The stats were not in Toronto’s favor. The Red Wings current streak was not in Toronto’s favor. Chris Osgood’s recent play was not in Toronto’s favor. But the Leafs came out last night with such, dare I say it, truculence that fans gave them a standing ovation for their efforts, as well as the Leafs first win at home this season.
Toronto won just their third game of the season, but has not lost in regulation in their last 7 games. Phil Kessel and Jonas Gustavsson have recently taken this team by the horns and are running with it.
“When you get solid goaltending it certainly helps,” said Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. “I think a big part of the game was a difference in the goaltending on both sides. Obviously having Phil Kessel in there as well, we just have a different feel.”
Jason Blake credits the game on Gustavsson’s shoulders. “He’s made some saves that I call game-changers. Right at the key times and they’ve been outstanding. Last night and tonight, he was the difference. It was good to see.”
Phil Kessel scored his first goal in the game as Jason Blake’s tip squeezed through Osgood’s pads. Kessel made sure it would go in by sending it the rest of the way. “It’s just an instinct thing,” he said. “You never know if a guy’s behind you. All of sudden I don’t touch it and then some guy hits it out of there — you’ve got to bury it. I’d expect anyone else to bury that one too.”
But Jason Blake was more than happy to see Kessel get the goal-monkey off his back. In fact, there was more than just Kessel’s goal to be happy about in the game. A total of 12 Leafs players registered a point in the 5-1 win, and the Leafs have never looked better than their recent play. Ian White, Jeff Finger and Phil Kessel each had a two point night.
“It seems to be that things are falling into place,” said 4th liner Wayne Primeau. “We’re finding ways to get points rather than finding ways to lose.”
On Friday night, Wilson demanded more piss and vinegar from his Leafs, and it has turned them into aggressive and content players.
“Everybody on the team wants to win and wants to be successful,” said Gustavsson. “We want the fans to be happy. When we started playing better, everybody’s going to be happy. If we can just continue like this it’s going to be a fun season.”
The Leafs even managed to improve on their specialty teams. They pushed their 30th overall penalty kill from a 70.7% success rate to 73.0%, and with John Mitchell’s deflection goal from a Phil Kessel shot (who looked like he was aiming for the stick) on the powerplay tonight, the Leafs are now atop the league with a 26.6% success rate.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has clearly stolen the number 1 position with the club. He currently has a 2.60 goals against average and a 0.918 SV% on the year. In his last two games, he has a 1.50 goals against average and a 0.958 SV%. When is the last time you can recall a Toronto goaltender with stats like that?
Defenseman Mike Komisarek left the game with a lower body injury after missing his man on a hip check. Ron Wilson has confirmed it is not a serious injury, but he is now listed as day to day.
The Leafs will now prepare for their home game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, before traveling to Chicago for another original six matchup against the Blackhawks on Friday. Should the Leafs continue their current point streak, they could very well be knocking on the Playoff Door.
Micheal A. Aldred