As a prelude to their Winter Classic matchup, the Toronto
Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings provided HBO's '24/7' cameras with an enticing storyline, involving Leafs goalie James Reimer in Toronto's 5-4 shootout loss, writes Mike Brophy.
The indoor classic?
As a prelude to Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings engaged in an entertaining tilt between two otherwise struggling teams at Air Canada Centre Saturday night.
A game for the ages? Definitely not. But for a couple of high profile Original Six clubs playing on Hockey Night in Canada on a Saturday night, it was pretty good.
Unless, of course, you are the coach of the losing team.
"We didn't have a good first period," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. "We score the first goal and then basically stood around for the rest of the period and watched them do their thing. They out-competed us very badly in the first period."
Finally, a storyline
The first episode of HBO's 24/7 was boring. No enticing storylines. That changed Saturday night when Reimer glared at his coach, Randy Carlyle, shooting him visual daggers after being pulled at the end of the first period.
"I was not happy," Reimer said. "I don't think there is a goalie in the league who is happy when he gets pulled. Obviously Randy had other thoughts and he's the coach and he's the one who makes the decisions. I just try to stop pucks."
For his part, Carlyle didn't mince words in suggesting he did not feel Reimer played particularly well.
"I thought the very first shot he took went in his glove and out of his glove," Carlyle said. "I thought the rebounds were bouncing away from him and when a goaltender is in the zone pucks don't usually go through them. Their third goal went through him. I felt the wrap-around goal was a stoppable goal."
When pressed about his feelings about being pulled, Reimer relented a bit.
"I don't know if I really want to get into that," he said. "Obviously I didn't want to get pulled; I wanted to hang in there. That's Randy's decision and I respect what he decides. I may not like it, but that's irrelevant."
The Los Angeles Kings did not co-operate Dec. 11 on their trip to Toronto by playing for Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens against former King Jonathan Bernier, but the Red Wings went with Jonas Gustavsson against his old team. The Monster played parts of three seasons in Toronto before joining the Red Wings last season. He entered the game with an impressive 9-3-2 record. He left it with a 10-3-2 record.
Gustavsson made the save of the game in the second period when he dove back to make a stick stop preventing Dion Phaneuf from scoring into the empty net.
The match-up of former teammates lasted a period as Reimer was yanked after allowing three goals in the first period. He was replaced by Bernier. It is the second time in four games Reimer has been pulled after allowing three goals.
Gustavsson may have learned a trick or two from Hall of Famer Johnny Bower during his days in Toronto. He pulled off a Bower-like poke-check to thwart Toronto's Mason Raymond in the shootout.
The Maple Leafs fell behind 3-1 to the red Wings and despite fighting back to force OT and a shootout, ultimately surrendered the extra point.
"There's no way we can start like that," said defenceman Carl Gunnarsson. "We battled back in a strong way and I guess that's what we have to take to the next game, but 60 minutes is what we need to win a hockey game right now."
Looking on the bright side
Bernier wasn't thrilled with his team's start as well, but at the end of the night said the Maple Leafs have to take what they can get.
"I think it was a big point for us," the goalie said. "Coming back against a good team like this should be good for our confidence and we have to move on."
Gunnarsson added his team lost a lot of puck battles and said it doesn't matter what system a team uses, winning those battles is paramount to having success.
The century club
David Clarkson put the Maple Leafs ahead 3-2 at 8:32 of the third period with the 100th goal of his NHL career. It was, however, just his third goal in 26 games with Toronto.
Centre Peter Holland continues to impress with fellow pivots David Bolland and Tyler Bozak injured. He made significant plays that led to two goals by the Maple Leafs in the first two periods, but was not credited on the score sheet.
You can run, but you can't hide
Former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson received his usual round of boos whenever he touched the puck. The veteran right-winger surprised the Senators by turning down their contract offer in order to join the Red Wings last summer. Alfredsson scored a beautiful snap shot-high goal in the shootout.
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.