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Leafs get the point they wanted in New York

I have a short and very basic question for you on the heels of the Leafs 3-2 shootout loss at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.  But first I’ll just make the point that, for the Leafs, they got the point they wanted on the road.  That they were able to snatch three out of four points against New York in this home and home series this week, while the Rangers walked away with only two, is huge in many ways.  It shows they can play with another team that was thought to be one of the “best in the East” before the season started.  And maybe most importantly, it solidifies the Leafs’ playoff “position”—and prevents the Rangers from what could have occurred: sweeping the mini-series, and ending up tied with the Leafs in the standings.

I know the Leafs were outshot (yet) again, and some were upset that Grabbo was not playing much in the early going.  But I was pleased to see the veteran center play more down the stretch and into overtime (it felt like most of his 11 minutes were in the final part of regulation and then in OT, which must have meant Carlyle saw some jump in his stride as the game progressed).  Grabovski was also part of the shootout, another sign Carlyle liked what he was seeing.  I'm hoping this bodes well for Grabovski's future "situation".

Phaneuf played over 30 minutes, McClement (who has to get the ‘unsung hero’ award or some darn thing at the end of the season) more than 20 minutes.  The Kadri line had its moments but was also on the ice for two goals by the Rangers.  (In fairness, Liles was awfully unlucky on the second, as his clearing attempt while trying to get the puck deep into the Ranger end hit a linesman.  New York took advantage and scored on the subsequent rush…)

Reimer was sensational at times, and was brilliant on two shootout attempts.  Critics (he still has some) will point to the goal the Rangers got in the shootout because it went through his legs.  But goal scorers have to score somewhere, eh?  Reimer is blamed for giving them up through the five-hole, or high on his glove side, or over his non-glove shoulder, or because he gives up rebounds.  The fact is, no goalie stops everything- and all goaltenders have their weak spots.  He earned the Leafs their point, I’d say.

But you may shave seen things a bit differently, so for fun (and there’s a reason I’m doing this, which I will reveal later if enough people post today), here’s my “question”:  who were the three best players for the Leafs against the Rangers Wednesday night—and why?

I look forward to reading your perspective.


  1. "who were the three best players for the Leafs against the Rangers Wednesday night—and why?"

    Reimer: All through the season I have heard, "When is the last time a Leaf goalie stole a point from a good team?"

    Tonight was pretty close.

    Kessel: Finally comes through with key goals in really in games. Usually he gets the goals that don't matter as much...a goal and empty net in a lop sided win. No these last two games. He seems to have some resolve and was even going in close to net rather than cruising circles on the perimeter.

    JVR: Big skilled body really helps our smaller forwards. He was being a bit nasty too...pushing people back etc. I would do that Schenn trade again and again.

    1. I meant to say:

      Kessel: Finally comes through with key goals in two really big games. Usually he gets the goals that don't matter as much...a goal and empty net in a lop sided win. Not these last two games...he seems to have some resolve and was even going in close to net rather than cruising circles on the perimeter.

  2. all I have to say is: this team has as much chance as going to the finals as any in the east. why? there are no shootouts in playoffs.

  3. At this point, I don't see an unbeatable team in the East, Sean.

  4. Tonight's 3 stars for Toronto:

    1. Kessel - was the leafs only offence; made a great stick play in front of reimer to stop a really good chance for the rangers to get the 3rd goal

    2. Reimer - great in goal for the most part; and battled the whole way and never gave up on a single puck.

    3. McClement - where would the leafs be without his smarts and skills on the p.k.

    And again the leafs got 3/4 points from a tough opponent.

    Here is hoping we drae the habs in the first round.

    Anon from Scarborough.

  5. Three best palyers in order

    Reimer: was really, really good tonight

    Phanuef: stymied Nash like a wet blanket and created some chances on offence

    Kessel: had the jump all night like he has most nights this year.

    These three were the best players on the ice tonight for the Leafs. Some other Leafs had decent games but to me these were the guys.

  6. Tonight to me was a good example of what I was talking about yesterday when I said shots matter. Of all the goals scored tonight only one was directly a shot, the second Kessel goal. The first Kessel goal was a swipe at a puck controlled by a Ranger the fooled everyone. The first Ranger goal was a shot that was blocked and bounce right to the open player. The second Ranger goal was a long wrist shot that just kinda floated past Reimer. Of all the goals scored only one would count as a grade A scoring chance, Kessel's first. That in a nutshell is why shots directed at the net matter. A certain % will go in and they don't always have to be great scoring chances. The law of averages says that the more shots you take at an opponets net the more goals your team will score.

  7. The three best players for the Leafs were Bozak,Kessel, and Reimer in no particuling order.Kessel certainly had fire in his belly, Darren Pang mentioned on the broadcast that Kessel was frustrated at not scoring, to me a good indicator of someone who wants it. If he played like this consistently he is a core piece to hang onto. Also I feel that for most of the year he has played well,so what if it is assist instead of goals he puts up? In Boazaks case, I don't believe he is worth 5 mil but I bet 29 other teams would love to have him. He will never be a point a game player but look at all the other things he does well. Carlyle can see it and rewards him with ice time. I hope they can sign him,maybe we will get a hometown discount because I think that someone will throw the dough at him. And James Reimer, what can you say?! People can find all the faults they want but he is a competitor who is only getting better. I see this team growing together and getting better all the time. We can't discount how much the Rangers needed this game and the lads still almost pulled it out. On another note Michael, I wouldn't be surprised if Grabbo is moved in the off season for a top 4 defenseman. My son and I noted last night that he doesn't seem like he belongs on the team. If Bozak is resigned I believe he will be moved and Colbourne will take his center spot. BTW this is my favourite blog,always read it first after the game!

  8. A hard game to assess really. It'd be easy to slam the Leafs for going more than a full period of game time without even a shot on net as they allowed the Rangers to take over. But, this is a road game, the back end of a home-and-home, against a tough physical opponent. Early in the year I had commented that the Leafs still cannot compete physically with teams like this. They proved that they could this week, culminated by playing a classic "road" game.

    Our best players last night...

    Kessel, for obvious reasons. Besides scoring both our goals, he had the defense on their heels all night.

    Phaneuf. He took Nash out of the game, and remained a constant physical presence despite the overtime work he put in.

    Third, I'll go with McClement. I don't mean to parrot you by bringing his name up too, but this game had a lot of quiet performances and was not flashy by any means. So I have to go with a workmanlike player who once again shut down the power play, and kept the play in the Rangers zone for the majority of his time on the ice.

  9. I never saw it coming with McClement, but the Leafs made a nice signing there, for sure, Scarborough Anon. Thanks for casting your "vote"!

  10. Hard to find fault with those three, Willbur. Thanks for chiming in...

  11. Purch- I keep thinking that whatever has gone off the rails with Grabbo can be fixed. I'm not entirely sure what the issue is, though we all have our theories.

    I sense the challenge in re-signing Bozak will be money. It almost always is with players and I understand that. Does he like playing with Kessel enough- and the value of being a Leaf- to make it worth his life to stay for "less" money? Hard to say.

    Thank you for the kind words about VLM purch- I appreciate it.

  12. The Leafs did go a long time without a shot, Pete, but as you say, it was a road game (against a desperate team) and clubs often go through stretches without a shot on goal. I know many are all in a lather that the Leafs can't keep winning while being outshot and outplayed, but I'm not sure they are really being outplayed all the time.

    Are they getting some breaks? Sure, and those things often do even out. But a small sample last night: there were at least two obvious penalty calls that the refs missed, and could have turned the game around in favour of the Leafs. That gets lost.

    I've been a "slow adopter" regarding Phaneuf, but he is winning me over lately, I admit. Can't ask for much more.

    Thanks Pete, good stuff.

    1. I wouldn't say I'm all in a lather. I prefer to think it as having my dander up

  13. I wasn't thinking of you specifically Willbur when I spoke of some fans being in a lather- but your response gave me a smile!