BAD LUCK (POST-GAME OPINIONS)
Just when you thought the Leafs would be rewarded with a strong effort by the third line and Bernier in general, Zetterberg had to ruin a good thing. That was by far the most exciting game the Leafs played all season, and came up just short of an extra point. *tear runs slowly down face*
The Leafs knew that they needed a better effort in winning two key points as they were manhandled by the Red Wings the night before. From the moment the puck dropped, you knew that this game was going to be exciting and tense. Take into consideration the rival, the Winter Classic, and just how similar these two teams are, and you have an exciting game for Hockey Night in Canada.
All game long, the play was going back and forth: Red Wings have a great chance and the Leafs return the favour; Red Wings dominate one shift, the Leafs take over the next. It just went on and on. The reason why it was so close? Bernier and Gustavsson. Enough said. Both played spectacular all game long, making save after save, making the highlight reels a few times for extraordinary stops. Nobody thought it would remain scoreless after regulation time, but it did.
Overtime follows, and the same story from the game repeats as both teams play back and forth hockey. Tatar has a great chance at one end, but the Leafs counter with a good play by Clarkson. Kronwall makes good strides, but Rielly starts a excellent chance. You get the jist. Then, the last 30 seconds of overtime come rolling in, it looks like this will go to a shoot out. All the Leafs need to do is keep the play neutral or try and score. Less then 20 seconds, and the puck is saved by Gustavsson and Detroit gets control. Ten seconds, nine... wait it's over? GOSH DARN IT!!!! I WAS ACTUALLY EXCITED TO SEE A SHOOTOUT AND ZETTERBERG SCORED A SHITTY GOAL! ARGH! :(
Why the loss?
1) Zetterberg. The man is a beast, and still scares defensemen even at the ripe age of 34. He was all over the Leafs throughout the game and made some quality chances. And to top it off, he scored, off all people, the game winning goal with under ten seconds to play in overtime. All this without his regular linemates Datsyuk and Franzen (who just got injured the night before). If that isn't a quality star player, then I don't know what is. It's too bad it came at the expense of the Leafs.
2) Gustavsson. Wait, do you hear that? That's the sound of Leaf fans wishing they had the Monster back. But Bernier was spectacular as well, so I shouldn't complain too much. But then again, the Leafs had so many outstanding saves against and he made them look easy. The third line especially worked their asses of to give the Leafs great chances, but The Monster was equal to the task. The fact that he could not be solved and got a shutout is what gave the Red Wings a win.
3) Discipline, what's that? Mind the silly joke, but the Leafs gave the Red Wings way too many penalties throughout the game, which is not good for ice time for the key defensive players on this roster. Fortunately, the Red Wings were not discipline either and gave the Leafs some power play chances as well. But, 5 power plays and no goals does not sit will despite a perfect penalty kill (5 for 5). If the Leafs could stay more discipline, it would have given them a better chance to score and ultimately win the hockey game.
What can be learned from this game
This is not the team that gave up 35 plus shots a night last season. Or the team that had the worst penalty kill in the league. In fact, this isn't the team that is too afraid to touch the puck. No, this is a Leafs squad that looks to be a competitive team this season and make a challenge for the playoffs. Tonight showcased a great close game (that had a playoff like atmosphere to it) and one that would have satisfying had the Leafs won it. But, the one thing that must be worked on is the finish as it has costed them valuable points early on (see game one against Montreal).
Also, I would like to point out that the third line is amazing and DAVID CLARKSON IS PLAYING OUTSTANDING RIGHT NOW (had to say that with a straight face)! If there is one thing that has been a bright spot for this team early one (and there are a few), it has been the work ethic and the effort that they put in every single game. They wear the other team down defensivly, have good possession numbers, and provide chances to score. And that's all you can ask from Komarov, Santorelli, and Clarkson.
And let's not forget that Bernier is still and amazing goalie despite the slow start. Tonight, he was the best Leaf on the ice and he gave his team a chance to win. Trust me, had the Leafs won the game, he would have been one of the main reasons why. What a stud in net. Cue the controversy!
Here's what I predicted would happen tonight:
"As for the next game, I expect to see the Leafs really make a strive for a better result. This should be closer in terms of SOG, but it may result in a 3-0 shutout. Should this be the Leafs, Kessel will get a point."Kessel did not score a point and the score wasn't 3-0. However, the Leafs did strive for a better result (and one point is better than 0 points). Also, the SOG were nearly even for both clubs, 32-30 to be exact. So I count this one as a draw.
The Leafs take a few days off to refresh and refocus. Their next opponent is the New York Islanders and will make on of their final trips to Long Island, as the Isles will be moving to Brooklyn next year. They just suffered their first loss tonight, so I expect a good game.