Game in 10: Game #41, Leafs 5 vs. Canes 2

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 29: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates around Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action December 29, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Welcome back, Tyler Bozak!

1. The Leafs predictably start the game with some lackadaisical play which allows the Hurricanes to jump out to an early shot advantage of 7-0 after the first ten minutes. Having said that, the shot clock wasn’t totally indicative of the flow of the game. Zone time was even, and the Leafs had a few chances at the net. Kessel notably ripped a heavy wrister just wide, and the team made a few attempts to bring the puck to the net from the corner. Most of Carolina’s shots were weak perimeter wristers, save for one opportunity that saw Staal alone with the puck in front of a sprawled out Bernier. Luckily, the team recovered by the time Staal found the puck.

Also, Bozak looked good to start the game, and you can immediately see how he helps his line. He finishes his checks, and just generally helps them hold onto the puck a little better.

2. After a slashing penalty to Gerbe the Leafs start to go to work. The powerplay is a clinic in puck possession. Lupul gets a chance to go top shelf in front of Ward and just misses the crossbar. There are some neat deflection attempts, cross crease attempts, and a try to bring it to the net from the corner, but nothing will go. The top unit stays on the entire two minutes and then some. Good effort.

3. Shortly after the man advantage ends, the 4th line for the Leafs gets to go to work. D’Amigo and Holland do good work to cycle the puck and create a cross crease opportunity for a Morgan Rielly one timer that just misses. Carlyle goes right back to them after a Kessel shift, and they again create something in the offensive zone before the combination of Ranger and Orr manage to stifle the momentum. Still, even Orr looks more productive next to these two. Their play does beg the question – what would they look like with a Carter Ashton next to them instead of Orr?

4. Bozak’s faceoff prowess leads to a Kessel goal. After a battle at the dot, the puck gets free to Kessel along the goal line and he catches Cam Ward totally off guard with a quick back-handed wrist shot. It’s a bad goal, but Ward makes up for it as the Leafs start to surge in the aftermath. Kessel immediately creates an odd man rush on the next shift, and then gets a breakaway opportunity. Ward shuts the door on Kessel’s five hole bid.

5. The Hurricanes come out strong to start the second period. Or the Leafs come out flat; whichever perspective you prefer. Semin beats Gardiner to the puck in the corner and throws it to an undetected Gerbe in the slot, and he buries it short-side on Bernier.

An interesting in-game story is developing here though, with Gerbe at the center of a lot of after the whistle nonsense. Towards the end of the first period, he got away with a blatant slash after the whistle right in front of the official. Even Millen thought it was pretty bad that it went uncalled, and shortly after he scores a goal. It is crazy how it seemingly always manages to work this way. Getting away with something gives your team a lift, and that was certainly the case with Gerbe here – especially having already been called once for slashing.

6. Another missed call leads to the Hurricanes best opportunity of the period. Kulemin is obviously tripped and the normally dormant Air Canada Center crowd springs to life and lets the officials know, but to no avail. Gardiner trips and the play quickly turns back the other way for an odd man rush that sees Bernier make two outstanding saves that are easily his best of the night.

While the shots in the second period are heavily in Carolina’s favor, they haven’t had much in the way of legitimate scoring chances, whereas Kessel has had some really good looks in front of Cam Ward.

7. The momentum starts to shift back and forth a little bit as the top line gets some chemistry flowing, and Carlyle even throws the 4th line a bone by sending Lupul out in Orr’s stead. Some good chances materialize for the Blue and White before Kessel and J.V.R. work their usual 2-on-1 magic, and Kessel pots his second of the evening, and 20th of the season whilst attempting a cross-ice pass back to J.V.R. Hainsey angrily fires the puck down the ice having put the puck in his own net.

Almost immediately after, the Leafs are back in the Canes’ end buzzing as Jerry D’Amigo leads the rush and starts the cycle. Phaneuf makes a nice pinch that keeps the puck in the zone, and it bounces back to Kulemin who wires it past Ward for his 5th of the season.

8. Penalties make the closing minutes of the second frame very interesting. Ranger tosses Semin to the ice and is going to be going to the box alone, but after the whistle, Semin gets up and gives an unsuspecting Ranger a good shot, which knocks him over. Four on four hockey sees the Hurricanes get the upper hand. Phaneuf has a rough shift that sees him hit from behind, and then fail to clear the zone. Given the climate of the game, an extremely weak hooking call sends the captain to the box. A mistake by Phaneuf no doubt, but these are the calls that are hard to stomach when you’re letting far more dangerous and blatant infractions go. Regardless, the Canes almost immediately capitalize and make it 3-2 with a one-timer in the slot.

Perhaps realizing how bad the Phaneuf call was, Jordan Staal is called for slashing. Phaneuf, out of the box, goes straight to the net and appears determined to get it back. This is an exciting set-up for the PP, and the freshness of it clearly catches Carolina unprepared. It is the hungriest the unit has looked all year, and they create numerous grade A scoring chances to close out the period, but are not rewarded.

NOTE: During this segment of the game, Kadri was really struggling, and had maybe one of his worst shifts as a Leaf.

9. The powerplay isn’t as potent to start the final period, but still looking pretty dangerous and moving the puck well. Shortly after, Kessel is able to break free for yet another breakaway, and is again turned away by Cam Ward. However, the two goal lead is restored by Paul Ranger with a cannon from the point after Clarkson and Kulemin do a great job working the puck down low and in front of the net. They can be a real hand full. Somehow Bozak gets his 3rd assist on this play also – now on pace for 68 points over an 82 game season.

10. A terrible call on Clarkson for goaltender interference sends the Canes back to the powerplay, but the Leafs are looking a lot more confident in this regard now. D’Amigo and Kulemin do a nice job with clearing attempts, and Bozak’s return is surely helping. This effort really gives the impression that perhaps things can get back on track here a little bit.

The game ends with the Leafs just hanging back and trying to defend the lead. There are a couple dangerous shifts, but for the most part they hold back the Canes from gaining any serious momentum. The Clarkson line does a good job getting some offensive zone time shifts, too. Finally, Phaneuf seals the deal with a long rolling shot that ends up in the back of an empty net.

It’s hard not to recognize the impact that Bozak made in this game. Hopefully this will be the start of an upward swing for the Leafs. Onward to the 2014 Winter Classic!

Shot Location Data by Period

Leafs-Canes-1st-Period Leafs-Canes-2nd-Period Leafs-Canes-3rd-Period


3D. PhaneufD1013231111-3:40:001:10:0022:55:00
4C. FransonD0001015330-4:00:001:11:0023:22:00
11J. McClementC000200120063%0:00:001:20:0017:00:00
12M. RaymondL0000010000-0:00:000:00:0012:47:00
15P. RangerD1011223220-0:00:000:59:0018:30:00
19J. LupulL000003200167%4:00:000:00:0018:30:00
21J. van RiemsdykL0112022001-4:00:001:01:0021:42:00
24P. HollandC000000000071%0:00:000:00:008:39:00
28C. OrrR0000002110-0:00:000:00:005:35:00
29J. D'AmigoR0001002010100%0:00:001:01:008:04:00
36C. GunnarssonD0002002121-0:00:001:32:0018:22:00
41N. KuleminL1012032101-0:00:000:43:0015:53:00
42T. BozakC033200200456%0:00:000:16:0017:14:00
43N. KadriC000004311060%0:00:000:00:0012:16:00
44M. RiellyD0001003100-0:00:000:10:0017:38:00
51J. GardinerD0000033020-0:20:000:00:0019:32:00
71D. ClarksonR00022020100%0:00:000:00:0013:47:00
81P. KesselC2021050102-4:00:000:10:0023:43:00
45J. Bernier41 - 430.953060:00:00