The Maple Leafs earned an uplifting 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night to a thunderous ovation from the ACC faithful. While the Leafs live to fight another day, the odds are still heavily stacked against their favour and they will have to hope the Sabres begin to wilt underneath the added pressure starting tonight against the Rangers.
Led by a three-point performance from Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri’s best game in a Leaf uniform and an energized Dion Phaneuf, the blue andÂ white dropped the Sabres for the third consecutive time in the span of about a month. While the Sabres are still five points ahead of the Leafs with a game in hand, admirably this Leafs hasn’t seemed to have gotten the memo about their season being over, and do maintain a slim chance of crawling back into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference if they can start getting a few favours.
It must be said that it’s not so much the possibility of the playoffs this season that has generated such a buzz among the fanbase but the promise of this group and its young individual performers, with a focus towards next year and beyond. Last night it was Nazem Kadri with undoubtedly his strongest game as a Leaf, making an impact shift-to-shift and recording two assists on the night, including a no-look, cross seam pass to find Clarke MacArthur in the slot after beating his man at the blueline. With the exception of a sloppy second period turnover at the Sabres blueline, Kadri was responsible in all three zones and appears to have corrected many of the mistakes he was committing earlier this season.
The 20-year old Kadri has two goals and nine assists in 24 games this season, with five of those points coming in his last five outings. Based on his recent success playing on the wing, it seems wise for the coaching staff to keep Kadri on the wing until he bulks up and improves his overall strength and prowess in the faceoff circle. Although the development process is still very much underway, the former ‘cocky’ junior scoring star appears to be evolving into a confident NHLer capable of doing the little things right and handling the daily grind of professional hockey.
“Dion has a ridiculously hard shot. He’s probably one of five players in the NHL that can simply beat a goalie on the speed of his shot. So that happens. It won’t happen too many times, but credit him for working hard and believing his shot can go in.”
– Ron Wilson, courtesy of James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail
James Mirtle recaps last night’s 4-3 win over Buffalo and highlights the standout play of your captain, Dion Phaneuf.
In case you missed it, the game in 10 fromÂ MLHS‘sÂ Mislav Jantoljak.
While the blue and white are likely the miss the post season for the sixth consecutive season, the anticipation has already begun for next year. Globe and Mail columnistÂ David Shoalts looks at the Leafs glut of cap space available going into the summer and the possibility of Brian Burke having interest in Coyotes pending free agent Ilya Bryzgalov.
DGB runs down the potential candidates for all of the major NHL awards. I particularly like the description for the Selke Trophy, which of course, has been awarded annually to Pavel Datsyuk virtually every season since the lockout. Feel free to chime in theÂ threadÂ with your award predictions.
Justin Fisher with an update from the pipeline on the recent performances of Ben Scrivens, Josh Nicholls and Matt Frattin. Frattin’s University of North Dakota defeated Denver 6-1 on Sunday to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament, which is being held at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota next week.
AJ MorrisÂ at Leafs Nation OnlineÂ takes an in-depth look at the NHL’s use of Facebook to connect with fans.
Other hockey links:
Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail doesn’t think the NHL has a crisis on their hands as a result of the rash of head injuries lately.
Puck Daddy looks at Kane’s emergence as the newÂ face of USA Hockey. My question to you; where would Kane rank amongst the top Canadian players?
Very comprehensive story detailing every dirty hit from around the league this season – compiled by Mike Chen at SB Nation.
Devils winger and franchise centrepiece,Â Zach Parise, resumes skating with the team and is expected to return at some point this season.
Manny Malhotra underwent successful eye surgery in Vancouver yesterday. Kukla’s Korner has the official press release.
Thornton recieved 40 stitches as a result of being cut near the eye by the skate of Blackhawks winger Fernando Pisani. Scary incident that could have been much more severe.
Last Night in Leafs Prospects:
Jesse Blacker provided a giant playoff performance for Owen Sound in game three in their first round series against the London Knights. His goal broke a 3-3 tie late in the second period as the Attack went on to drop the Knights 5-3 and take a 2-1 series lead. Blacker added two assists and finished at a plus-three.
Leafs Video of the Day:
Last night’s Game in Six: