March 30 2013 09:22PM
Apparently, former No. 1 overall pick Chris Phillips couldn't contain Nazem Kadri tonight. But hold on to something, it gets weirder.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are now two points back of the Boston Bruins. They are five points back of the division lead. There are 12 games to go in the season. This season is nothing short of incredible so far, and the Leafs have quickly turned a five-game slide into "points in eight straight games" and have now won four of five, and two of those wins have come against likely playoff opponents.
Latest victim was the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs got a hat-trick from Nazem Kadri and another goal from Joffrey Lupul, who was dipped in the River Styx as a child and was made immune to shooter regression. Final score 4-0. James Reimer with the shutout and the Leafs clinch the season series against the Sens.
-Pretty incredible performance by the Maple Leafs tonight, who won my scoring chance count for the second straight night. It was 13-9 at even strength, although two of those came during a delayed penalty that was technically 6-on-5…
-That said, penalty kill was a little shaky and the team was bailed out by a couple of missed shots and calm play by James Reimer, who didn't look spectacular by had a very sound positional game, particularly in scrambles, not allowing any second chances.
-Now. Nazem Kadri. Roll the video, Ron:
-How did… how did this Wilson character let him in the minors… for SO long…
-Just look at that, eh, silky smooth, you know what the kids call him?
-They call him… and I don't get this, they call him NIFTY MITTENS!
-Anyway, kids, like we've been saying all along, Nazem Kadri's minor league production was consistent with other players in his draft class. Even if he didn't make the NHL full-time until he was 22, doesn't make him a bust, eh, ya know? Not everybody drafted in the top ten becomes a star by the time they're allowed to drink on road trips. Getting good young players is tough in the NHL, and sometimes requires a little patience. Sometimes getting the right guy depends on taking a risk on a guy who hasn't
-I'm not sure how good Kadri would be if the Leafs hadn't eased him the way he did. Randy Carlyle has been gradually playing him to be more comfortable with certain situations. It's one of the right things he's been doing this year, and during a run like this for the Leafs, it's hard to find any substantial way to criticize the guy for his choices.
-So to that, I think I'll just tip my hat and call Randy Carlyle a genius, presuming his second line is going to score at similar rates to the 1980s Edmonton Oilers for the rest of the season and through the playoffs. If that fails, however, we'll start to nit-pick at the ways he manages his bench sans Kadri. Deal?
-Not too many matchups or shot differential statistics… by the time the game was 4-0, everything sort of fell out of whack because the Senators, predictably, mixed up their lines (splitting Guillaume Latendresse, Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad considering they've been a firewagon lately is pretty surprising) and started throwing everything at the net. The Leafs ended with a minus-13 even strength shot differential, but I wouldn't read too much into that. Hilariously, Jay McClement was minus-12 and I thought he was one of the stronger Leafs defensive players tonight, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles when you have to play a lot of garbage time minutes with a 4-0 lead.
-Paul MacLean didn't match lines, just defensive pairings, and only his Sergei Gonchar-Patrick Wiercioch pairing was dangerous at all. They didn't give up anything to the Mikhail Grabovski-Matt Frattin combo that's been pretty good on "O" lately. Other than that, it's pretty tough to find too many bright spots on the Senators not counting the relative paleness of one of their many Scandanavian players.
-Had an older cousin pass through town. I didn't know that these were originally going to be the Sens jerseys:
-We ranked the Leafs jerseys a while back, but how would you rank anything Ottawa's ever worn? The only thing they've had in their existence I didn't think looked awful was their red jersey with the black swish through the middle. To put the Sens jerseys from a historical context into perspective, tonight's "heritage sweater" was the second least offensive thing the team's ever worn.
-Individual scoring chance differential:
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|James van Riemsdyk||4||3||1|
|Chances For||Chances Vs.||Chances +/-|
|Toronto (EV)||3 (2)||5 (3)||6 (6)||14 (11)|
|Ottawa (EV)||4 (4)||4 (2)||4 (3)||12 (9)|
LeafsNation Three Stars:
- Nazem Kadri
- James Reimer
- Joffrey Lupul