With Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard out of the Bruins’ lineup, the Leafs took full advantage of an opportunity move a couple more points away from the dreaded last place position in the NHL standings. In a back and forth game that saw the Leafs dominate long stretches of play, the Bruins got another solid effort from Tim Thomas in net, who continues to look impressive since coming back from the Olympics.
With a playoff berth out of the question, the Leafs’ remaining games are really nothing more than an in-season audition and training for the group of youngsters they have on the roster. Tonight, I’d have to give just about all the kids a passing grade. Nikolai Kulemin continues to impress, and has now scored the winning goal in both of the Leafs’ last two wins. After notching the shootout winner in Ottawa on Saturday, Kulemin gathered up a loose puck in front during tonight’s overtime, and waited for Michael Ryder to knock Thomas out of the net before burying it.
Luca Caputi didn’t take long to make himself a local favorite, as the hometown kid scored his first goal as a Leaf in his home debut, tying the game at 3-3 with a goal early in the 3rd. One of Caputi’s best qualities is the fact that he seems to always be buzzing around the net, and that served him well tonight, as he was waiting to bat in a loose puck that squirted into the crease just after the 7 minute mark in the 3rd.
Toronto’s young blueliners got in on the act as well. Luke Schenn had 2 assists, and Carl Gunnarsson scored his 2nd goal of the year late in the 2nd to tie the game at 2-2. In net, Jonas Gustavsson was pretty good. He gave up a bit of a weak goal to Marco Sturm, but there wasn’t much he could have done on the other two Boston goals.
Phil Kessel had a great game, especially in the 3rd period. Twice, the speedy winger snuck in behind Boston’s defensemen and was off to the races. Unfortunately, his scoring drought against his old team continued, although he did register an assist on Gunnarsson’s goal.
An overtime win against a struggling team missing its two best players is certainly nothing to get excited about, but the impressive part about tonight’s win was the players involved. Caputi, Kessel, Gunnarsson, Schenn and Kulemin are all young talents that have the potential to be great players in this league. Viktor Stalberg was another Leaf who had a pretty solid game, and if nothing else comes from the rest of the season than the development of a solid young core of players for the future, then I’ll be happy.