The Leafs faced the Bruins for the third time this season. The Bs have taken the first two games along with their 8 last games against the Leafs which made this a statement game for the Buds. A celebration of Sundin’s induction into the HHOF gave it some more flair and we all hoped it wasn’t going to be a repeat of the effort shown on last February’s Sundin night. Fortunately, they got a do-over.
1) The Leafs are 17-12-3 and Mats is still bald and beautiful. Oh yeah, Leo, our hit machine, is out 7-10 days and Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton got called up and contributed.
2) 5th minute, after an innocent looking (much like a tiger) Bruin turnover in the neutral zone, Kadri finds space behind the Bs defence and S-N-I-P-E-S it past Khudobin. Orr immediately fights Thornton and gets a decisive W there, so that turns the opening momentum the Leafs’ way. Kadri keeps opening up a lot of eyes with his smart, simple plays which are all that was needed for him to thrive in the NHL.
3) The first period featured a Leafs team that was good defensively, but the Bruins started to play more aggressively and made each errant play count with a good cycle game and a ton of pressure in the offensive zone. Their forecheck really made our breakouts impossible. The Leafs were scrambling and James Reimer had to make two fantastic saves on Horton to preserve a one-goal lead towards the end of the opening period.
4) Grabo is still fabo! His goal needed a couple of whacks of the puck, but he stops up and ends up getting the puck past Khudobin’s right pad. Lucic was surprisingly soft on the boards after Hamilton opened it up for Grabo on the blueline. Good for Hamilton to register his second ever NHL point (both assists).
5) Kulemin hits the post after some sloppy plays from the Bruins in their own end. That didn’t last long and the B’s soon got back to their cycle game in the offensive zone. Reimer stood tall and looked calm in nets. The Leafs kept playing solid defense, keeping Boston to the outside. Liles paid the price when Paille (accidentally) went down skate to skate and drilled JM in the ankle. Liles had to go to the dressing room and didn’t return.
6) The 3rd period started with good offensive zone pressure by the fourth line. McLaren reaps the rewards of some hard work as he parks himself in front of Khudobin, plays it through his own legs, off his skate and through the goalie’s five hole. His 3rd goal of the season. Face punchers win again! Immediately after, though, Khudobin gets pulled, Rask steps in and the Bruins respond with Seidenberg’s goal. Franson had to be stronger on the puck behind the net on that play.
7) Grabo was really flying tonight. You’ve got to like the way he’s responding to Carlyle’s criticism. Gave a lot of energy to his line and was an offensive catalyst for the Leafs.
8) The PP couldn’t really do much against the top penalty killing unit in the league, but the penalty kill in the middle of the 3rd was big. The defensive effort after conceding the late goal also represents the difference between the Leaf teams we got used to watching in years past. Let’s make one thing clear; this team is still not good enough to consistently beat teams of Bruin quality, but it’s nice to be able to do it once in a while. Progress has been made.
9) 9 shots on goal through two periods sounds worrying, but the defense played well enough and they didn’t exactly spend all game working the boards in the defensive zone. I wouldn’t say the “scoring chance” count matches the shot count to the same degree and there were chances, much like the Kulemin post, which didn’t count as shots. The team, including Kessel with one shift in particular where he bowled over Seguin in an important chance-denying backcheck and blocked a Chara slapshot shortly thereafter, was in shooting lanes blocking shots and providing smart sticks in front of Reimer. Again, progress is visible.
10) This was a hard fought win. The Leafs battled for every inch of ice out there and got rewarded. Still, the two points probably don’t get put on the board if not for the stellar James Reimer, who looked like the Optimus Reim of old. Two bad Sundin tribute games? No way.