It’s hard for fans not to “fall in love” with Phil Kessel when he performs like he did Saturday night. Before he even scored the tying and eventual winning goals, he was flying, setting up plays, just looking like the Kessel that Leaf fans want to see.
We’ve seen bad Phil (lackluster, uninvolved, unproductive) but this was very much good Phil.
And while he basically sleep-walked through pre-season, no one cares because he is delivering when it matters—when points count in the standings.
His second goal, fending off a defender while managing to roof the puck from in close, was a masterpiece.
So a nice night for Phil, and a comeback win for the now 3 and 0 Maple Leafs.
But while Kessel was the star of the show, there were other key parts to the Leaf picture against the Flames.
- They did not give up any power-play goals (didn’t score any other, but let’s focus on the good news after a week working on special times…)
- Reimer made a nice array of solid stops and backstopped the team to its third consecutive win early in this new season. (Sometimes, fortune was on his side as well, including in the dying seconds when Bourque had a yawning half net to shoot at, but shot at Reimer instead…)
- Steckel winning (among many others) that last key faceoff to Reimer’s right in the final minute was obviously big, with the Flames on the power play. He won it so cleanly that the Leafs were able to easily kill off important seconds on the clock with the game on the line.
- Bozak’s back-checking stood out for me. The one very determined back-check on Iginla all the way into Reimer’s crease was part of a quick transition that enabled the Leafs to hit Kessel with a pass that he converted beautifully for the 2-2 goal.
- Twitter conversation that I saw was decidedly anti-Franson in the early going, but I think he will fit in. (I’ll say it again, I can understand his frustration at sitting so early in the season. He was a big part of the trade with Nashville, played important playoff minutes there—and he’s a competitor who simply wants to play. Here in Toronto, we tend to micro-analyze every play and Franson may suffer from that for a while, now that he has “spoken out”…
- I’m not suggesting it’s a huge deal, but Schenn’s minutes have declined over the first three games. He was on for both goals against early on Saturday, if I’m not mistaken.
- Phaneuf, on the other hand, is playing big minutes and clearly has a ton of confidence. He looks more comfortable than he has since he arrived in Toronto. Who can argue with a +7 in three games?
- I like Gunnarsson’s measured play, meaning that I like it when he is on the ice and nothing bad happens. Gunner is plus 3 on the season with a couple of assists.
- Lombardi and Dupuis contributed on the penalty kill
- Does Frattin lead the team in goal posts/cross bars? It sure feels like he does.
We all remember the 4 and 0 start last season. So, does this “feel” any different? Yes, I think so. There are no guarantees, of course. The team is healthy and hasn’t played an away game, or a back-to-back yet. But they earned a shutout win in Game 1, held on a bit skittishly after building up a big lead in Game 2, and came from behind in Game 3.
All hopeful signs.