It’s a funny feeling, losing in a shootout – doesn’t really feel like a loss, but that extra point would always be nice. Fortunately for the Leafs, that extra point didn’t go to anyone else in their conference, and to be honest, after a rough first period, this one felt like a win. A day fueled by speculation that the Leafs were pursuing veteran keeper Marty Turco was aided by a shaky start from Ben Scrivens, but I think he did a damn fine job of re-inspiring a bit of confidence in himself with his play over the final two periods and overtime. Should be interesting to see who gets the start on Thursday in Nashville.
- It seems like just about every time I do this, I lead it off with Phil Kessel. And I’m going to keep doing that as long as I possibly can, because, dammit he’s been the best player in the league so far and deserves every bit of praise he gets. Another goal tonight – although he shoulda had a few more – and he remains atop the league in goals and points. What’s even better, is that he continues to display that newfound two-way game – coming back to help in the defensive zone, including breaking up a sure goal late in the 2nd period.
- Kudos to Mike Komisarek. If anyone deserved a goal, it was this guy, who’s been so maligned over the past few seasons, that he’s not even getting credit for the solid play he’s turned in this season. He’s played physical without getting out of position, and is 3rd on the team at +4, impressive considering the Leafs are currently operating at a -8 goal differential.
- Props to the special teams. A clutch powerplay goal to tie the game, and some pretty decent penalty killing. Still not enough to keep them out of the league’s special teams bottom feeders, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
- Ben Scrivens’ final 45 minutes of play were outstanding. He turned in a number of quality saves that gave the Leafs the chance to get back into the game, including the huge one you’ll see in tonight’s highlight. He’s got that Reimer-esque quality of being able to shrug off pretty much whatever comes along – a good quality in a goalie.
- The MGK line might be getting a forced rearrangement with injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur keeping them both out of the overtime play. That may not be the worst thing in the world. That line went 4 games without even registering an assist until Nikolai Kulemin got an assist on Kessel’s game-tying goal. Kulemin had a couple golden chances to break his slump, and I probably would have chosen a different move in the shootout if I was a struggling goalscorer, but I still have faith that he’ll turn this around. He is a bit of a streaky scorer, and you get the feeling once he gets the monkey off his back again, he’ll be good to go.
- Matt Frattin continued to be snake-bitten, despite having a number of scoring chances. He didn’t look as good tonight as he has some other nights, and alot of that probably has to do with the Coyotes’ strong defensive play, but his leash has got to be getting short.
- As good as Scrivens was to close out the game, he was that bad in the first ten minutes. Neither of the Coyotes’ goals should have gotten by him, even the one on the 2-on-1. Another shutout in the shootout would probably have let the bipolar Leaf Nation look past it all, but you can guarantee the speculation around the Leafs’ goaltending will continue for the rest of the week, at least until the Leafs win again and we’re all back on top of the world again.
- A slow start from the Leafs wasn’t helped by Scrivens’ shaky opening, but the goalie only controls so much. The Leafs were uninspired for most of the opening 20 minutes, and deserved to be down, regardless of the way their goalie played.
- The Leafs are no longer first in their division. Buffalo has 22 points as well, but holds a game in hand on the Buds, as well as an extra win.