The Toronto Maple Leafs beat their rival the Montreal Canadiens for the third time this season in a dominant performance. The Leafs chased Carey Price from the game after just 10 minutes of play and the Canadiens were never able to recover. Toronto was the recipient of three awful goals en route to a 5-1 victory.
Montreal is arguably one of the quicker teams in the league when it comes to skating, but tonight they looked as though they didn’t have their legs. The Leafs won all the battles for loose pucks and created several odd-man rushes throughout the night. If the teams were to meet in a first-round playoff matchup, Toronto’s play against Montreal this season should give them plenty of confidence heading into a potential seven-game series.
Here are some things that stood out from the game.
Shots on Goal
Tonight Toronto won their 18th game of the year when getting out shot, which leads the National Hockey League. If you believe in advanced stats and the value of scoring chances and out shooting your opponent, it would seem the Leafs are defying the odds in 2013. This contest was especially peculiar as after the first period the Canadiens had the edge in shots 13-5, but the Leafs owned a 4-1 lead. I keep thinking this is going to eventually catch up to them, although now I’m not so sure. There have been many strange anomalies this year and Toronto’s success despite being out shot just appears to be another one on the list. This should also show how important James Reimer has been this season and a 36 save performance tonight is more evidence of that.
With Joffrey Lupul’s latest injury once again keeping him out of the line-up, Toronto isn’t going to replace his contributions with just one player. It’s going to take a team effort and that mentality was on full display against the Canadiens. Toronto had five different players score a goal and 11 skaters found the score sheet in total. Not to mention only five players didn’t finish the game with a plus rating. James van Riemsdyk continued his strong play minus Lupul as he picked up two assists. Getting production from three lines will become even more magnified during the playoffs.
The key battle coming into this one was how Montreal’s 4th ranked power play and Toronto’s 3rd ranked penalty kill would do against one another. Not only that, but how the Leafs dealt with P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, who came into today first and second in power play points respectively in the NHL, would be crucial. Toronto clearly came out on top as Montreal went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and the Leafs held both Subban and Markov without a point.
The more I see of O’Byrne, the more I like the move at the deadline by general manager Dave Nonis to bring him in. Initially I thought it was inconsequential, but having another defenseman with playoff experience could be vital in a few weeks. O’Byrne impressed tonight with some strong defensive plays and led the team with seven hits. He also picked up an assist and finished plus-2, which gives him two points and 14 hits in three games with the Leafs. He wasn’t acquired for offense, so the little he is actually putting up is just a nice bonus.