Banners On The Road – Toronto Maple Leafs vs Philadelphia Flyers 11/2/13

Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 Philadelphia Flyers

Phaneuf                        Simmonds

Orr                               McGinn

Frattin

MacArthur

Van Riemsdyk

 

 

"The true north..."Maple Leafs fans unfurl a Canadian flag during the singing of the national anthem.

“The true north…”
Maple Leafs fans unfurl a Canadian flag during the singing of the national anthem.

 

 

Pre game: It was almost like my travel agent had a sixth sense about me giving me a hotel 5 minutes walk from the Air Canada Centre. From the outside the building looks like a big great block, the former postal depot from the outside doesn’t inspire much but once you get closer to the building you can see the hub of activity inside.

Once you get through the doors into the arena itself there is literally so much stuff to see and do, you don’t really know where to look. There’s bars, merchandise stands, Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza, Mr Sub, burger bars, a hot dog bar, a microbrewary on site to brew Molson Canadian for the bars, it’s an ADHD person’s nightmare.

If you wanted to feel how big a departure this is from British hockey, let me paint the picture for you; we had to go up a level to get to our seats. As we walk up 2 escalators we see a bar at the top. As I turned back on myself to get to the block our seats were in there was a man pouring a pint out of the tap next to a man carving up a pork joint. We certainly weren’t in Kansas any more.

We had got the only tickets we could get at a price we could afford which were “obstructed view” but the view was still spectacular. We couldn’t see one small corner of the ice but what we couldn’t see was visible on the video screens so it really wasn’t a problem at all.

 

 

The teams get ready to go.

The teams get ready to go.

 

 

The game: Both teams went into the game with their respective starters in net as James Reimer started for Toronto and the man who is only scared of bear in forest, Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes for the Flyers.

It didn’t start well for the hosts. 38 seconds in, Timonen passed across to Luke Schenn on the other point. His blueline shot rebounded off of Reimer into the path of Wayne Simmonds who backhanded past Reimer to give Philly the lead.

The Leafs woke up and started to get some shots on net but were making sloppy plays in their own zone which kept giving the Flyers chances but come the ten minute mark of the 1st period the game had settled down and the Leafs were more in the tie with more chances. Nazim Kadri tipped a point shot over the bar and some good pressure was held at bay by some excellent Flyers defence.

Zac Rinaldo took his inevitable penalty at 11:15 which put the Leafs on the powerplay, the best chance coming from James van Riemsdyk but Bryzgalov made an easy glove save.

The chances were now coming evenly at both ends and you felt that the next goal would be important. Simmonds had a great chance off of a 2 on 1 but Reimer saved and the Flyers would rue the missed chance. Leo Komarov streaked over the blueline, span back on himself and fed the puck towards Phaneuf. The Maple Leafs captain one timed the puck in stride and blasted it into the net at 14:49 to even the scores.

The Leafs had a good chance to take the lead shortly after when Mike Knuble was called for crosschecking but the Flyers had the best chance as Matt Read raced away towards Reimer who made the initial save. Read poked at the rebound but Reimer tapped the puck under his left leg.

Claude Giroux took a boarding penalty at 16:44 to give the Leafs 34 seconds of 5 on 3 but Phil Kessel bobbled the puck and blew the build up the Leafs had created.

Toronto had a late chance in the period when Cody Franson let fire from the blueline but Kadri could only tip the puck wide. The period ended with Flyers ahead on the shotcount but level on the scoreboard.

The second period started and out of nowhere, Toronto blew the game wide open. The Leafs 4th line started the party when Matt Frattin’s shot rebounded off of Bryzgalov to Colton Orr at the top of the crease to give the Leafs the lead at 22:05. 18 seconds later Frattin added his name to the goals scorer’s list as Franson’s shot fell to him much like his had fallen to Orr. The Leafs had 2 goals on 2 shots in the period and the Flyers finally called their time out at 23:19 in an attempt to steady the ship.

Just as it looked like all was going well for the hosts, things took a nasty turn. Sliding across his crease to stop the shot, James Reimer stayed down in front of his net. The Manitoba born netminder was helped from the ice and replaced by Ben Scrivens at 24:00 but any hopes for Philly fans that the netminder change would sap the momentum from Toronto were short lived as the Leafs kept coming.

Phaneuf had a great chance as the trailing man during a 3 on 1 but he fired high. Kadri forced a turnover but shot wide but finally the pressure told again. Frattin fed Kadri who played a fantastic pass across the crease to Clarke MacArthur to make it 4-1 and 26:15 and that was Bryzgalov’s night done as he was replaced by Brian Boucher.

The Leafs took their foot off the gas slightly and nearly paid for it as turnovers first gave Mike Knuble a shot then he tipped a shot goalwards but Scrivens held on to the puck both times. The Flyers also had a powerplay opportunity when Mikhail Grabovski was called for hooking. Kulemin had a great shorthanded chance and the Flyers caused a few scrambles in front of Scrivens but the two minutes passed without score.

The Leafs were forced into a rethink at 33:29 when Korbinian Holzer was thrown out of the game with a 5+game boarding penalty to give the Flyers an extended powerplay. Despite forcing one massive glove save from Scrivens, the powerplay was a rather ineffectual exercise for Philadelphia due to some excellent penalty killing which brought the home crowd to their feet when the penalty expired.

The second period ended 4-1, the Flyers still somehow led on the shotcount but the game felt over as a contest.

It didn’t get better for the Flyers at the start of the third. Off a feed from Kessel, van Riemsdyk held off his man, skated in on Boucher and poked the puck past Boucher into the net for 5-1 at 41:11 and the game really was over and both teams kind of knew it as did I. My notes became a bit more scarce as well whilst both teams went through the motions.

Mike Knuble took a hooking penalty that pretty much saved a goal at 45:28. The Leafs powerplay set to work and was full of confidence. The Leafs moved the puck around with ease as the Flyers collapsed back and tried not to concede. Flyers did have a one decent chance that drew a snow angel save from Scrivens.

Rinaldo took an interference penalty which was negated by Colton Orr getting a rare shift on the powerplay unit. Rinaldo later tried to get into it with Dion Phaneuf and both ended up with a 2+10 and had their night ended at 57:53.

The Flyers got the last word on the night as McGinn tapped in off a rebound off of Scrivens at 59:30 but the night belonged to the hosts who were greeted to rapturous applause as the buzzer sounded.

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs salute their fans.

The Toronto Maple Leafs salute their fans.

The Maple Leafs: If you’re not a fan of the Maple Leafs then there is a very high chance that you’ve made a joke about them. Be it their lack of recent playoff hockey, the lack of the Stanley Cup since 1967 or just how they seem to write the book on inconsistent play, there are at times a lot to joke about when it comes to Toronto. This night however, after a sluggish start they dominated.

Both netminders gave the Leafs a good foundation to build on as Reimer and then Scrivens, who picked up first star of the game, stood strong against a Flyers side that outshot them 46-24. Reimer made some impressive saves, the shorthanded double save on Matt Read being the highlight before Scrivens was called in for the last 36 minutes of play.

Colton Orr got the 2nd star of the game for scoring a goal but the real silent story was Mark Fraser. The former New Jersey draft pick who many expected to be a fixture for the Marlies this season was a solid rock of dependency at the back during this game and despite not scoring any points he gave such a solid performance that it was hard to ignore his quality on the night.

It was interesting to watch Nazim Kadri live as well. I know Kadri to be something of a polarising figure in Leafs Nation but my verdict on him is that it’s not quite clicked yet. He’s certainly an NHL quality player and that scoring touch will come with time. Be patient Leafs fans, such as you can be.

James van Riemsdyk wins “pretty goal of the night” for his tally against his old club. Bison fans will remember some of Danny Stewart’s drives to the net in his time and it was like an improved version of those.

It was the quintessential team performance from the hosts as they got point production from all forward lines and the defence and nobody can really argue with the effort their team put in. Losing Reimer to injury is obviously not ideal but Scrivens has proved capable of carrying the load.

 

The Flyers: Oh boy, not a good night for Broad Street’s finest. The first period wasn’t that bad all in all, a nice early goal and some really sloppy Leafs play gave Philadelphia a real chance to take a grip on the game but they just didn’t seem to manage it. When the 1st period ended 1-1, the Flyers were ahead on the shot count and I thought we were in for a really tight contest. Then in the second period, the whole thing collapsed.

Whilst Bryzgalov didn’t have the best night of his career, he wasn’t helped massively by his team mates who let their defence go to pot then their heads drop.

The big names for the Flyers were AWOL and the one person I noticed the most was Mike Knuble but that was only for the penalties he ended up taking, a shame as I really like Knuble. The only other person who got noticed was Zac Rinaldo for being Zac Rinaldo. His 2+10 penalty for his tangling with Dion Phaneuf being his largest contribution to the game.

I rarely say “back to the drawing board” a lot but after this display, there was little else the Flyers could do.

 

Overall: The game itself started promisingly for one side and ended in a well deserved victory for the other. Toronto thoroughly earned their 2 points from the action on this night and there’s no other way to slice it. They rebounded from the early set back, wrestled control of the game away from the Flyers then put the boot in.

The experience of NHL hockey in Toronto was unforgettable for the sheer razzmatazz and spectacle of everything on display. There was chanting, albeit from the upper decks mainly. In chatting to a university student near me I was told, “this is the Mecca of hockey but look at the lower deck. See all the suits, there’s so many corporate types here that the atmosphere suffers for it. Go to Winnipeg and there’s not so many suits and more fans”.

I agree to a point, there are a lot of suits in the arena and season tickets have a wait list that goes on for years and years but that seems to go hand in hand with everyone in the city loving the Leafs with it. I didn’t think the atmosphere was that bad, there wasn’t a lot of chanting and singing and NHL sides could learn that from European hockey (as well as playing on a proper sized ice surface) but the culture of the sport is different here.

When all is said and done, I got to watch NHL hockey in Canada at the home of one of the original 6 franchises with my wife and a cold beer. I think I can accept that.

IMAG0253

More photos from this game can be seen here.

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