The Toronto Maple Leafs won their season opener in Montreal tonight, beating the Canadiens by a score of 4-3. The Leafs held on for the victory, but much of the post-game reaction on various outlets will be focused on a frightening incident that took place in the third period. Here are a few takeaways from the game:
Fighting Is Stupid, Episode #745
Colton Orr and George Parros engaged in their second fight of the game early in the third period. Orr lost his balance during the scrap, and fell backwards. As Orr was falling, he grabbed on to Parros’ sweater, and he was dragged to the ice as well. Because his hands were tied up with Orr, Parros had no way to break his fall, and ended up landing face-first on the ice. Parros was knocked unconscious instantly, eventually regaining consciousness, but obviously very dazed and confused. He was wheeled away on a stretcher after a long delay. He was taken to hospital, and we obviously wish him a full recovery.
During this whole scene, the Bell Centre fell eerily silent. For a crowd that was basically foaming at the mouth during every fight, the shocked silence was a stark contrast. These types of incidents are becoming way too prevalent in hockey, as we saw Corey Tropp of the Buffalo Sabres get knocked unconscious when his head hit the ice during a fight between Jamie Devane of the Leafs in the preseason. I enjoy the odd scrap between skilled players, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend fighting’s place in the game with these kinds of horrific scenes taking place. At this point, I can’t wait for fighting to go the way of the dodo bird. Coaches like Randy Carlyle and Michel Therrien are simply delaying the inevitable by dressing unskilled face-punchers like Orr and Parros.
The shot count was 38-37 in favour of the Leafs. That’s a lot of shots. Although it wasn’t a low-scoring game by any means, both goalies actually played pretty well. Reimer, in true Reimer form, turned away a late flurry of chances by the Habs as time expired. Carlyle’s team still has a frustrating tendency to allow a lot of shots when they are leading, and it almost came back to bite them again in this one.
When Eller Attacks
Lars Eller was a one-man wrecking crew tonight, scoring twice and adding an assist. He also fired six shots on net and had three more attempts blocked. His line with sophomores Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher was a force, keeping possession in the Leafs’ zone for long stretches using their collective speed. Some players simply have good games, but it’s not a good sign that the Leafs’ defense had so much trouble with that line.
Ranger, Gardiner Struggle
As I mentioned, it wasn’t a great game for the Leafs’ D as a whole, but Ranger and Gardiner stood out by how much they struggled. Ranger seems a step or two slow, which might be attributed to the fact he’s had such a long layoff since his last NHL regular season game. On the third Habs’ goal, Eller beat Gardiner in a footrace (which doesn’t happen very often) down the wing, taking the puck to the net on a breakaway and beating Reimer short side. Ranger was on the ice as well, and wasn’t in any position to impede Eller. My guess is one of these players or Mark Fraser will sit out tomorrow night in Philadelphia.