YOU GOT PWNED MATE (POST GAME OPINIONS)
When I checked the score after the second period, I still could not believe what I was seeing. Usually it is the Bruins that were doing the damage to the Leafs. Tonight though, the roles swapped and the Buds finally gave the Bruins a taste of their own medicine by cruising to a 6-1 win. Let that sink in for a moment.
Heading into this game, the Bruins were on fire with a five game winning streak to boost. Considering the recent history between the two clubs, most Leaf fans were worried for the result to go against the Buds.
However, any fear that this would be a losing battle were quickly washed by Kessel's goal midway through the first period. He darted towards the wing and fired a beautiful wrister past Rask to give the Leafs the early lead. Surprisingly, the Leafs were heavily in control of the game right off the draw considering their time of possession and shots on goal (weird, right?). Yet, the Leafs were only able to leave the first with a one goal lead to their credit.
The second period, however, was where the floodgates really became wide open. It started with Kessel scoring 18 seconds into the period by scoring a similar goal to the previous one by firing it above Rask (see Halak). Then, just over a minute later, Rielly scored his second of the season by batting home the rebound off a Holland shot that completely fooled Rask. Further destruction of the Bruin's confidence flowed once Bozak scored on the overplay about two minutes later. All of a sudden, the Leafs were ahead 4-0, Rask was pulled from the game, and the period was still less than 5 minutes young.
Afterwords, things settled down a bit and the game remained lopsided. Both teams battled hard, but the Bruins showed signs of frustration by taking penalties. This in turn lead to JVR scoring another power-play goal midway through the period and gave the Leafs a comfortable 5 goal lead. Alas, the Bruins had to ruin the party by letting Seidenberg score to break the shutout bid for Bernier (who by the way had a good night) and cut the deficit to four.
From that point on, the game was all but finished. Back and forth play, careful defensive game, and key saves by Bernier were what made the period. The highlight of this was Holland scoring a beautiful backhander on the power-play to fool Svedberg who was casually laying back and not being prepared to stop Holland (Still the hottest player on the Leafs in terms of point production). And that was the final score, a 6-1 rout over a team who is really struggling to keep a full lineup consistently this year.
1) Rask was a plug. Simply put, the Leafs did exactly what they needed to do at finding the weak spot of this Bruins team. Although Rask is always dangerous when on his game, he was the exact opposite of that tonight, which the Leafs took full advantage of. While I don't expect his slow start to continue for long, games like this will put the Bruins chances of a playoff spot in jeopardy. A key divisional win by the Leafs was much needed and well timed.
2) The top line is back. Remember how good the Leafs top line was in terms of points? Well, one year later and they are still leading the way. Kessel, Bozak, and JVR all combined for 8 points on the night, which made the difference in this one for sure. Kessel especially gave the Leafs the edge with his two goals in similar positions that really made Vezina winner Rask look like a minor league back-up (no offense). Despite a limited amount of ice time for all three players, they each made the most of it and got the job done with the win.
3) Leafs were on top right away. As mentioned before, the Leafs seemed to have the advantage over Boston right off the top. They were firing from all cylinders, depth was applying pressure, the defense did not lead up any attack against at all, and Bernier was ready to play. In fact, the Leaf squad was all pumped up and eager to play, while the Bruins looked sluggish and uneasy. Good job by the Leafs for taking advantage of that and making the Bruins, who are playing again tomorrow, pay. More starts like this are what will make this team better and more competitive all season long.
What can be learned from this game
This is the Leaf team that should be on the ice every single night. Not only is the team on a roll (7-2-1 in last 10 games), but everyone seems to be clicking well with each other. All this without Lupul and Booth in the lineup. Now imagine how good the Leafs would be if both players mentioned were in full swing and healthy. Bob's your uncle, this is a playoff contender waiting to emerge from the ashes.
All season long, the Leafs have been tested from character, to team play, and even adversity. So far, they have come out with a above average grade and are making some NHL insiders start turning their way. It will be a tough challenge to stay competitive (as last few years indicate) consistently, but its up to the players themselves if they truly want to play in the spring.
From last night,
"I think that this will be very tight defensively for most of the game. Someone will break through by the third period and win with a two goal advantage. There may be some rough stuff all around, but it should be an exciting game to watch."No, this was not at all a defensive battle all night long (quite the opposite really). And the Leafs did not have a two goal advantage, but a five goal one instead. However, the game did feature some rough plays throughout and it was an exciting game to watch (because obviously). So I feel it is a tie for both sides.
Who's next?The Leafs have a short break before a back to back match-up will occur. It will be both easy and difficult, as the Leafs first play the Penguins in the Hall of Fame game, followed by a trip to Buffalo to meet the lowly Sabres in the worst arena to play in (Leafs can't seem to win in there).