It was supposed to get better after the week off. The slow start wasn’t going to become a factor in the game, and the team certainly couldn’t play as poorly in their own end as they did in Alberta and British Columbia last week. The goal was going to be simple, chip-and-chase hockey, in an effort to drive some zone time and territorial advantage. Randy Carlyle even shared some mostly accurate possession numbers on Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports radio show last week, expressing concern over the amount of time his team was spending defending, mostly as a result of their almost perfected skill of giving the puck away.
Then the puck dropped, and the Maple Leafs team that took the ice, sans David Bolland and Colton Orr, were exactly what they were prior to last week. A Devils team that, while getting better, boasts nothing near the talent level on the ice of the Maple Leafs, proved that work ethic is a far more important attribute in hockey. The Devils’ younger players were dogged on the puck on the boards all night. Jaromir Jagr looked like he was playing with Paul Coffey and Joe Mullen, moving as a whirling dervish at times. With all due respect to the New Jersey Devils, most of it occurred because the boys in the blue jerseys were fit to stand and watch it happen.
And after all of it, Toronto somehow still earned two points, winning the game thanks to a James van Riemsdyk shootout goal. There should be no expectation of the same result tomorrow night. On to the highlights:
- As I’m writing about the difference between Phil Kessel and some of the other elite scoring wingers in the League, he does something out of character. He drives the net through two defenders on a near end-to-end rush, both scoring and drawing a penalty on the same play. Special thanks to EIL’s own James Gleason for providing the GIF below showing the out-of-character Kessel drive.
- Here’s hoping the lines get a bit more situated tomorrow night, as no-one really looked anywhere near as good as the sum of the parts. The Mason Raymond-Nazem Kadri-David Clarkson partnership in particular looked a bit lost for large parts of the game. Clarkson had some moments early on, but was invisible for long stretches as well. With the power-play cooling off, perhaps it would be a good time to plant him in front of the goal and have the point man just work on getting pucks through.
- Possession Watch 2013: The Leafs were outshot 35-28, slightly better than the 11.8 shots-against average for the season.
- Tonight’s Maddies Mark player of the game is not surprisingly Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs goaltender, either Bernier or James Bernier, always appears to be the best player on the ice. At times they look like the only player on the ice. Outside of the gaffe on the Devils’ only goal, Bernier had another “Best Day Ever”. For more information on how you can provide many more “Best Days Ever”, please visit www.maddiesmark.org.
- Side note: You would think that playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, that Bernier and Reimer would get more attention in the Team Canada watch. Not to take anything away from the other goalies in the conversation, but none of them face the sheer number of shots that the Leafs duo does on a near nightly basis.
-Second side note: Being that I am based in the United States, the territorial rights to the game’s broadcast are held hostage by a little local broadcaster named Madison Square Garden. Without blackout laws that prevent any competition between broadcast companies, small defenseless entities such as MSG would surely cease to be able to exist, owning the rights to air the Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres. The reason I bring this up is that with this weekend being both the celebrations of Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veterans Day (United States) was cause for one of the larger and more eloquent pre-game ceremonies.
The celebration of the sacrifice of so many men and women that fought to defend freedom was apparently not good enough to make the New York or New Jersey airwaves. With the troops not being good enough to break away from the mindless chatter of Deb Placey, Steve Cangialosi and Chico Resch, certainly honoring a former Devils’ great in Scott Niedermayer being inducted into the Hall of Fame would have been, but no such luck. Not to say that every ceremony deserves airtime, but when you live in a country that wants to honor our military every eleven seconds (rightly so I might add), it is a pretty large missed opportunity to show McDonalds commercials and talking heads, adding insult by having Andy Frost’s voice being just barely audible in the background. Not cool MSG.