BY: Jeff Schneberk
It was really good to see an NHL game from Edmonton last night. Being in southern Ontario and seeing as how my trial with NHLCI just expired, I won’t be seeing too many of them this season. Considering how the game went, it made it even better, but there is something that somehow takes me back to the Wayne Gretzky glory days that really makes an NHL game in Edmonton really special.
The Maple Leafs made it even more special last night.
Well Phil Kassel was close to his second hat trick of the season, Morgan Reilly nearly had his first NHL goal and James Reimer had his first shutout of the season and Leafs faced a no-name goaltender for the first time this season, and cleaned his clock good in a 4-0 dismantling of the Edmonton Oilers last
night at Rexall Place.
It was anything but the high-intensity matchup we all saw last month when the teams combined for 11 goals at the ACC, including the game winner in overtime.
Last night in Edmonton, Kessel continued this dominance that nobody in Toronto has seen before (at least not for an entire 82+ game season). His second goal last night was basically a work or art.
Head Coach Randy Carlyle said this is what the team has come to expect of him, someone who’se eyes light up when he scores those amazing goals. “That’s what goal scorers do,” says Carlyle, referring to the fact that they just find a way to put the puck in.
The win gives Leafs a 9-4 record with one game left in October, tonight at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Kessel was in on every goal scored last night; if the other team had scored one, it would have been the only scoring play he wasn’t involved in. He helped set up a goal that was originally credited to rookie Morgan Reilly, then it was given to Nazem Kadri. Earlier in the game, he fed James van Riemsdyk who made it 2-0.
Overall what has happened is the former U18 Team USA star has put an end to all of those ridiculous reporter questions asking if he feels any pressure going up against the player Toronto traded away to get him (Tyler Seguin). Now of course, Seguin has since been re-located to the Lone Star State, that coming after a post season last season where scored 1 goal through 4 rounds. He has been looking in place in Dallas though.
As for Kessel, the re-uniting with van Riemsdyk and Kadri are seemingly as explosive as they were going back to the travesty in beantown last May, actually Games 6 and 7.
Now, Carlyle has re-united them, at least for the time being while Tyler Bozak is out with a lower body injury and nobody can say for sure when he may return.
Kessel obviously was a big part of the post-game talks last night. His first goal came just over a minute into the game.
“Puck luck is a part of it,” explains Carlyle to the media. “But skilled players find a way to get goals. The puck kind of follows those guys around. He doesn’t need many opportunities to score.” He did before Carlyle took over as coach, but we probably shouldn’t go there yet
“He’s going into those dirty areas to get those goals. That’s what you have to do. Goals are not easy to score in the NHL,” he said.
Leafs have now won three of their last four, losing only at Columbus last Friday, torching Anaheim three days before that, then blasting Pittsburgh on Saturday.
It is starting to get contagious.
As for Kessel, he’s playing it like Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky (technically both on and off the ice).
“I’ve had some good passes and some guys have been making some good plays. I’ve been pretty fortunate.”
According to the cbc.ca, Leafs have now moved into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who fell last night, 2-1 to New Jersey.
Edmonton goalie Richard Bachman stopped 22 shots for the Oilers who fall to 3-9-2 and have lost four straight. Edmonton also outshot the Leafs, 43-26.
As for the goalie ‘situation’ in Toronto, Carlyle says he’s got 1A and 1B.