The Leafs eventually bashed in the surprisingly dangerous Red Wings on Saturday night. While they should have won, how the Leafs did it was crucial moving forward.
What do good hockey teams do? They beat teams that are worse than them and they battle with teams that echo their own talent levels. For anyone who watched the Leafs Hockey Night in Canada matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, there was probably a bit of frustration resonating early in the game more than anything else.
Frustrated with a 5-2 win?
The Buds had a ton of shots early but not from difficult areas. Subsequently, Jimmy Howard got into a bit of a groove and had a really solid first two periods. Shots on net are great for your Corsi, but limp perimeter wrist shots aren’t going to do anything but get the goalie hot.
There was also no flow to the game. The Leafs struggles with special teams zone entry again and also would stymie their own offensive zone pressure with sloppy cycles. It wasn’t a ton of fun to watch early, but thankfully some blue-collar players started to dictate play.
Frederik Andersen is also fighting the puck right now. We all know he’s a perennial slow starter in October, but his rebound control has been atrocious as of late. Jacob de la Rose capitalized on this early, killing the massive momentum the Leafs started the game with.
Why this win was so important
As mentioned, good teams win games. The Leafs were far from their sharpest in the matchup and they still got the win, eventually steamrolling the Wings along the way.
Yes, the top-6 was quiet in this game but the bottom-6 carried them; good teams will have this happen periodically throughout the season and it’s okay. Moore – Mikheyev – Kerfoot is proving to be one of the most exciting units in the NHL right now that no one outside of Leafs Nation is talking about and I can’t get enough of it. Skill, speed, hunger; it’s a recipe that is exciting and hopefully motivating for the rest of the group.
Andersen picked up his play late in this game. He ended the game strong, turning away 25 of 27 shots faced, rewarding him with a .935 save percentage. As mentioned, we know he’s a slow starter but playing as he did in this game shows he is getting close to reigning in the loose play this season.
Most importantly, the Leafs stepped on Detroit’s throat and closed out the game in style. The third period saw Kerfoot, Muzzin, and Moore all score yet again proving the bottom-6 forward group can chip in and pick up the mail if the big boys aren’t firing. They failed to do this to Montreal and St. Louis so getting it done against this quick, threatening Red Wings team is important and was impressive.