shooting percentage is really high across his career. I don't think it entirely explains his high on-ice shooting percentage, but his 18.4 s% over the last three years ranks fourth among players with more than 40 GP. The whole top line had some nice skill plays, including Phil Kessel's drawing two Rangers d-men into the boards, and James Van Riemsdyk with an amazing pop-pass to himself over Ryan McDonough's head with 8:45 to go in the third.
Kulemin had a phenomenal game as well. On the Kadri goal, Kulemin walks out low, turns, and gets a really nice shot away to generate the rebound. He drew a penalty (and later took one), but he continues to look like an effective depth winger. Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin looked great night, and it's nice to see a second line clicking again. It's nice to see the Leafs top six producing skilled offensive plays, like you'd expect looking at these names on paper.
Jake Gardiner had a multi-post shot that stopped play for review, in part thanks to a nice pass by Troy Bodie. The fourth line still only took single-digits ice time, but using that time effectively seems like such a great addition to a team. I feel really lucky to watch Gardiner skate, and it's true for Rielly too. Franson, on the other hand, needs to stop pinching as if he were Rielly or Gardiner - he can't skate his way out of trouble.
I thought Jonathan Bernier looked really good. Calm, cool, and collected late in the game, stopping 35 of 37, and I don't really blame short handed breakaways/off-the-d-man-deflections on the goalie. Nice for him to get a recent game that didn't include a moment of terrible decision making.
There were a lot of things wrong with this game that continue to reflect badly on coaching - the world record for shorties against and the shots-against collapse that New Leafs weren't support to do to name two - but most of them are consistent with things we've identified throughout the season. Tonight's game was about a competent group of hockey playing forwards and two points in the standings.