The Toronto Maple Leafs' 6-5 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers looked like a game of pond hockey. The fans loved the back-and-forth action. The coaches hated it.
It looked like a game of pond hockey.
The fans loved it. The coaches hated it.
"I said that my teeth are going to be ground down by the 20-game mark if we continue to play the way we did tonight as far as exchanging chances and making mistakes," said Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle after his team tied the game with 31 seconds remaining in regulation time. They eventually won it 6-5 2:09 into overtime against the Edmonton Oilers.
"Hey that's hockey and it's early in the season and I'm sure we'll see a few more like this along the way. We just feel fortunate that we got the extra point at the end of it."
Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins, who left the Toronto organization last summer to take his first head coaching job with the Oilers, wasn't quite as cheerful.
"I'm glad the fans enjoyed it because I'm sure Randy and I have a few extra grey hairs from that one," Eakins said. "Those are tough ones. Obviously they are happy with the win and I thought our guys played hard. It was maybe the best game we have played so far."
The Maple Leafs improve to 5-1-0 while the Oilers slip to 1-4-0. Eakins is seeing improvements in his young team and hopes having the carpet pulled out from under them late in the contest is a lesson.
"Every moment in the game is important and our guys were battling hard, but we couldn't keep the surge from coming," Eakins said. "I thought we were doing a lot of great, great things and it just seemed like the puck kept coming in our net."
DON'T BLAME THE GOALIES: Neither team was pointing the finger at their respective stoppers despite the fact they allowed a combined 11 goals. Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk has struggled thus far and there are some who feel the team needs an upgrade in goal. Not coach Eakins.
"That kid in there is fighting and he cares and he wants to win," Eakins said. "He understands his position is one that people are very critical of. That's a tough way to lose a game after you fought hard for 60 minutes."
Toronto starter Jonathan Bernier has bailed his team out a number of times already, but wasn't quite as fortunate Saturday night when the Maple Leafs skaters made mistakes.
"We definitely had some breakdowns that led to goals and there's not much he could do about it," said left winger James van Riemsdyk. "It's a team game and you're just looking for a way to win. They're not all going to be pretty, but we'll take it."
BOLLAND'S VALUE TO LEAFS: Not only did David Bolland score the game-winning goal in overtime, his second GWG of the young season, Carlyle said the former Chicago Blackhawks' centre sets the pace for the rest of the team with his work ethic.
"To get the true read on David Bolland you have to come to practice and watch him," Carlyle said. "He does everything, every drill at the highest possible speed; he practices like a pro. He's trying to make himself better every day. We think some of our younger players could take notice of that and we've talked to them about it. We tell them to take notice of how he approaches practice and how intense he is and the level of commitment that he puts into practice."
Carlyle added the coaching staff has a motto that if a player's skill level is at one level and their will or ability to work doesn't match that skill level or exceed it, the player will never get any better.
"It's guys like David Bolland that sell your program and help the coaches by leading by example," Carlyle concluded.
JVR LIGHTS IT UP: With two goals against the Oilers, James van Riemsdyk now has five goals and six points in six games. Coach Carlyle likes what he is seeing.
"We saw it last year in the playoffs when he was one of our best players and most committed on the puck," Carlyle said. "He made it difficult for himself because no we expect it from him every game. There has been growth in JVR in terms of what is expected day in and day out for him to be most effective."
JVR's second goal of the game was off a nifty wrap-around. He said the fact the nets are not as deep as they once were gives him a little extra space behind the goal to work with.
"I don't know if it does make a difference, but when you feel like you have more room you feel like you can maybe try something more," van Riemsdyk said. "You don't feel as crammed back there. Being a bigger guy I'm always around the net. It's only a few inches, I know, but I feel like I have more time to make a play."
Carlyle made it clear when the six-foot-three and 200-pound left winger joined the Maple Leafs last season he wanted him to have a net presence.
"He's good around the tight area of the net," Carlyle said. "For a big man he's got soft hands. We've seen him pull the puck from behind the goal line and put it between his feet and throw it upstairs on the short side. The wrap-around tonight with the shallower net makes it easier for him to pull the puck around."
HOMECOMING: There was a real Toronto feel on the Oilers Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. Eakins joined the club from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He has also served as an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs. Former Leafs assistant coach Keith Acton now holds a similar position with Edmonton while his son, Will, has cracked the lineup of the Oilers after spending the past few years playing for Eakins and the Marlies. Finally, former Leafs grinder Mike Brown does similar work for the Oilers following a trade to Edmonton last season and former Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton has played one game with the club, but is injured.
BOLD CHANGES?: When Craig MacTavish took over as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers he promised bold changes. Well, he has shuffled his lineup bringing in defencemen Andrew Ference and Anton Belov and forwards David Perron, Jesse Joensuu, Luke Gazdic, Boyd Gordon, Will Acton and Ryan Hamilton. Hardly bold moves, although some eyebrows were raised when he named former Boston Bruin Ference the team's captain.
YAKUPV NAILED: Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, was a healthy scratch for the Oilers. This did not come as a surprise to those who have followed the 1-3-0 Oilers this season. In four games this season Yakupov has not registered a point and is minus-3.
UNMASKED: Defenceman Cody Franson, who suffered a suspected broken nose to go with stitches Thursday in Nashville and wore a mask at practice Friday, took it for the game against Edmonton.
Franson wouldn't say whether or not his nose is actually broken, but did say he tried the visor. He had trouble finding the puck and that's why he opted to go without it.
BRENNAN ON A ROLL: Defenceman T.J. Brennan of the AHL Marlies registered his second hat trick of the young season Saturday. Brennan, who played in the NHL with Buffalo and Florida last season now has seven goals and 10 points in three games with the Marlies. He was the AHL's player of the week last week and spent a few days with the Maple Leafs practicing as the seventh defenceman this week.
BROLL MAKES HIS POINT: Rookie left winger David Broll, a tough guy, drew an assist on Joffrey Lupul's fourth goal of the season at 5:20 of the second period. It was the Mississauga, Ont., native's first NHL point.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.