The injury riddled Maple Leafs keep finding ways to grind out wins.
Reimer-less, Grabovski-less, Armstrong-less, Komisarek-less (is this good or bad now? I’m not sure), and for part of last game without first pairing defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and center David Steckel, the Leafs have won three of their last four as the organizational depth, and resolve, of the young club continues to shine through.
Tonight the Leafs are in Anaheim looking to wrap up a southern road swing on a high note; a three-game winning streak. It looked unspectacular, but to me their win against Dallas gave great reason for optimism. Dallas is a hard-working, bigger, physical team (they lead the NHL by a country mile in hits this season), the type of opponent the Leafs have struggled with a bit this season, and the Leafs found a way to win it. The Leafs aren’t a group of softies by any means, nor are they the perfect archetype of Burkean truculence, but they seem to own a trait of perhaps greater importance – mental tenacity.
Mikhail Grabovski will make a return to the lineup tonight, but just as the Leafs pick up a man they may have dropped two in Gunnarsson and Steckel, who each busted a finger off blocked shots on Friday. The Leafs have recalled Keith Aulie in case Carl Gunnarsson cannot go, preparing for the possibility that Phaneuf may need a D partner.
Where does Grabovski slot back in? Bozak with Kessel and Lupul, and Connolly with Kulemin and MacArthur, has been a recipe for success as of late, so it will be an interesting decision for Wilson as he looks to get Grabo back in the mix without disrupting a good thing he has going.
While the ever-changing look of the Leaf lineup continues to revolve, they will stick with Gustavsson between the pipes.Â James Mirtle points out that Gus still has the worse save percentage of any goaltender since he entered the league, somewhat tempering any recent spike in optimism towards the Monster. Nonetheless, he’s won three straight, and for a goaltender with perceived confidence issues, could it mean he’ll start rolling?
The Leafs can expect some more of what they saw in Dallas, albeit Anaheim hasn’t been as physical as years past, nor are they performing well in general. They’ve got two wins in their last 17 games, are the worst in the league at home with a 4-7 record, and according to their head coach “are finding ways to lose.” Given the Leafs are finding ways to win, and the game is being played in Anaheim, these are all good things. Ryan Getzlaf is currently mired in a career-worst 13-game goalless streak. Anaheim should probably trade him to us at a discounted price. After that Lupul/Gardiner for Beauchemin trade, what could go wrong?