The Toronto Maple Leafs have started the season with a bang, winning their first three games of the season. On Oct. 1 the Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 and then the next day beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. The Maple Leafs went onto win 5-4 over the Senators in a shoot-out last night.
The first game of the season for the Maple Leafs saw last year’s starter, James Reimer, in net. Reimer made 34 saves in a game that had five fights, including one fight which left Habs’ enforcer George Parros lying on the ice after striking his face against the playing surface. Parros was wheeled out of the game on a stretcher and sent to the hospital.
As far as scoring, James van Riemsdyk got the Leafs’ first goal of the season on a power play less than ten minutes into the game. Assists went to Phil Kessel and Cody Franson. Montreal’s Lars Eller and Brandon Gallagher both potted goals to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead after the first.
The Leafs struck back in the second period with Dion Phaneuf jumping into the rush and putting one passed Carey Price to tie the game at 2.
Tyler Bozak then scored a short-handed goal as his first of the season. Last year in the lock-out shortened season the Leafs only scored one short-handed goal, also scored by Bozak.
The third period was when Parros and Orr went at it for the second time of the night leading to Parros’ injury, Mason Raymond, who signed this year to a one-year contract, scored the game-winning goal with the assist going to Troy Bodie.
Eller scored his second of the night to bring the lead down to one, but it was too little too late as the Leafs defeated the Habs 4-3.
With little rest, the Leafs had to play against the Flyers the very next night. The Leafs iced the same team, except for switching in Jonathan Bernier to start the game.
It was clear that the Leafs were tired and could not get their game together in the first period. The Flyers scored with seconds left before the first intermission and it looked like the Leafs may take a shellacking.
However the Leafs pulled their act together and improved their play in the second period. Kessel, who turned 26 that night, scored his first goal of the season, wristing it past Steve Mason. The second period ended with the Leafs and Flyers tied at 1 each.
The third period saw one of Toronto’s offseason acquisitions, Dave Bolland, score two goals to put the Leafs up 3-1. Bolland’s second goal, scored on the powerplay, came with less than a minute remaining in playing time.
Saturday’s home opener against the Ottawa Senators was an exciting game with three Leafs rookies getting their first NHL game, Morgan Rielly, Spencer Abbott and Jamie Devane.
Rielly, paired with Cody Franson, showed some serious wheels and nice passing. Coach Randy Carlyle gave the rookie a chance to play even though he made a couple mistakes. Rielly can play 8 games in the NHL before it uses a year of his entry-level contract.
The Leafs got on the board early, when Bolland made a nice pass to Mason Raymond who put the puck past Craig Anderson to give the Leafs a lead.
The Senators’ Kyle Turris and Cory Conacher both put the puck past Reimer to give the Sens a 2-1 lead.
Then, almost like déjà vu, Nazem Kadri potted his first of the year from a Raymond feed that looked just the Leafs’ first goal of the night. Kadri’s power play goal tied the game at two for the end of first period.
The second period saw the Sens score two more goals, from Jared Cowen when Reimer was scrambling in the net, and then Jason Spezza who fired it over Reimer’s shoulder. After giving up 4 goals on 21 shots, Reimer was pulled for Bernier.
It seemed the Leafs were almost out of it when Joffrey Lupul scored a power play goal with less than a minute remaining in the period. Assists went to Raymond and Kadri. For Raymond, it was his third point of the night.
With the Leafs down by one goal at the start of the third period, Carlyle shortened the Leafs bench, sticking mainly with the Bozak centered line and the Bolland centred line to generate offense.
2:52 into the third period Kessel found JVR who buried it into the net, tying the game at 4. There was no more scoring for the rest of the period, as both teams settled in to guarantee a point from making it to over time.
The overtime saw the Leafs get several chances but they were unable to end the game before the overtime was up.
As the game went to a shootout there was some worry in the Leafs camp. Last season the Leafs performed very poorly in the shootout with only Bozak being a reliable scorer for the Maple Leafs. This season it would be a little different.
The Leafs’ first shooter was Raymond, who performed a spin-o-rama move which drew some criticism from the Ottawa bench. Ottawa’s Milan Michalek was unable to beat Bernier so the Leafs were up 1-0.
The Leafs’ second shooter was Tyler Bozak. Bozak, true to last year’s form, was able to get the Leafs second shootout goal. Spezza was unable to score, giving the Leafs their third win of the season.
Bernier proved that he is a capable goalie and is very hungry to be the number one. Reimer had a poor game, but perhaps being slotted in as the backup for now can motivate him further.
As for Rielly, he and Franson finished the night with a -3, but the Leafs coach was impressed with Rielly’s play.
“As the game went on, he got better,” said Carlyle in a post-game press conference. “We got to see more of what he’s about.”
The Leafs’ next game will be on Tuesday October 8th at home versus the Colorado Avalanche featuring coach Patrick Roy and Nathan MacKinnon.