The first game of week was played on Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Carolina Hurricanes in the two teams’ second meeting of the season. The first came all the way back in October with the Leafs falling 3-2, that game famous for Ron Hainsey’s deciding goal, which came off a clearing attempt that rattled all the way down the ice and slipped through an unsuspecting Jonathan Bernier’s feet.
In an attempt at redemption, the Leafs opened the scoring with their own wacky goal, Phil Kessel banking the puck into the net from behind the goal line. A shaky showing from the Hurricanes’ top line (which ended the night a combined minus-12) led to the Leafs winning 5-2.
Tyler Bozak returned from injury to have a productive game, recording three assists, four takeaways and going 14-for-25 on the faceoff dot.
On Wednesday, the Leafs took part in the main event of the week, and quite possibly the season. Taking on the Detroit Red Wings in the highly anticipated Winter Classic, the Leafs suited up for a frigid game on the Big House’s snow covered ice. The game was taken in by the largest crowd in hockey history, nearly 110,000 braving the cold to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime event.
The game was a unique one, snow on the ice and a lack of visibility taking away some of the speed and skill of both teams, but as the crowd roared and snow fell, the intensity ratcheted up. Daniel Alfredsson was booed as he opened the scoring for Detroit in the latter half of the second period. James van Riemsdyk responded in the dying seconds of the period, tying the game. Tyler Bozak and Justin Abdelkader (who along with Dan Cleary seemed to be the most comfortable players in the snowy environment) both notched tallies in the third, sending the game to overtime.
After the extra five minutes didn’t result in a goal for either side, a shootout was needed to settle the score (the Leafs and Wings’ second shootout of the season, the first being won by Detroit). Pavel Datsyuk became two-for-two against Toronto in the shootout this season, scoring in the second round after Alfredsson and van Riemsdyk both failed to find the net. Joffrey Lupul responded for Toronto, going five-hole on Jimmy Howard. Tomas Tatar could not score for Detroit, leaving the fate of the game on Tyler Bozak’s stick. To cap off another impressive performance, Bozak sniped home his chance, winning the game for Toronto.
In the midst of all the hype, the Leafs made a trade. John-Michael Liles and prospect Dennis Robertson were sent to Carolina for Tim Gleason. Gleason is a stay-at-home defender who played on the U.S. Olympic team in 2010, but after a concussion early this season has not been able to find his game. His cap hit is $150,000 more than Liles, and Gleason is under contract for this season and the next. I see this as a good hockey trade, as Gleason and Liles could both use a change of scenery and both fit better into their new teams than their old. Gleason doesn’t seem to be much better than Liles if at all, but could bring a similar package of abilities as Mark Fraser did last season; steady defensive play and a mean streak.
In one final note, van Riemsdyk and Kessel were named to the United States Olympic team following the Winter Classic. All in all, a pretty eventful week for the Leafs and their fans.