By: Adam Basciano
Going into the game against the Maple Leafs, the Anaheim Ducks were riding a seven game winning streak. Up until around the middle portion of the second period it looked like the Ducks were on their way to win #8 in succession. That was until the Dynamic Duo of Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk took over the game. I could describe all the goals to you, but my descriptions wouldn’t do them justice., so let’s just watch the magic again shall we!? Before we do, it’s worth pointing out that, Dion Phaneuf got the game tying goal, and this was the first game the Leafs allowed less than 30 shots on goal! Jonathan Bernier made 23 saves en route to the 4-2 win.
Then came the weekend double-header against the Columbus Bluejacket and Pittsburgh Penguins respectfully. I had expected a win against Columbus and a loss against the Penguins. Well, leave it to the Leafs to flip the script. They go into Columbus and get outshot…again. They had a chance to tie the game when they trailed by a goal and had a 4 on 3 power-play. Instead of capitalizing on their chance, sloppy play led to a short-handed goal, solidifying the win for Columbus. Phil Kessel (surprise, surprise) and Dave Bolland provided goals for the Blue & White, and if it weren’t for Jonathan Bernier’s goaltending, the game could’ve easily ended much worse.
The next night at home, the Maple Leafs played one of their best opening periods of the season and were rewarded with a tie score after 20 minutes. The Leaf goal was short-handed from Dave Bolland, thanks to a great pass from Dion Phaneuf. The Leafs went into survival mode in the second period. After being outshot 16-4 in the middle frame, the score remained tied thanks to stellar goaltending from James Reimer. Nazem Kadri scored early in the third period, finishing off a nice passing play from Phil Kessel and JvR. JvR would once again supply Kessel with a tap in goal on the power play, before Dave Bolland would score his second of the game into the empty net. The Maple Leafs would win by a score of 4-1. More impressive, was holding Sidney Crosby pointless. That was truly a team effort, but special mention must go to Dave Bolland, Dion Phaneuf, David Clarkson, and as previously mentioned, James Reimer who made 37 saves in total.
The Maple Leafs now have a record of 8-4-0 and head out on a Western Canadian road trip with stops in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.
By: Adam Basciano
Prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers, my friend Dave and I suggested it would be a high scoring contest. We were right as the game ended 6-5 in overtime. The Maple Leafs seemingly chose not to play defense, while the Edmonton Oilers apparently can’t play defense. Both teams had offense on their mind pretty much the entire game. It was basically first save wins, and Bernier made that save late in the third period to keep the Leafs in the game. On the strength of two goal games from Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk, along with an early goal from Nazem Kadri, regulation time ended in a tie. Overtime saw a goal from Dave Bolland, who converted a 3 on 1 rush into the game winning goal. This wasn’t pretty (well a few of the goals were), but two points is two points and we’ll take them.
Next up for the Leafs was a match with the Minnesota Wild. I was at this game, and Leaf legend Wendel Clark held the door open for me as we entered the building! This is the second time that’s happened to me, so you can bet when it’s all said and done these events will be marked on my tombstone! Anyways, despite being heavily outshot 37-14, great goaltending from James Reimer and timely power play goals lead the Blue & White to a 4-1 win. Early goals from Tyler Bozak and Marlies captain Trevor Smith, gave the Leafs an early lead. The Wild would answer back with a Power play goal. The “Everybody Loves Raymond” marathon took over as Mason Raymond would score a power play goal, followed by an empty net goal, thanks to an unselfish decision by Phil Kessel. My friend and I credit the fact that we wore Leaf hats to the game (which we never do), as a key to victory. However, I had a secret unnamed good luck charm which I believe guaranteed the victory!
Now the bad news, After getting out to a 2 goal lead against the Carolina Hurricanes courtesy of goals from Joffrey Lupul, and the first goal of Josh Leivo’s NHL career. That lead would hold up until the third period. A series of unfortunate events would follow that would see Carolina score three unanswered goals to win the game. The first goal came while the Leafs were short-handed, after the puck deflected off Dave Bolland and in. The second goal played out like a moment from the NHL 14 video game . Leafs defenseman blocks the initial shot, however the puck found its way back to the initial shooter, and he makes a perfect shot. The third goal came off a Hybrid icing call, where one referee signaled icing, while another called Icing off. Some will blame Bernier’s positioning on the play. But can you really fault the guy? He thought it was icing and he saved our ass in almost every game he’s played this season.
The final game of this 4 game set saw the Maple Leafs lose to the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The first period was decent and pretty even. The second period was an absolute disaster, as the Leafs seemed like passengers just admiring the talent the Blackhawks have. The Leafs just didn’t play the game. They were outshot again, this time 40-20 and didn’t capitalize on two power plays that could’ve got them back in the game. Nazem Kadri scored the Leafs lone goal in the 3-1 loss and Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves.
The Maple Leafs will try to get back to winning when they take on the Anaheim Ducks who have won 7 games in a row.
By: Adam Basciano
Toronto Maple Leaf Fans who attended the home opener last weekend definitely got their money’s worth, as it took a shootout to find a winner. The game started off great for the home team as Mason Raymond scored a beautiful goal, off of an equally beautiful pass from fellow new Leaf Dave Bolland. The guys with the Trojan Condom logo on their chest scored two goals in just over three minutes time to take the lead. Nazem Kadri would tie the game at 2, late in the first period on a powerplay. His goal was almost a carbon copy of the first Leafs goal. He was even set up by Mason Raymond. Ottawa would take a two goal lead in the second period, with two goals in short order. True, the Leafs play wasn’t great during this stretch, but some of Reimer’s bad habits were creeping back into his game. His rebounds were gargantuan, he didn’t look composed throughout the game, and was far too deep in his net at times. As a result, in came Jonathan Bernier. In short order, he made several big time saves, which seemed to settle down his team. Late in the middle frame, Joffrey Lupul got the Leafs within one on the powerplay, with assists going to previous goal scorers Mason Raymond and Nazem Kadri. Early in the third period, Leaf fans would see a familiar two on one rush with Kessel and van Riemsdyk, resulting in a tap in goal for the man also known as JvR. Overtime would ultimately solve nothing. In the shootout, goals by Raymond and Bozak coupled by a save by Bernier, would lead the Leafs to a come from behind 5-4 win on home ice over their provincial rivals.
The first loss of the season came on home ice, at the hands of the Patrick Roy coached Colorado Avalanche. This was a fairly boring game from a Leafs perspective. It seemed like the only ounce of hard work came on the penalty kill, as well as the Leafs lone goal courtesy of Joffrey Lupul. If it weren’t for the 31 save performance from Jonathan Bernier, the score would’ve been a lot worse as Colorado outplayed us during significant portions of the game. The theme of Jonathan Bernier saving the Leafs ass continued in Nashville, as the Leafs were outshot by a 36-26 count. Yet, Bernier managed to make save after save to keep the game scoreless until after the halfway point of the second period. At that point, the tandem of Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk took over. Kessel converted on a one-timer in front of the net, courtesy of a lovely feed from van Riemsdyk. JvR would then capitalize on a wrap around goal, off of a missed opportunity by Kessel. A check from behind by Mike Fisher on Cody Franson that was as dirty as Miley Cyrus’ twerking incident, put the Leafs on a five-minute powerplay in the third period. The Leafs would score twice, on goals by Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Morgan Rielly would get his first NHL point in his 3rd NHL game. Add to that his improved play over each game, his skill, and his speed…he’s making a case that he’s ready for the big leagues. This coupled with a shutout performance, which continues to solidify to me that Bernier is our #1 goalie, and the Maple Leafs register a 4-0 win.
With 4 wins in the bag and 8 out of a possible 10 points registered, the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.
By: Adam Basciano
Winning two games back to back is always difficult for any team, doing so in two opposing teams buildings during their home openers is even harder. However, that’s exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs did in the self-proclaimed ” La belle province” and “The City of Brotherly Love.”
In Montreal, the Maple Leafs started off on the right foot with a power-play goal by James van Riemsdyk, with assists going to Cody Franson and Phil Kessel. Play on the ice would get extremely sloppy by both teams. Montreal would take advantage of some lackluster defensive play from the Leafs, and leave the period with a one goal lead. The Leafs would tie the game at two, courtesy of a beautifully placed shot by Captain Dion Phaneuf, with assists going to Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. In my opinion, there are 3 main advantages to having resigned Tyler Bozak. He’s good on face-offs, he has great on ice chemistry with Phil Kessel, and he has an incredible knack for scoring shootout/short-handed goals. His first goal of the season came in the form of a great individual effort on a shorthanded breakaway. The lead would be expanded to two goals, as Mason Raymond used his speed to create an odd man rush and capitalized on an odd bounce. A series of fights in the third period would lead to Montreal tough guy George Parros accidentally falling and hitting his face on the ice, a scary incident that could have ended severely worse than a concussion. Montreal would eventual score a late goal, but the Maple Leafs hung on to a 4-3 victory thanks to strong timely goaltending from James Reimer.
The next night the Leafs found themselves in the aforementioned “City of Brotherly Love,” to play a team full of goons. For the first period and a half the Maple Leafs were dominated in every area on the ice by the Philadelphia Flyers! Jonathan Bernier’s out of this world goaltending kept the deficit at one goal, until birthday boy Phil Kessel capitalized on a rebound off of a Dion Phaneuf shot. I know, I know… I mentioned Dion Phaneuf in a positive light twice in one blog. No you’re not living in the Bizarro world, and no the world is not ending! The other reason for the Blue & White leaving Philadelphia with two points was their penalty killing. They killed 7/8 against the Flyers and 10/11 for the season. Securing the 3-1 win for Toronto, was Dave Bolland who with his two goal performance, redefined the phrase “Johnny on the spot.” One could make a case and say Jonathan Bernier stole the two points for the team on this night.
With two road games out-of-the-way, the Maple Leafs head back to Toronto for their home opener against provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators.