The Leafs pulled out a win in the shootout Saturday over Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to move to 14-8-1 on the season, good enough for second place in the Atlantic division. Sitting three points back of the Boston Bruins and in a tie with Tampa (Leafs ahead on goal differential tie-breaker), this week is an important one for the Leafs as they approach a real tough stretch of games in early December. This week sees Columbus in town Monday, Wednesday at Pittsburgh, and closing with a back-to-back in Buffalo and Montreal, Friday and Saturday respectively.
Pulling points out of the games this week will be vital for the Leafs to maintain their position in the division, with Columbus, Buffalo and Montreal all sitting below Toronto in the standings. Despite the fairly ridiculous slew of injuries the Leafs have withstood through the first quarter of the season, the Leafs have managed to get by on a combination of arguably the strongest goaltending tandem in the league and, while maybe not recently, timely scoring. James Reimer was incredible on Saturday, only beaten on a pretty insane shot from Ovechkin in the third period. The ever-popular Tyler Bozak will likely make his return on Monday after being a somewhat surprising late scratch for Saturday’s game. Head Coach Randy Carlyle has been consistently rolling new acquisition Peter Holland out with JVR and Kessel, but that will likely come to an end as soon as Bozak is ready to play.
It will be interesting to see what the deployment will be for Holland with Bozak back in the lineup. If Carlyle wants to maintain his shutdown line going forward with McClement, Kulemin and Raymond, it wouldn’t shock me to see Holland sent to the Marlies while McClement and Smithson run the third and fourth lines and Bozak and Kadri occupy the middle on the first and second lines. While Holland’s game is far from complete, he has shown flashes of the skill that caught the scouts’ attention leading up to the 2009 draft where he was taken 15th overall. Management may decide that refining his game in the AHL in big, all situations minutes is the way to go with Holland, but that is a decision to make once Bozak is back in the lineup.
A note on Anthony’s Notebook: with four games this week and one tonight, Anthony is posting tomorrow.
Some Leafs links for your Monday:
– The Leafs’ “hang-back plan”…is that what we’re calling the system now? Mirtle on the Leafs continuing success against the grain.