Before I start this piece that you came to see, please sit here for a 20 minute introduction. PPP will have a torch that he hands off to Birky, who will hand it off to me, and I will look very solemn as a child takes it away from me and we all wonder what the hell you just sat through.
But then: hockey.
The Leafs beat the Habs in a 2-1 game that was eerily reminiscent of last season's play for both teams - especially the part where Colby Armstrong loses. Carey Price held the Habs in the game, who always have been and always will be terrible. The Leafs had a nerve-racking closing 5 minutes, but managed to squeeze out a win.
Kadri opened the season's scoring with a power play goal, followed by Bozak banging one home. The Habs responded while on a power play late in the third, which reminded all the fans who hadn't left that there was still a game to be finished, but came up short.
Like their fans, the Habs miss the hell out of PK Subban. Secret Agent Tomas Kaberle subverted the Montreal power play, and their blue line suddenly didn't look much like a threat. Here's to Subban getting all the money and term he wants. Heres your game in six:
Some thoughts on players:
Phil Kessel was a star, of course, often driving play on his own with some excellent speed and a bit of good physical play, and Joffrey Lupul got some good chances. Tyler Bozak got a goal by crashing the net, but I think he struggled outside of that play - a couple poor passes, some blatant turnovers, and to my eye, continues to be the weakest part of that line by far.
James Van Riemsdyk-Nazem Kadri-Leo Komarov line looked good in their limited time. I was a little surprised to see that Kadri had the least TOI out of the three - especially after his PP goal - but I expect that this line will see more ice time in home games when Carlyle can dictate the matchups. I thought Komarov looked "meh" at best. A lot of bowling around and several shots that were wide of the net. I know it's one game - and an NHL debut at that - but I keep wondering why he's on the third line instead of taking Orr's spot on the fourth, with Matt Frattin in his place on the third (mostly so that Frattin-Kadri-JVR can form the FKR line). That said, Carlyle gave Komarov 3:27 of SH-TOI, so maybe there's some defensive play I'm missing. I think Komarov's much more of a "player to watch" than his linemates, given the unknown.
Ben Scrivens looked "good enough." He wound up on his ass more often than one would like to see at the NHL level, but the puck bounced the right way and second chances weren't really an issue. In a post-Jonas Gustavsson world, I keep reminding myself that the best goalie is a boring goalie, and Scrivens definitely wasn't boring tonight. Frustrated by his ability to stop pucks, the Habs were up to their usual "we-can't-play-hockey" tricks. Ryan White ran Scrivens early in the game and Tomas "Scumbag" Plekanec sprayed Scrivens after the whistle, each earning well-deserved penalties.
Mike Komisarek also deserves a shout-out, as he had a very quiet game, albeit over just 16:27 of ice time. Cody Franson had 12:35 in ice time, with 3:30 of it on the power play. Some other special teams troopers: Jay McClement with 7:02 of SH TOI (more than he had EV TOI), John-Michael Liles with a little over 4 minutes on both the PP and the PK, and Dion Phaneuf was a heavy go-to for Carlyle, with 16:21 EV, 4:42 PP, and 5:40 SH.
At the team level, I thought the PK was good; a lot more "clears the zone" than "to the line, but not out," and a lot less "screen our goalie! It's a great plan!" The PP was "okay; there wasn't a lot of possession in the zone, not much setting up the cycle, but Kadri's goal came from a nice Kessel pass off the half boards, so the job got done. The Leafs sat back in the third and Scumbag Gionta's PP goal came as Phaneuf couldn't clear two midgets out of the front of the net.
Man of the match: In his NHL debut, rookie Mike Kostka outperformed expectations with his play. Second in the Leafs ice time with 22:51, Kostka was slow but smart. Several good clears, didn't bumble the puck at all, and was generally where he needed to be. I'm not sure I'm comfortable having him on the top pairing against better teams, but he performed well tonight, and think he'll be a good fit on a depth pairing going forwards. He saw 5 minutes on the PP, but I'm not sure that he represents a better option than Phaneuf, Gardiner, Liles, or Franson, if all are healthy.
Last year, I added the TimeOnIce scripts and shift charts to the bottom of these recaps, but unfortunately, the site hasn't been updated for 2012-2013. (Apparently it'll be updated soon - I'm really interested in seeing Carlyle's matchups for this game and going forwards.) What'd you see in tonight's game? Besides a whole lot of very sad Habs fans, of course.