Huge win for the Leafs tonight. The save by Giguere as time expired is the difference between this season and last. You can bet your last dollar that shot would have found a way past Vesa Toskala. I’m too ecstatic to put together coherent thoughts at the moment, so here’s my game notes instead:
- Turnovers early from Beauchemin and Schenn proved to be signs of things to come. Midway through the 3rd, the Leafs had 16 turnovers to the Habs’ 6. At least ten were from Schenn, Komisarek and Gunnarsson, and the last one by Beauchemin in the closing seconds nearly cost us the game.
- When was the last time the Leafs had a legitimate checking line that could be trusted to take opponents’ top line all night? (I personally can’t think of one at the moment, so I’ll get back to you) Colby Armstrong, Tim Brent and Freddie Sjostrom were excellent all night, limiting Gomez to one shot and holding Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot without a shot on the night. It’s way too early to be sure, but this line could be the real deal. Sjostrom’s defensive skill is no secret, and Armstrong is a very physical two-way guy.
- And, speaking of that line, Brent did for the Leafs something they hardly ever did last year: score the first goal. Colton Orr created the play with a huge hit on Plekanec and Dion Phaneuf got his first point on the season as his wrist shot was tipped up by Brent, who came straight from the bench to the front of the net. Great all-around play.
- Just like that, Phil Kessel was in behind the D and tucked it under Price to make it 2-0. “He’s too fast” was scribbled next to his name in my notes.
- Those turnovers mentioned earlier? One of Gunnarsson’s led to the Habs’ first goal.
- The Leafs didn’t manage to get a powerplay goal, but when they were set up in the zone and running this new motion system, they looked great and set up some solid chances. The Canadiens are a very aggressive penalty killing team, though – remember, they shut down the Capitals for 7 games – and the Leafs struggled to get into the zone at times. And did Tomas Kaberle really shoot the puck 3 times on the powerplay?
- The Leafs’ penalty kill may have been the biggest story of the night. Three straight powerplays for Montreal in the middle of the second period would have spelled doom last year. Sjostrom, Brent, Versteeg, Armstrong, Mike Brown - all newcomers who saw significant killing time.
- Kris Versteeg brings something the Leafs haven’t had in awhile – someone who can lug the puck through the zone, although in his case, it’s more like he floats it through. He’s smooth, he’s fast, and with Bozak and Kessel now streaking to get open instead of making their own plays, that top line looked absolutely dominant at some points. One specific instance in the 3rd, they cycled the puck through the whole line skating literally in the same 10 foot radius, but too fast for any Montreal defender to disrupt without taking a penalty. Of course, seconds later, one did, but then the Leafs controlled the puck and took two shots over the next minute and 15 seconds with the goalie pulled.
- Welcome to the Leafs, Clarke MacArthur – sick dangles, by the way.
- PK Subban. As much as I hate to say it, this kid could be the real deal. “He’s a good forward who plays D.”
- Story of the game: JS Giguere, no question. 26 saves on the night, one on a breakaway right after the MacArthur goal in the 2nd, a huge pad save on Lars Eller in the 3rd, but none bigger than the two he made on Gionta as time expired.
- Scariest moment of the game wasn’t Gionta’s near-miss. It was when Phaneuf left for the locker room. I got chills when they introduced him as the Captain to a roaring house that had just cheered through a passionate opening ceremony.
Topics: Brian Gionta, Carl Gunnarsson, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom, JS Giguere, Kris Versteeg, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek, Montreal Canadiens, Phil Kessel, Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak