UNLUCKY BOUNCE (POST-GAME OPINIONS)
An unlucky bounce, a gift from the hockey gods and Stuart Percy's skate capped off what was an impressive first game for the Leafs. A tough loss to swallow, but it seems as though the Leafs were ready to go from the moment the puck dropped. Kadri, Bozak, and Rielly provided the offense, while Kozun and Percy each recorded their first point.
It was the first of 82 games of the new season and although most of Leaf Nation expected a win, it does not mean that it was going to fall on the Leafs lap easily. Montreal and Toronto played a tight defensive game throughout, though the Habs out-shot the Leafs 32 to 27.
After a new opening ceremony that featured new graphics, an display of players and fans on centre, the bagpipe performance, and the player introduction, the 2014-15 season began with a bang. Pacioretty scored the first goal of the season by scoring a fluky goal (similar to JVR's specialty) over Bernier. But the good guys stormed back as Kozun shot the puck and was tipped in by Kadri to tie it up. Then late in the first, Bozak gave the Leafs their only lead of the night after a great pass by rookie Percy.
Early in the second period, it was Plekanec who tied the game up again with a break away goal. The second period was otherwise uneventful. It stayed tied until midway through the third when Subban scored a wrister that demonstrated early season stumbles for the Leafs, as four players were battling against two and left the $9 million man wide open. Late in the third, Rielly scored a fluky goal that was tipped in off a Hab defender. And just when it seemed like the Leafs would get an extra point, Plekanec got a break off another fluky goal, this time off of Percy.
1) A bad break is the reason why the Leafs lost this game. It seemed as though, as mentioned earlier, the hockey gods wanted Montreal to come out on top, Then again, the Leafs did beat the Habs on home ice for the last season opener and both teams went on two separate paths following that game. Poor Stuart Percy.
2) The Leafs did not stop the Canadiens offense enough to keep them ahead. Based on the stats, all of Montreal's key offensive players scored a goal, while the Leafs top players scored. The Leafs did many things right tonight, but this was not one of them.
3) Sloppy play (for the first game). In the first period, the Leafs played great. They were out-shooting the Habs convincingly, had a lead, and looked like the better team. However, the final SOG show that Montreal had 5 more shots than Toronto, which is not a good start. Also, see Subban's goal for proof of sloppy play.
What can be taken from the game
Like I said, the Leafs did play a good first game for the most part. Kozun played well in his first game and the team was handling the puck a bit more than they did in the previous season. Rielly and Gardiner looked like they were ready to start the year, as did Komarov, Clarkson and Santorelli as a line. Phaneuf and Bernier played pretty good as well
However, there were also some player who did not look their best tonight, and Kessel and his linemates were the main point of criticism. The top lined combined for 1 goal and a -6 rating. Kessel specifically looked like a different player all night, and was not a force that he normally is. Also, the defense needs to continue to work on the shots against, as the first game showed that the problem is still around at this time. The main thing the Leafs need to do is to work on chemistry as this will help with the line setups and defensive positioning.
Then again, it's only one game of a 82 game season. Only time will tell.
My prediction from last night:
"Considering that this is the first game, don't expect spectacular plays to occur, as the overall play may be sloppy. The final score will be the same as last year (4-3) and a rookie will get a point. The shots-on-goal will be fairly even for both sides."It turns out that the prediction was correct. The overall play was sloppy at times, while it wasn't at other moments. The rookies did get their first NHL points, and the SOG were 5 shots apart, which is fairly close.
Prediction ScoreRight - 1
Wrong - 0
The Leafs will take a few days off before meeting Crosby and the Penguins at the ACC on Saturday night. Then it's off to New York to face the Cup Finalist Rangers on Sunday. The first game will most likely be on CBC while the next one will be on City.