The Toronto Maple Leafs went into the Honda Center last night and came away with two points against one of the top teams in the NHL in the Anaheim Ducks. Jonathan Bernier made 43 saves and Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak had three points each in the 3-1 win. Here are some thoughts on the game:
- Bozak and Kessel continue to light scoreboards up and their line, along with James van Riemsdyk, is one of the hottest in the league. It’s a little worrisome because if they don’t score, chances are the Leafs won’t win, but you really couldn’t ask for more from the Leafs’ top line.
- Paul Ranger scored a goal tonight. Pretty crazy, right? He drove the net hard on a two-on-one and received the perfect pass by Kessel for the tap-in. I’ve really been impressed with Ranger’s play over the past two games. He only played 12 minutes on Saturday and 16 minutes last night, but he’s been playing a very smart and sound defensive game.
- This time it was Tim Gleason who got seventh d-man duties, playing just over 11 minutes on the night. Interestingly, I really liked what Gleason did in those minutes. He continues to play a tough, hard-nosed game, and even if he isn’t fleet of foot, he doesn’t seem to get caught out of position very often.
- Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson played the bulk of their minutes against the Ducks’ top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Maroon, and they were predictably dominated in shot attempts. Randy Carlyle’s usage of Phaneuf prompted this entertaining mini-rant from The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
- He’s got a point there. The problem is the Leafs don’t have another pairing who could play those kinds of tough minutes. Getting a minute munching, defense-first guy in free agency has to be a top priority for Dave Nonis.
- Boy, it’s getting just plain difficult to watch David Clarkson every night. He must be dealing with some nagging injury, because he looks like he’s really laboring on the ice. But if he’s injured, why is he fighting guys? I don’t know what the answer is, but he’s not really contributing anything to the team right now. He only played nine minutes last night.
- The Leafs’ strategy seems to be to get out to an early lead (they grabbed a three-goal lead three minutes and 44 seconds into the second period), then sit back and let Bernier or James Reimer get peppered with shots for the rest of the game. I can’t say it’s a very good strategy to employ long-term, but Bernier’s been up to the task. He definitely deserves a break tonight against the San Jose Sharks. It’s not a great situation for Reimer to have to make a start against one of the best teams after a long layoff, but it also doesn’t make sense to throw Bernier out there again on a back-to-back. Godspeed, James.