Maple Leafs 3, Capitals 2
I must admit, it is a little more challenging to come up with a good post after your team played a great game and never stepped off the pedal until the final horn sounded. But, there is always something to comment on after every game, win or lose. It is just a little easier and perhaps more fun to discuss a loss or develop some sort of coherent rant.
I think we are starting to see this club develop and mature since the bad 5-2 loss just last weekend in New York. In that game, the Leafs were just not up to par with a more experienced and physical team like the Rangers. And they still may not be, but it seems as if they have learned something since that game and have risen to the challenge.
In the overtime victory in Buffalo Tuesday, we saw steps towards a team not afraid to play their game in the third period or when a game is still in doubt. In the past, we have seen numerous Toronto defeats due to one bad play or bad bounce late in a game or overtime. Now, all of a sudden, things are starting to bounce Toronto's way. Not due in large part to "luck", or whatever you want to call it, but to maturity.
Tonight, even down 2-1 still with about 12 minutes or so left to play, I just got the feeling that there was no way the Leafs were going to lose this game. Every time Washington tried to sustain any sort of pressure in the Leafs zone, there were five blue jerseys, moving to the puck or creating a passing lane to exit the zone and get it going the other way. The Leafs never stepped off the gas pedal, and each time Neuvirth would come up with another big stop, Toronto was still digging, clawing and tearing up the neutral zone going right back at the net.
In fact, in the third period, it became the Michal Neuvirth vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs game...how long would it be before the goalie would make his first mistake, if he would at all give one up?
Finally, a Mike Kostka slap shot from the point trickled through Neuvirth's arms and laid there for a diving Nikolai Kulemin to tap home to tie the game. Minutes later, another great play from Matt Frattin to Nazem Kadri and back to Frattin to finish off a pretty give-and-go gave the hard-fighting Leafs its first lead of the evening. It was a lead that the Leafs continued to fight hard to protect and eventually earn the victory.
A big win tonight sets the stage for an even bigger game Saturday against the Boston Bruins, who lost their first game in regulation tonight at home against the struggling Sabres. There is no question that the Leafs will need to come out with the same intensity from tonight to have a good chance at beating a team who absolutely tanned their behinds last season. Let's see if the boys in blue and white can rise to the challenge once again and continue to develop as a strong, playoff worthy club.
Quick Notes before the Kings game:
• Phil! I feel your pain man...keep playing the way you are right now. You are doing everything right except not getting that puck to do what you want it to do. One night, this guy is going to go nuts and light up a hat trick. He's been one of the best players on the ice this season for anyone, and still has yet to light the lamp. Perhaps Saturday will the night?
• Cannot play frustrated. Toronto had plenty of chances to become frustrated, however nobody showed any sign of frustration. Neuvirth is going to see blue and white coming at him in his dreams tonight. But hats off to him for giving his team any hope whatsoever of earning a point or two tonight.
• JVR, I love your intensity but for the love of God, shoot the %$*&$ puck!
• Another soft goal allowed by the Leafs tonight almost doomed them if Neuvirth had continued to be a brick wall in the third period. I have seen way too many five-hole goals and I know it is early being a half season. Yet, if Reimer allows any "softies" on Saturday, it is going to be a total uphill battle even if the Leafs play as well as they did tonight. This club needs a more than solid effort from the goaltenders against Boston who will be hungry after losing a bad one at home tonight.