The Leafs grabbed two points against the Nashville Predators, shutting them out 4-0 and improving their record to 4-1. The Leafs seemed to be at the wrong end of the play early, with Jonathan Bernier coming up huge on several occasions to bail out mistakes made by the players in front of him. However, the Leafs were able to capitalize on a one-time opportunity, with James van Riemsdyk feeding Phil Kessel in front of the net towards the end of the second period. The dynamic duo of JVR and Kessel struck again in the dying seconds of the second, with van Riemsdyk snatching up a shot off the post that Pekka Rinne failed to cover, and quickly wrapping it around the net. The play went back and forth early in the third period, with the goalies at both ends putting on a show. It wasn’t until Mike Fisher received a major penalty on his push from behind on Cody Franson that the Leafs would be able to put away the game. The five-minute power play allowed Tyler Bozak to score with a deflection off of the skate of Seth Jones, and Joffrey Lupul added another with a tip on Jake Gardiner’s point shot. The Leafs would hold on to the lead and give Bernier his first shutout in blue and white.
The biggest note for this game was the outstanding play in the crease from Jonathan Bernier. He saved the Leafs from falling behind early on multiple occasions, and in incredible fashion. His calm demeanor between the pipes allows him to make those huge saves, as it seems as though he’s always in perfect position. With the run in net that Bernier has been given, James Reimer has been left to warm the bench. If Bernier can keep up the excellence that he’s displayed in his past few contests, Reimer could see a lot of time on the end of the bench.
Morgan Rielly’s play thus far in the season has been strong, and it continued in this game. Although he made a few mistakes (which is to be expected for a 19-year-old in his first few NHL games), his speed and exceptional skating allowed him to recover from some of those errors. Rielly also had some quality plays throughout the game, including setting up a Kessel and van Riemsdyk 2-on-1 and some amazing feeds on the power play. If his strong play continues, the Leafs will certainly have a tough time sending him back to the WHL.
The play of Toronto’s first two lines was able to get the offense done in this game, with goals coming from Kessel, JVR, Bozak and Lupul. When the Leafs are at their sharpest, they generate offense from both of their top lines. That was exactly the case in this game, as just when it seemed that the Lupul-Nazem Kadri-David Broll line was the one to be watched, the Kessel-Bozak-JVR line exploded with two goals in the second period. It’s hard to defend against two hot lines.
Broll and Josh Leivo both made their NHL debuts in this game. The play from the two rookies was solid, as both played a simple, mistake-free game. Broll specifically had quite a few offensive chances, as he was given the opportunity to play with Lupul and Nazem Kadri. This line was dangerous throughout the entire game, and Broll seemed to fit in just fine.
The Leafs will look to build off this win for their battle against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, where they’ll seek to continue their winning ways.