No Emilio Bonifacio to ruin everything on the Leafs, as they beat the New York Rangers 4-3 with a crushing blow to the Rangers chances. Although, not really.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
- Ryan O’Byrne plays his first game of the season for the Maple Leafs. I think O’Byrne is an upgrade over Mike Kostka defensively (Kostka’s offensive skills made redundant by Jake Gardiner and John-Michael Liles’s returns) and barely cost Nonis anything. It’s a low risk, low reward move that ultimately makes the team better. O’Byrne is immediately slotted into the Leafs PK unit tonight, something I was wondering would happen since the Leafs’ unit had been in a groove with their current unit.
- In what world does the Jays’ season opening totally overshadow the Leafs, especially during the impending return to the playoffs? The scene near the Skydome and the ACC is rife with Jays paraphernalia. I don’t think Torontonians quite understand how to celebrate actual success, and are instead all psyched up for the likely success of the Jays. Or maybe Jays tickets are just significantly cheaper.
- The Rangers have played significantly better recently. A lot of people are attributing it to the removal or Torterella whipping boy Marion Gaborik being unceremoniously shipped to Ohio. It’s probably more connected to Henrik Lunqvist playing like a man on fire. It could still be connected to Gaborik, if he was subtly undermining Henrik’s confidence through his passive aggressive insults that he reserves for the natural enemies of the Slovaks: the Swedes. At least that’s how it works out in the far more HBO-like alternate reality in my mind.
- After the Rangers hit their second post of the night, the Leafs scream into the Rangers zone and jam one past Lunqvist via James van Riemsdyk to take the lead. The man could not look any more sad-sack terrible a week ago now has two goals in three nights at point blank range.
- The reign of Ryan Hamilton comes / came to an end with the call-up of Joe Colbourne. I’ve never been a big fan of calling a scorer up from the AHL to play on the fourth line, where the hopes of scoring a goal are slim to none. It’s not like Colbourne will be getting any PP time either, so why not have a guy who can at least kill penalties in a pinch like Hamilton? Heck, I’d even use my fourth line to keep my shootout specialists on (see Jussi Jokinen).
- Through some sort of witchcraft, Ryan O’Byrne scores on a great pass from Nazem Kadri, scoring his fifth career goal. It came off of the Rangers spending an extended period of time in the Leafs zone but not quite getting a shot through the Leafs defence.
- Whenever a call goes against the broadcast team’s side, they never fail to inform the audience who the referees for the game are. You know, so they can send them a fruit basket. However, the Anton Stralman dive and limp off the ice was a little ridiculous, with JvR tapping his shin pad and taking a penalty.
- Rick Nash scores two power forward goals almost single-handedly, flying down the ice and muscling the puck through Cody Franson on the first one and flying by Mark Fraser and coming back out in front on the second. Nash has 17 goals on the season, despite spending a lot of it injured. You kind of forget that Brad Richards is even on the team when Nash is rolling.
- Phil Kessel scores on a wrister, with JvR’s ass basically being all Lundqvist being able to see on the shot. The Leafs PP seems to thrive on the low pressure kills, and the Rangers’ PK seemed to be more focused on shot blocking than on forcing a pass.
- Derek Stepan scores the tying goal after a bad play at the end of a PP by Leo Komarov. Reimer gets beat on his glove, although this time I don’t think many goalies would have stopped that shot.
- Right after the Stepan goal, Kessel scores again to go ahead after another great shift by the top line. Kessel wins a fight on the boards, and the puck squeaks out to Tyler Bozak who makes a nice pass back. Hilariously, if Kessel actually completes that deke move, Lundqvist stops it no problem. Instead he sort of loses the puck mid-deke which completely fakes out King Henrik. If this line gets hot just before the playoffs, the Leafs will be a tough out.
The Leafs are oh-so-close to the playoffs, and another win against the Rangers on Wednesday would pretty much lock it up.
- Quick shout out to Milos Raonic and the Canadian tennis squad, who beat the heavily favored Italians in the Davis Cup Quarter-Finals to advance to the semis against the Serbians.