Great. Ok.... Awful. *facepalm
Welcome to the first period Avalanche fans, lets star off with the opening line for ea... What's that? We're on a power play already? Nevermind then. The Avalanche got off to a strong start, taking the opening faceoff down the ice and drawing a hooking penalty just 13 seconds into the game. The Avalanche had great puck movement throughout the power play as the unit of Matt Duchene, Ryan O`Reilly, and Jarome Iginla finally started to find some power play chemistry. The Avalanche spent almost 1:45 seconds of the power play in the Toronto zone and despite a number of strong chances, they were unable to get the puck past James Reimer. Although the Avalanche didn't score, the power play did get team some good momentum early. Shift after shift the Avalanche out-possessed the Maple Leafs but they struggled to generate many scoring opportunities, missing set up passes in the zone and firing a number of pucks wide. It took almost 6 minutes for the Maple Leafs to have their first extended shift in the Avalanche zone, and as the game opened up a bit both teams attempted a number of long stretch passes. After Tyson Barrie sprung Alex Tanguay for a near breakaway, the Avalanche took an unfortunate, phantom tripping penalty, as Nazem Kadri fell to the ice near Gabriel Landeskog. The Avs didn't let it affect their momentum, however, the penalty kill was incredibly aggressive and the Avs held the Leafs to zero shots on the power play. The best chance actually came when Max Talbot attempted a centering pass to Marc Andre Cliche in the slot.
After the power play the Avalanche continued their assault on the Leafs zone with 2 strong possession in the Leafs end only to give up the first goal of the game on a giveaway. That's sports folks. They suck. Jamie McGinn's breakout pass was picked off by the Leafs, then Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk danced their way through the Avalanche defense on the oddman rush and JvR slammed the puck home. You cannot turn pucks over like that. Moments later the Avalanche fired a shot on Reimer which created a juicy rebound in the crease. Before the Avalanche could dig the puck out the refs blew the play dead.
The Avalanche played through the frustration and after a bad shift from the 4th line, O`Reilly, Landeskog and Everberg put on a dominant, and seemingly never-ending shift in the Leafs zone. The group forechecked hard, created turnover after turnover, and ran the Leafs defense ragged. Finally O`Reilly camped out in behind the Leafs' net and passed the puck to Erik Johnson pinching in the low slot. The shot deflected off a defenseman but O`Reilly snuck out from behind the net and buried the rebound with a terrible angle backwards-backhand shot. Please don't ever leave Ryan.
The game tightened up considerably after the O'Reilly goal, but the Avalanche carried the play throughout the rest of the period and had a number of near misses. Nathan MacKinnon fanned on a great opportunity in front (loosen up kid, have some fun ok?), but the best chance of the period came in it's closing seconds when Dennis Everberg took the puck down the right wing, deked past the defender and sent a wicked wrist shot over Reimer's glove shoulder. Reimer made the save, but was clearly handcuffed by the shot. What an eye opening move by the rookie. Everberg continues to raise his game and it's hard to imagine he won't get his first goal soon.
Just over a minute into the second period O'Reilly nearly buried his second goal of the night when Gabriel Landeskog deked through Dion Phaneuf and sprung O'Reilly for an opportunity down the right side. O'Reilly's snap shot deflected off Reimer's shoulder and high. The Avalanche continued to control the bulk of play early in the 2nd period and Toronto's first opportunity came when Nick Holden had a facepalm level giveaway at center ice which sprung the Leafs' top line on a 3 on 1 break. Before they could connect, Erik Johnson made a diving stick check to knock break up the opportunity and knock the puck away. The next shift saw the Swedish-Sandwich line dominate again, with a long cycling shift in the Leafs' zone which ended when Ryan O'Reilly fired a spinning shot at Reimer as he came out from behind the net. This line was great.
Over the next few minutes the game got considerably more physical. The Leafs' put two huge, clean hits on Tyson Barrie and Max Talbot. Cody McLeod responded by trying to run someone over behind the play and missing, not effective. On the next shift renowned neanderthal and jerk Dion Phaneuf tried to elbow his former captain, teammate, and future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Iginla pulled up at the last second and Phaneuf luckily missed most of the hit. Jamie McGinn was immediately in Phaneuf's face and gave him a swift glove-punch to the jaw before Jarome Iginla came in and dropped the gloves. The refs broke up the fight before a punch was thrown.
Through some inexplicable logic the officials gave the Maple Leafs a power play out of the event, more on that later. On the power play the Leafs had some good movement as the Avalanche struggled to clear the puck. Semyon Varlamov made his best save of the night when he stretched the left leg across the crease and stopped the puck on the line with his toe, robbing James van Reimsdyk on the wraparound. The Leafs were quick to look for the wraparound all night, but Varlamov was excellent moving side to side. Toronto took substantial momentum out of the power play and had a long shift in the Avalanche zone which seemed destined to wind up in the back of the Avs' net. However, instead of playing hockey Joffrey Lupul decided he wanted to go bowling and he ran over a pair of Avalanche players away from the puck. Power play Avalanche.
Well... kind of. The Avalanche were unable to establish much on their power play opportunity and Iginla wiped out the last 24 seconds of the power play when he slashed Daniel Winnik and sent the Avs to 4 on 4. The Leafs maintained possession for the duration of the power play, but mostly only managed a few shots from the point. There was an uhhh "interesting" exchange between Phil Kessel and Nate Guenin on the power play, as Kessel crumpled to the ice in pain but got up moments later when the puck was headed his way so that he could fire a puck on net. Replay confirmed that Guenin caught Kessel right in the Kessel family jewels when he attempted a stick check. Looked incidental, but Kessel was furious (as you can probably imagine).
You could feel the period slipping away from the Avalanche a bit ever since the Jamie McGinn penalty. They started off strong, but they started to lose their favorable tilt on the ice until... MATT DUCHENE! With 2:20 left in the period Jamie McGinn corralled the puck on an aggressive forecheck and dropped the puck to Jarome Iginla who sauced the puck over to Matt Duchene. From there? It was all Mighty Matt. Duchene fired a ridiculous wrist shot from the high slot which Reimer tried to shrug off (or duck from out of fear), but there was nothing he could do about the bardown laser. pew pew.
On the next shift an Avalanche turnover just outside of the blueline led to a Toronto odd-man rush (sound familiar?). This time, the Avalanche were fortunate that David Clarkson was the man with a goal on his stick and not well, you know, someone who could score that goal. After getting beat on the 2-on-1 Nick Holden poked at the Toronto forward out of desperation and sent the Leafs back on the power play. It was a pretty light slashing call, but you can understand why the ref made it considering his position and how badly Clarkson bobbled the puck on his own. Either way, not Holden's best outing so far.
After killing the remaining seconds of the Leafs power play, the Swedish Sandwich line went back to work in the Toronto zone. Who carried the puck the most on that shift? Dennis Everberg, and he did it with some style. Midways through the shift Everberg made an excellent move one on one to dip in from his off wing, beat the defenseman and drive the net, but the big Swede missed the net. At the end of the shift Everberg lifted up the knee to block a Toronto shot from the point and send the Avs the other way. What. A. Shift.
On the next shift Matt Duchene picked off a terrible pass by Robidas and went flying down the ice on a breakaway. Robidas dove back towards Duchene and hooked him from a full two strides behind, pulling him hard enough to spin Duchene's hips by about 90 degrees. Hilariously, this was not a penalty. No goal for Duchene either.
The Avalanche were so much better tonight through the neutral zone, but man does this team have problems getting the puck out of their zone once it's there. With 13 minutes to play the Tyson Barrie had possession of the puck behind the Avalanche net. 1 player with possession, then a 2nd, then a 3rd. All three players failed to clear the zone. All three players turned the puck over, and eventually the Leafs got a pretty good scoring chance out of the affair. That can't keep happening.
After the Avs were stuck in their own zone, you can guess which line generated another good offensive opportunity. Yup, Gabriel Landeskog sent a beauty of a pass to Dennis Everberg in the high slot and had his one timer deflected wide. This guy could have 3 goals tonight already. The Avalanche followed up the chance with a very strong cycling shift from the Duchene line. Jarome Iginla looked particularly good, kicking the puck to his stick and attempting to tuck it past Reimer. Next up, a positive Corsi shift from the 4th line. Good work. Then a very long shift from the MacKinnon line that took place entirely in the Avalanche's zone. Awful.
Now things got unfortunate for the Avalanche. After clearing the puck up from behind the Avalanche net Jan Hejda was absolutely RUN OVER from behind by Leo Komarov. Boarding, roughing, hitting from behind, charging, your choice. it was all of the above, and Hejda was very, very fortunate to avoid injury on the play. Hejda left the ice screaming at the officials and Brad Stuart stepped onto the ice in his place. Instead of a power play the Avalanche went to work clearing the puck out of their zone, which of course meant that Brad Stuart turned the puck over to Lupul who scored. That's what happens when you turn the puck over in your zone. Did the Avalanche learn their lesson? No. Because in the next 3 minutes they completely fell apart and turnovers from Nick Holden and Brad Stuart led two separate breakaways for Maple Leaf forwards. Seriously, I've seen guys care more about the puck in pond hockey.
With just over 5 minutes left in the period the Avalanche got a little penalty karma back in their favor, as Reimer sent the puck sailing over the boards for the delay of game. The first unit power play couldn't do anything with the puck and the second unit was even worse. On the 2nd unit Nathan MacKinnon wound it up in his own zone, flew through the neutral zone and then passed well off the mark of his winger sending Toronto the other way where Alex Tanguay took an interference penalty and sent the Avalanche to 4-on-4. It didn't take long for the Leafs ensuing power play to become dangerous, in fact Kessel skated straight out of the box and towards the Avalanche net where he picked up the puck and sent a shot on goal. After Kessel's initial opportunity the Avs penalty kill was smothering and Toronto failed to create another scoring opportunity. Stick tap to Cody McLeod, who made a pair of impressive plays on the penalty kill.
Back to 5 on 5 Patrick Roy called a timeout with just over 2:00 left on the clock. Presumably so he could tell the Avalanche that they should care what happens to the puck after it leaves their sticks. Whatever the gameplan was, it didn't work, because Erik Johnson immediately turned the puck over to Tyler Bozak and set him up for a dangerous wrap-around chance, save by Varlamov. Everberg Watch Update: He's on the ice in a tie game with 1:15 to go. That tells you the kind of night he had. Time expires. To overtime we go.
The dry scrape is dumb. Lets get on with the show people. Avs win the faceoff, MacKinnon tries to smack the puck out of the air, Leafs fly down the ice, Phile Kessel races down the right side and embarrasses Tyson Barrie, who gave up body position and tried to flail at Kessel with his stick, then he tucks the puck fivehole on Varlamov. Bad play by Barrie, who was good all night, and Varlamov should probably have a better seal with the pad, but this is what the Avs deserved letting Phil Kessel walk all over them all night.
What's It All Mean:
- Pssh I don't know. The Avalanche were by far the better team in the first half of this game, by almost every metric. Then they were by far the worse team.
- Yes this was the second half of a back to back, and the Avalanche played most of yesterday's game with only 5 defenseman. Were they a bit tired? Maybe. Doesn't change that they absolutely HAVE to take better care of the puck.
- The Avs are yet to win a game decisively. It's important to take advantage of opportunities against lesser teams like the Maple Leafs and this was certainly a missed opportunity. Ottawa and Montreal just got more important.
- This game probably shouldn't have made it to overtime if the ref does his job and makes the call when Hejda was run over behind the net, but the Avalanche got what they deserved in the third period. They were not good.
- The power play is hot garbage right now.
- The refs should have let Iginla and Phaneuf fight. If you're going to allow fighting in the league, this is the exact kind of fight that should be allowed. Iginla didn't like the hit and went to respond because the refs didn't. Instead of working it out the refs separated the two and called a ticky-tack roughing on Jamie McGinn. Refs were eager to prevent that fight, but they wont care the next time two face-punching 4th liners go out there for a staged brawl that doesn't mean anything.
Three Up Three Down:
1. Swedish Sandwich Line - Seriously, these guys were amazing at 5v5.
2. Matt Duchene - Sweet go-ahead goal and generated a number of good shifts for his line.
3. Jarome Iginla - 2A. By far Iginla's best game as an Av so far. Looked more comfortable, cycled well and made a great pass on the Duchene goal.
1. Brad Stuart - Gave the game away on his stick. Absolutely inexcusable turnover on the tying goal and he followed it up by giving Phil Kessel a breakaway on his very next shift.
2. Nick Holden - After a great game against Boston, Holden was a turnover machine. Cost his team a few breakaways and easily could have cost them more.
3. Alex Tanguay - If this is all Tanguay has left, that's going to be a big problem.
4. Nathan MacKinnon - It's just not clicking.