Maple Leafs 3, Boston Bruins 2
Perhaps the Maple Leafs caught a break facing Anton Khudobin instead of Tukkka Rask? Be as it may, Khudobin came into the game with a 6-2 record and a sparkling 2.14 GAA and a save percentage of 92.5%.
Toronto also may have caught the Bruins at a good time, as Boston played with some inexperience on its blue line.
Toronto had two choices: continue to play passive, scared hockey against a team that owns them and giving them way too much respect, or take chances when available and play a team-defensive game, get gritty and win the one-on-one battles.
Fortunately, they choose the latter and gave themselves a chance.
Nazem Kadri once again got the party started with a beautiful individual effort off a great feed from Clarke MacArthur. After the opening goal, which is so important, the Bruins finally got their legs going and started to get their cycle game going. But the Leafs weathered the storm well and had all five men on the ice doing their job in the defensive zone.
When James Reimer needed to step up he did, closing the door a few times in close before the end of the first period. Unlike Thursday, Reimer stood his ground well. If Toronto is to make any such playoff run, this is the James Reimer the team needs. Anything less will spell doom.
After Mikhail Grabovski's seeing-eye shot off the post gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead, the Bruins again pushed hard with their offensive zone cycling. But again, the Maple Leafs were again able to keep their composure, paying attention to the little details and not overplaying the puck. Reimer once again stood his ground well and preserved the shutout heading into the final twenty minutes.
Frazer McLaren scored the all important third goal, that sent Khudobin to the Boston bench for a little wake up call. The switch played instant dividends as Dennis Seidenberg snapped a shot through heavy traffic that Reimer got a piece off, but not all of it.
Mark Fraser played another solid game defensively, but scored on his own goalie with a poorly blocked shot attempt, that ended up flipping off his blade and in behind Reimer. So, with Boston down by one, the maturity of this young Leaf team would come into question again.
Toronto was fortunate that Brad Marchand was unable to pull the trigger in prime places thrice in the final seconds. Still, the Leafs held together and pulled our a huge 3-2 victory over a team that has owned them for nearly two years.
The big victory tonight was that the Maple Leafs were able to win some big battles along the boards against the feisty Bruins, who like the LA Kings, simply outwork their opposition. Toronto was able to even things out and win the loose pucks more so than in recent past against Boston, and other teams. The effort and desire to work hard was there all night, and when things appeared to possibly get out of hand, they did not let it happen.
Also, credit Phil Kessel tonight, as he actually won the head-to-head battle with Zdeno Chara. Kessel was all over the ice, and for him to put up a strong game without hitting the score sheet speaks volumes concerning his maturity and confidence at both ends of the ice.
Again, I was disappointed in the effort of Dion Phaneuf. The captain had several chances to clear the zone late in the third, but all he could do was measly throw the puck along the boards directly to a Bruin point man. Still, the Leafs were able to win an important game with their captain still screwing up at bad times.
If Toronto is able to win back to back against Boston, or at least fight for another big point in the standing Monday, hopefully that will ensure enough confidence in the team to eventually make a run at the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Let's hope they can keep up this effort past Monday.
Kings Return to Madhouse on Madison
With the Kings losing the last two games at home, by shutout fashion, they have no choice but to come to Chicago Monday and take it to the Hawks right off the opening face off.
In the past, the Kings come out flat as all hell in the first period, find themselves chasing the puck around and falling behind 2-0 or even 3-0. Tomorrow, there is no excuse for that to happen.
Chicago will be without Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa as is looks like right now. Without those two guys in the lineup, Los Angeles faces a regular season must-win game on National television.
The effort has been there the last two games, as the defending champs dominated both the Stars and Canucks but had nothing to show for it as Kari Lehtonen and Cory Schneider both played strong, positioned games against them.
Still, the Kings are starting to revert to a more methodical offensive attack. It seems as if too may guys are getting a little too cute with the puck and instead of shooting, they are looking to make the perfect pass.
Just shoot the puck!
In fact, I yelled at Grabovski last night for not shooting initially, but then seemed to catch Khudobin and the Boston defense off guard as he finally pulled the trigger and beat Khudobin.
Good things happen when you shoot the puck!
So, please shoot!
More after tomorrow when I get back from the United Center.