Again, I apologize for the weak coverage this week. There’s a whole lot going on at this end, and the Leafs have taken a bit of a back burner, while I catch up on some other work and get the rest of my life in order. Last night, the Leafs never recovered from some bad penalties in the first period, and Ryan Miller shut the door the rest of the way -typical. The Buds will look to bounce back tonight against the Senators, as they again find themselves at the bottom of the Northeast, although they do hold a few games in hand against most of the division. The Sens have struggled as of late, dropping six of their last eight, including last night’s game against Pittsburgh.
Toronto, on the other hand, has won three of five since ending their eight game losing streak, but have been unable to come up with points in either of their last two divisional matchups against Montreal and Buffalo. They’ll have to start winning games within the division if they want any chance at a playoff spot, as the Northeast looks like it will be very tight this year, especially if Buffalo starts to find their form.
Phil Kessel got his team-leading 10th goal last night, while Clarke MacArthur has continued to produce, leading the team with 11 assists and 18 points. The Leafs offense has finally shown some signs of life, as Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin have produced at a decent pace, and Kris Versteeg has finally woken up. Jonas Gustavsson has fueled a goalie controversy with his play in Jiggy’s absence, and even though the Buds lost last night, the Monster stood tall yet again, as he kept the Leafs in it all night, including making 14 saves in a first period in which the Buds were completely outplayed. His 2.39 GAA ranks 9th among keepers with 10 or more starts, while he’s tied for 10th in save percentage among goalies in the same category.
Last night’s loss was tough, as it always is against the pesky Sabres, but it’s difficult not to be optimistic, considering that the Leafs currently rank 4th in the Conference in goals against, and the offense is finally looking like it might be able to provide the necessary support. Nobody’s going to mistake the Leafs for a division winner this year, but if they can avoid any more extended losing streaks and string together a few winning streaks, the playoffs won’t be out of the question by any means. Especially in today’s NHL, if the goaltending and defense continue to hold up, hopefully the offense will continue to develop and we could be looking at a 7th or 8th seed come April.