The Blackhawks tried really hard to make the Maple Leafs look like a pretty good puck possession team in the first and at least part of the second period of the game tonight. For those who have somehow managed to go without following half of the Leafs fan base on Twitter, that is a tough task. The Leafs were an abysmal possession team last season and while they have made some changes this season, puck possession is not their strong suit.
Goaltending is the Leafs strong suit and that came in mighty handy once the Blackhawks decided they should go ahead and try to win the game. The offensive onslaught in the third period by Chicago was impressive. James Reimer played really well and saved the game for the Leafs.
- James van Riemsdyk notched his 100th goal as a Maple Leaf during the game tonight. He matched up against younger brother Trevor van Riemsdyk on several occasions once Joel Quenneville decided to shake the defensive pairings up a bit. TVR did have a takeaway from JVR. JVR also burned his brother around the boards a little bit later. Ah sibling rivalry.
- Speaking of defensemen, Niklas Hjalmarsson took a puck to the face in the second period when a Leafs shot deflected off of Andrew Shaw’s stick while Hjalmarsson was crouched down to block it. He bled a ton, looked pretty woozy, went back to the room, got stitched up and came out for the 3rd period. Personally, I don’t like that decision. It’s really early in the season and he is a very important piece of the team. I would have erred on the side of caution, but strangely, they don’t ask me for my opinion on this stuff. Hjalmarsson hobbled off the ice in the 3rd period after blocking a shot again, but at least he used his leg instead of his face that time. Got a tweet after the game from Elina Hjalmarsson saying that she’s been asking her husband to wear a visor for a long time. Here’s hoping he’ll listen.
- Shots, shots, shots. The 2nd Power Play Unit looked terrific tonight. They moved the puck well and had a lot of quality chances. The 2 goals they scored were the sum total of the offense for Chicago on the night. The 1st Power Play Unit was a complete buzz kill, which continues to be frustrating bit of hilarity game in and game out.
- Pastries. I love turnovers. Apple turnovers are the best. Turnovers within a few feet of either blue line are awful. They have a very bitter aftertaste. Duncan Keith and Bryan Bickell ate a bunch of these against the Leafs. The rest of the team scarfed down a punch of these particularly nasty pastries as well, but Keith and Bickell stood out as eating more than their fill. Johnny Oduya managed to grab a dozen box of turnovers in the defensive zone. He was kind enough to put one on a platter for Peter Holland right in front of the net. Yes, Peter Holland. He of the “I have 11 career NHL goals and 4 are against the Blackhawks” fame. The team tightened up a lot in the 3rd so maybe they had a protein shake at intermission and decided to leave the fattening foods for after the game.
- Protein shakes. Blend well or they will be gritty. Nobody likes a gritty shake. Quenneville had his blender set to puree for the majority of the evening. The defensive pairings were as mixed up as the line combinations. The Kane Shaw Sharp experiment lasted about 15 minutes of the 1st period before changing into the Richards Kane Sharp (RiSK, I kind of like that) experiment. After starting out with regular shifts, Jeremy Morin had 3 shifts in the 2nd period and 1 in the 3rd. Pretty sure I saw Kevin Dineen throwing a rolled up newspaper down the hall toward the locker room for Morin several times during the 3rd to keep him busy.
Game tomorrow so don’t stir in your own juices too much tonight and make sure to eat all of the pastries tomorrow morning so there aren’t any left over for the team.