The Leafs win! They go into Madison Square Garden and defeat the New York Rangers 4-2. This is the second time the Leafs have beaten the Rangers in MSG, the only team to do so in regulation so far. The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the 2nd, but the Rangers score twice (once on a 5-on-3 powerplay) to make it 3-2. After some nervous moments in the 3rd, David Steckel pots an empty netter to seal the win for the Blue and White putting their record at 15-10-2.
Let’s get to the stuff:
- As I said in my “Leafs Quarter Grades” post, Luke Schenn is on his way back. He had another strong game tonight logging almost 21 minutes. He made a nice (but lucky) pass block on a 2 on 1 coming in the Leafs’ end. He had a couple nice hits as he usually has when he’s on his game. Luke, welcome back, you’ve been missed.
- If you didn’t see Dion Phaneuf‘s huge hit you reaaaally missed out. (Ok, fine here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc3ij0TSqAc). The captain had a strong game after having a few tough ones recently. It seems that when Dion has a good game, the whole team follows.
- Phil Kessel reclaimed his points lead tonight after he added 2 assists. I’m really starting to believe that getting picked last in the All-Star game last year really lit a fire under Phil. He thinks he has to prove something to not only the NHL, but to himself, that he is in the NHL’s elite category. (Fun stat: Kessel hasn’t been held pointless in consecutive games yet this year. Really speaks to his improved consistency).
- Of course, Kessel couldn’t have done this on his own. Every superhero needs a sidekick, and he has one in Joffrey Lupul. Lupul has been far better than anyone expected this year. With a goal tonight putting him at 31 points, Lupul is 3rd in points, just one behind Claude Giroux.
- How can I forget the 3rd member of the top line? Tyler Bozak has stepped up his play to show that he can centre a top line very well. This helps for a number of reasons. The biggest one being it allows Ron Wilson a chance to spread out the scoring and have Tim Connolly play with other players to make them better.
- Many people (including myself, from time to time) doubt Jonas Gustavsson. Well, if he keeps playing like he has recently, not many people will doubt him ever again. He’s one 5 of his last 6 starts and really stole the 3rd period for the Leafs tonight. Only thing I didn’t like tonight was when he misplayed the puck (that’s an issue for him) but he made the save anyways, so not a huge problem.
- There is no one I have been tougher on this year than Cody Franson (well, maybe Phillippe Dupuis). He came in with so much promise, when he was scratched early in the year, I was confused. Then when he got in games, I was confused no longer. Tonight, he had a strong game, in my opinion. He scored a goal and had good moments in the offensive zone. I really like Franson, and I hope he does well for his childhood team.
- I’ve been very impressed with Joe Colborne ever since he got his call-up. But tonight, he was less than impressive. Many time he looked like a deer in headlights in the defensive zone and had some brutal turnovers when he could have cleared it. He’s a rookie, so I shouldn’t go to hard on him and he’s played well for the most part.
- If you’ve read my posts before, you’ll know I praise Jake Gardiner like he’s the MVP. He’s been one of the Leafs best so far this year but tonight, he didn’t have his usual Jake Gardiner performances tonight. There were a couple plays where he looked like he was just going through the motions on defense and just some boneheaded passes. Like Colborne though, he’s a rookie and rookies make mistakes.
- I feel so bad for Nikolai Kulemin. He’s had some tough luck out there this year, some great chances just aren’t going in. But, despite all that, he’s still been strong in his defensive play. Tonight, though, he wasn’t strong on defense or on offense.
That should be about it for now. Leafs play again tomorrow vs. the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. James Reimer is expected to start.
Oh, and I’ll probably do something about the Leafs’ new division alignment scheduled for next year. If not tomorrow then Wednesday for sure.