HOME SWEET HOME (POST GAME OPINIONS)
Wow. So when I said the Leafs need to get the crowd on their side, they did it in a big way. The Leafs pull through to their second win of the season, and they can say they outshot their opponent quite admirably (40-24). JVR, Lupul, and Kessel with the OT winner provided the offense. Is it just me or is their another goalie controversy going on.
Prior to this game, the Leafs struggled in front of their fans. They saw a close game lost in the last minute and a disappointing effort by the Leafs the next game. This time, they turned the table and played the type of hockey that killed them last season: outshoot and out play the other team. Against the Avalanche, this marked a good opportunity for the Leafs, and they took advantage.
JVR opened the scoring with a great turnover by Franson that lead to the familiar Kessel-JVR play. Kessel made the pass, JVR shot the puck and it went past Varlamov. Ryan O'Reilly tied it up shortly after with his first of the year. Afterwords, the game got a little rough. By the second period, Phanuef almost went into a scrap with former teammate Jerome Iginla, but the refs broke it up to the fans displeasure.
After words, Duchene gave the Avs their first lead of the night with a bullet of a shot over Reimer. The game remained unexciting for nearly an entire period (with the exception of the number of shots the Leafs were taking) until Lupul scored a crazy goal that started with a deflection off a dump from an Avs defensemen. The puck landed right on the tape of Lupul who fired a wrister to tie the game. The two teams put up a good fight, but it had to go to overtime. Fortunately, Kessel made sure that the game did not go on for much longer as he scored a wrap-around like goal nearly 40 seconds into the overtime period. This capped off an impressive showing by the Leafs that resulted in their first home win of the season.
1) The Leafs took a ton of shots tonight. Oh yea, this is something different. It's been a long time since the Leafs won a hockey game in this fashion. The Leafs were victim to having this happen to them last season, but getting many shots on Varlamov has an important task that had to be done. Because they were facing a Vezina finalist goalie, the task would be much more difficult, but the Leafs came prepared and took advantage of it. It's a shame that it took overtime to do it, but a win's a win.
2) The home crowd was on the Leafs side all night. Sure the referees made some questionable calls throughout and the Avs did score a few times. But, the Leafs were the better team and they got the crowd into the game. Like I said yesterday, if the Leafs want to get back to respectability, they need to have the crowd cheering them on, not booing. By putting on a dominating performance, that did the trick very well. Now the Leafs must maintain this if they are going to have any success for the remainder of the season.
3) Reimer proved that 1A and 1B is real. Holy crap was Reimer outstanding. Although he did not face much competition all night, he made sure he kept his team in the game with some huge saves. One particular save came late in the first, where he made a key stop against an aggressive Avalanche attack. If that shot didn't go in, it could have been the game. Fortunately, Reimer (who survived a head contact from Moore on Sunday) stood out as the best Leaf player on the ice all night, and rightfully so. Now if Bernier can just step his game, he will get a chance on Saturday, then the Leafs have a solid one-two punch in goal.
What can be taken from this game
The Leafs looked like a playoff team for the most part tonight. They outplayed, outshot, and dominated the Avs (a team who impressed many last year) in nearly every category. Although Colorado was an easy target (considering what happened last year), it's easy to forget just how good the Leafs can be. The only question that remains is: can they repeat this style of play on most nights?
If they keep playing the way they have, then definitely. However, this team is not far off from their poor showing on Saturday, so consistency will be a thing to work on all year. That being said, this game was a step in the right direction, and an even start is most likely a good sign (hot start= bad luck).
My prediction from last night:
"There will be a high flying start out of the gate for both teams, but things will cool down by the second period. It will be a 3-1 contest, with Phaneuf registering his first goal of the season as well."For the first part, my prediction turned out to be correct. However, Phaneuf did not score and the Leafs won 3-2 in overtime. Although the Leafs did end up winning, my prediction was still proven wrong, for the most part.
The Leafs will take a few days off before a home and home series with the Detroit Red Wings this Friday and Saturday. The first of the two will take place at the ACC, so this should provide another chance for the Leafs to play a good home game.