The dream is over. The thought of the Leafs going undefeated went by the wayside as the Colorado Avalanche improved to 3-0 on the young season defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 behind a 27-save performance courtesy of your friend and mine Semyon “V as in Vezina” Varlamov. It was an interesting affair, as the young Avalanche used their speed and aggressive approach to cause havoc on a Leafs team that has questions on defense. Jonathan Bernier had a solid performance in his own right, recording 31 saves in a losing cause, highlighted by his remarkable glove save on Gabriel Landeskog. A new feature will be in effect for tonight’s recap as we’ll examine the good, the bad, and the meh of tonight’s encounter:
- Matt Duchene has been a sub-50 per cent possession player throughout his four seasons in Colorado, having a 48.2 per cent Corsi, ranking him 10th among players with at least 1000 minutes logged for the Avalanche. The results this season though have been promising, with Duchene through three games so far recording a 57.8 per cent Corsi percentage according to Extra Skater. Just using the eye test, Duchene is a great talent, with the shiftiness he possesses alongside great stick handling. The Cory Sarich goal to tie the game at one was a good indication of his ability as his elusiveness alongside the wall eventually led to the Cory Sarich snipe (Yes I used the words Cory Sarich and snipe in the same sentence. This is not a drill…).
- You can never win a goaltending battle through 2 starts and a solid relief performance, but you certainly can’t lose it. Jonathan Bernier so far this season has come as advertised with solid rebound control and the flexibility of a cat (shout out Felix Potvin!). I love James Reimer as much as a fan can, but Bernier has been a solid foe for Optimus Reim.
- Gabriel Landeskog is somewhat the opposite of Matt Duchene in he’s been a really good possession player throughout his career (As I detailed in the Preview for this game) despite playing tough competition and I wouldn’t say he’s as shifty as Matt Duchene is. There were two instances in the first period where Landeskog carried the puck into the zone and Jake Gardiner was defending him solely. Landeskog went right by him both times with relative ease, drawing a penalty on the second instance. The guy’s got a very bright future ahead of him.
- The first period of this game was a skating exhibition on both sides of the ledger, as both teams despite there not being a boatload of scoring chances brought their defenseman on the rushes. It was really fun to watch.
- Morgan Reilly’s skating.
- The Leafs actually outdid an opponent in the Corsi department, with a 53-47 advantage in 5v5 play and a 40-31 edge in 5v5 tied per Extra Skater. A positive sign for a squad who frankly have sucked in that department during the Randy Carlyle era and towards the latter stages of the Ron Wilson era.
- Colton Orr was not good tonight as his turnover caused a 2-on-2 rush which led to a P.A. Parenteau goal to give the Avs a 2-1 lead. He also played over nine minutes on the night, an inexcusable amount of ice time considering Nazem Kadri only played 13 minutes. His style of play may clash with Carlyle, but Kadri only having four minutes more of ice time over Orr is a waste of a dynamic creator.
- While Orr was culpable for that turnover, Paul Ranger himself didn’t look so hot in that aforementioned 2-on-2 rush, continuing a disturbing trend with Ranger and his defensive capabilities. Obviously three games doesn’t make a season, and three hardly makes it a good sample size, but he’s so far been caught out of position too many times through three games this year.
- The Leafs didn’t fare well in the faceoff department with the Avs winning 57 per cent of the draws. The Duchene-Tyler Bozak matchup was a clear advantage for Team Duchene as Bozak went 2-9 vs. Matt and was 11-of-28 overall on the night. The value of faceoffs can be debated, but losing it that decisively can’t help the team much unless there’s a decisive possession advantage to compound that.
- The Leafs at times looked overwhelmed by the play-driving ability that the Avs possessed down their lineup. Especially in the first period when it seemed like every Avalanche player was attacking the zone in waves. Gardiner had some iffy moments defensively, with the two Landeskog occasions included.
- Semyon Varlamov looked really small in net. He’s listed at 188 cm, but just seeing him on the tele, he looked much smaller. Just nod in approval please.
- Aaron Ward during one of the intermission segments pretty much said Bernier should be the number-one going forward and that having a 1a/1b right now is pointless. Bernier has been really good, but it’s too small a sample size to outright give Bernier the job when Reimer pretty much carried the Leafs to the playoffs last year and hasn’t lost the job definitively so far.