“When is Ryan Miller not first star when he plays against the Maple Leafs? He’s a machine.” – Nick Kypreos (Sportsnet Hockey Central, January 21, 2013)
Miller arrived in Toronto on Monday having lost six games in a row at the Air Canada Centre, Kyper. His last win in the building was on December 21, 2009, Kyper. Your opinion clearly isn’t supported by fact, Kyper.
But I’ll give you Monday night’s game. In the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 win that stole the show from the Leafs at their home opener, Ryan Miller was a machine.
The Leafs outshot the Sabres 35 to 20, and were kept without a point on the board until the clock was winding down in the third. With less than two minutes left, Miller let a powerplay shot by Nazem Kadri slip by him. He ended the game having stopped 33 or 34 shots with a 0.971 save percentage.
The one thing you can’t deny is that the Leafs’ offense was on the ice. So, too, were the missed power play opportunities. It wasn’t so much a problem with the level of effort put in by the players, but there was definite fault to be found with the execution.
“I didn’t think there was any lack of effort with our group,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “I thought we were out of sorts in the first period and it showed in the execution of our power play.
“When you have an extended, almost a full two-minute five on three, you’re expected to provide some offense, you’ve got to score. And I think that came back to haunt us later in the game. We had our fair share of chances but we just didn’t execute to the highest level that was required to win the hockey game.” (mapleleafs.nhl.com)
One effort that didn’t go unnoticed was Colton Orr facing off against Buffalo’s John Scott only 2:34 into the game. At 6’8” and weighing 270 pounds, Scott has five inches and early fifty pounds on Orr who didn’t back down. Given how hard Orr has worked since the end of last season to earn his keep on the team, this was considered by many to be a step in the right direction of he wants to keep his place on the roster given his role on the team.
The lone goal of the game went to Nazem Kadri, with the assists going to Mike Kostka and Tyler Bozak. All have two points in the first two games of the season. All three are former Toronto Marlies. Hmmm.
The player most frustrated by his lack of goals is likely Phil Kessel. He’s one shy of 100 goals as a Leaf, but it’s not for lack of trying. He’s tallied 10 shots on net, more than anyone else on the team. It’s only a matter of time before he starts to capitalize.
Carlyle isn’t asking for much from his first line forwards, and will likely shake things up if he doesn’t see point production fairly soon.
“When you’re an offensive player and you get offensive minutes and you get an opportunity on the five-on-three you have to execute. That’s the reality of it. You have to have your best players providing you the offence that’s required in these games in those situations.” [x]
What else is required for this season? A winning record at home. The Leafs will return to the ACC on Thursday when the New York Islanders roll into town, Keith Aucoin in tow. Should be a good one.
Ben Scrivens postgame
Phil Kessel postgame
Dion Phaneuf postgame
Mark Fraser postgame. Monday night was his 99th NHL game played.