Phil Kessel(#81) celebrates one of two goals he scored Wednesday night against the Bruins. Kessel and his linemates would combine for eight points against the Bruins in total.
Toronto - November 13, 2014 - The Leafs’ continued their winning streak Wednesday night in emphatic fashion, beating the Boston Bruins in a 6-1 rout. This was, in my opinion the single best game the Leafs have played under Randy Carlyle as head coach. Yes they have beaten teams by large margins before but this was a complete game in every sense, and it was against the Bruins. They flat out dominated them as well. They hit hard, passed the puck well, were calm when pressured and made great decisions in every zone. The Leafs even outshot the Bruins 33-26, a feat not often accomplished.
The top line combined for eight points Wednesday night, that included two beautiful snipes from Phil Kessel. Kessel looked as fast as ever, and his shot placement was simply perfect on both goals. Bruins netminder Tukka Rask did not play a good game and was pulled part way through the second period, however Kessel’s two goals would have been difficult to stop for any goalie. There are some nights where Kessel’s skill is simply sublime.
The Leafs’ special teams also played a marvelous game going 3/4 on the powerplay and a perfect 3/3 on the penalty kill. Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Peter Holland all netted goals on the man advantage, and did so on the only shot of each powerplay. It’s hard to even count the fourth power play as Carlyle gave his fourth line of Leivo-Smith-Panik some extra ice time by putting them out to start the final man advantage. The penalty kill continues to look improved since last year as they managed to limit the Bruins to only 5 shots and no goals on the power play. Having penalty kill expert Daniel Winnik return after being stretchered off against the Avalanche on November 6th was an added boost as well.
Leaf fans shouldn’t only be happy about the first line production though. As you go down the stat sheet, this game just gets better and better in every way. First off, it should be noted that Nazem Kadri won 90% of his faceoffs tonight. Kadri’s inability to win draws has been one of the biggest criticisms against him for some time now and he has consistently improved this season. Kadri had a great game in spite of not putting up any points.
Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly also had great games at both ends of the ice. Rielly scored a goal off a Peter Holland rebound just 1:16 after Kessel scored his second goal early in the second period. Rielly then backed that goal up by playing great in his own end putting up a Corsi percentage of 59%. Gardiner also played well, as he made keeping Bruins power forward Milan Lucic in check look easy. Gardiner also had an assist, as he took the shot that was deflected first by Tyler Bozak and finally by van Riemsdyk before finding the back of the net.
Finally the play of the third and fourth lines needs to be pointed out again. It cannot be said enough how important this is. Last year the biggest problem with the Leafs was over playing their top line while the fourth line played under five minutes a game. Wednesday night the Leafs forward with the least amount of ice time was Trevor Smith who played 11:34, both his linemates in Panik and Lievo were over twelve minutes. They also managed to keep every forward under eighteen minutes of ice time. This kind of in game management is what could allow the Leafs to make a serious push for the playoffs, or at the very least avoid a massive crash come March.
The Leafs had everything on Wednesday night. They had top line scoring, depth scoring, stellar defensive play as well as near perfect goaltending from Bernier. As a player, as a coach, and as a fan this is the kind of game that you just need to enjoy. You don’t expect it to happen every night, and you certainly don’t expect it to happen against a team like the Bruins. It was just a great game.
A game like this suggests that the Leafs are improving, and that they can surprise the best teams on any night. While they may stumble along the way, it is a promising win, perhaps even an inspiring win. The Leafs have now won three straight and play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
@RobMcPhee on twitter