The Leafs were in Anaheim last night for a late-night tilt after a three-day break to take on the suddenly-surging Ducks. Several familiar faces could be found around the rink for Leafs' fans, as former Buds Mike Santorelli and Korbinian Holzer dressed in orange in this one. Moreover, Randy Carlyle was present at the game, taking notes and trying to stay prepared if/when he is offered another coaching job in the NHL. I present no further comment on that.
The Ducks began the game with very assertive control of the game through the first seven minutes, jumping out to an 11-1 lead in shots, generating several dangerous chances all the while. Several of those chances came as Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and P.A. Parenteau got caught running around in their own end while the Corey Perry line forced Jonthan Bernier, who was making his 8th consecutive start, to make several great saves.
It was the Bozak line who struck first, however, as a Bozak faceoff win lead to a Matt Hunwick shot being blocked and Parenteau snapping home the loose puck before Ducks' goalie John Gibson could adjust his angle XXXXXXXXXXXaccordingly.
Kevin Bieksa had an eventful first period, first dancing past Jake Gardiner and going in alone for a great chance on net, but Bernier was again up to the test. Bieksa immediately followed the play by taking a terribly retaliation penalty, slashing Dion Phaneuf after the whistle, which gave Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri a good chance to crash the net and come close to extending the Leafs' lead to 2. Gibson managed to smother the play.
Later in the period with the Ducks pressing, Ryan Getzlaf and van Riemsdyk exchanged shoves and slashes before Getzlaf challenged JvR to a fight that JvR wisely declined.
With two minutes left in the opening period Roman Polak absolutely decked Santorelli from behind, well after the puck had been moved. Josh Manson took great exception to this (and rightly so) and immediately challenged Polak to a fight, only the Leafs' third this season. The Leafs wound up with the extra minor penalty on the play, and though the Ducks looked extremely dangerous on the power play, the Leafs held them off.
By the end of the period, the shots were 18-8 in favour of the Ducks, and really, the difference was Bernier. He was fantastic through the first 20 minutes, as the score could easily have been 4-1 in favour of the Ducks. The 5v5 raw CF numbers were 22-8 in favour of Anaheim.
The second period got off to a strong start for the Leafs, as the Kadri line hemmed the Ducks in their own end, and managed to change so that the Bozak line came out and did the same thing, preventing the Ducks from leaving the zone at all for the first two minutes of the game. Gibson made several great stops to keep his side within one.
The Leafs kept the pressure up long enough for Komarov to draw a penalty against Ryan Kesler (already the Leafs' third power play of the game), but the Leafs were unable to capitalize on the power play that followed.
Toronto's dominance continued unabated through the halfway mark of the game, as Kadri was given the challenge of going up against Getzlaf on a defensive zone draw, and Kadri rose to the occasion, coming back to make a strong defensive play to break up a pass. As Kadri rose from one knee, he came up shoulder-first right into an unsuspecting Perry, who stayed down on the ice for some time. Although at full speed, the hit appeared somewhat dirty, on close inspection, it was in fact shoulder-on-shoulder.
The Bozak line continued its hot scoring streak, as an excellent Gardiner saucer pass sprang Bozak, who sent JvR in alone against Gibson. Gibson managed to make the initial stop but it was again Parenteau who cleaned up the rebound by going to the net to pot his second of the game and put the Leafs up 2-0.
Kadri kept the ball rolling as he notched his 11th point in 9 games, wiring a shot over Gibson's shoulder to make it 3-0 Leafs. It was a strange play to say the least. Kadri broke his stick in the defensive zone, but Komarov and Polak were able to skate the puck up ice with a couple quick passes. Kadri followed the play, hustling by the Leafs' bench where a stick was waiting for him. As Kadri hurtled into the Ducks' zone, Komarov faked a shot well enough to freeze Gibson, and then fed Kadri for the goal. At that point, the Leafs had out-shot the Ducks 16-11 in the period.
A tale of two periods pic.twitter.com/V7y9C7PEgf— birky (@b1rky) January 7, 2016
Before 40 minutes were up, the Ducks would give the Leafs their 4th power play chance of the game, but the Leafs were again unable to make the Ducks pay.
In the opening moments of the third period, Kadri made a good stick check to knock the puck loose and went hard to the net, where Gibson managed to foil the Leaf's most recent attempt. As Kadri lost his balance, however, he fell awkwardly into Gibson, who appeared to twist his right leg as he fell, forcing the Ducks to take him out of the game and put in Frederik Anderson.
Perry managed to pick up speed and go unchecked through the neutral zone, where his linemate Getzlaf hit him with a pass to send him in alone, only to have Bernier come up big once again. Matt Hunwick did his best to give Perry trouble on the backcheck, but Perry was still frustrated enough at the end of the play to slam his stick against the glass after the whistle.
Things continued to go poorly for the Ducks as just minutes later, the Leafs' fourth line cashed in for another goal. With some great work being done by the unit to keep the Ducks hemmed in, Phaneuf lobbed a puck towards the net, and Brad Boyes, standing in front of the net, so completely changed the direction of the shot that a far side shot only just made it in the short side. It was the first shot Anderson faced.
The Leafs' fourth line of Shawn Matthias, Boyes, and Mark Arcobello looked good all night, even when they wound up facing the Perry-Getzlaf duo on occasion, and they are making a good case for being the Leafs' best combination of fourth line players so far this season.
Bernier and Perry had been exchanging extra-curricular pleasantries all evening, and Bernier had made several great stops on the Ducks' star winger, when finally, in one long sequence, things boiled over between them. Perry started by giving Bernier a light facewash, who returned the favour with interest in the form of a slash. Then, Perry turned around and openly cross-checked Bernier to the ice. Morgan Rielly took exception to this, but in the melee that followed, the Ducks wound up taking two extra minor penalties which gave the Leafs a 2-minute 5-on-3, which they failed on covert on.
For several minutes after the play, Anaheim fans booed Bernier every time he touched the puck.
With just over four minutes to play, Bieksa pounded a shot on net from the point that clanged off the post, and then forced Bernier to make yet another save on the rebound from the slot. The Ducks just couldn't get anything going.
Although the Leafs allowed 39 shots, they had 38 of their own by the end of the evening, and considering that they lead for most of the game, that represents a strong effort, particularly after such a weak first period. Perhaps best of all, the Leafs actually had more 5v5 score-adjusted shot attempts than the Ducks, which is a very positive sign.
Notes on individual players:
- Bernier, Bernier, Bernier.
- Nazem Kadri had a career high 8 shots on the evening to go with his goal. This was definitely a good game for him and his line.
- P.A. Parenteau came to within inches of scoring his first career hat trick this evening, as he had a glorious chance from in close with under 30 seconds left in the game.
- The Bozak line bore the brunt of the responsibility for the Getzlaf-Perry line in this one, which was an interesting departure from Kadri having to shoulder the workload of the toughest matchups. Although Perry had several good chances on net, Getzlaf didn't, and credit has to be given to the Bozak line for scoring twice and keeping two big names off the score sheet. Moreover, both of Anaheim's big stars were frustrated enough to take a few bad penalties and give further advantage to the Leafs.
- OK, so this comment isn't on any particular Leafs' player, but you would really hope with all the power play they got tonight that they could cash in, but their 5-on-5 scoring made the issue largely irrelevant.
- I should reiterate: the fourth line is doing great work these days. Shawn Matthias, Brad Boyes, and Mark Arcobello deserve to remain with the Leafs after Byron Froese gets healthy.
- The best 5v5 raw Corsi unit was Kadri's. It shouldn't be entirely surprising that taking them away from such tough competition would yield such results, but it's still nice to see.
- By the same numbers, the best Leafs' defencemen were Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf. Both players were effective at both ends of the ice, making safe plays in their own end and contributing to the offensive push at the other. Phaneuf had a point on the Boyes goal and Gardiner's sweet dish kick-started the play for Parenteau's second goal.
- Morgan Rielly and Matt Hunwick had something of a tough night. They were burned for two breakaways and also wound up at the bottom of the Leafs 5v5 raw Corsi numbers. Hunwick did get an assist on Parenteau's first goal, but it was a bouncing puck that simply landed on Parenteau's stick. It certainly would be nice to see Rielly contribute more offensively like he was at the start of the season. It's hard not to think that things would be different if he weren't playing with Hunwick.