Coming into an arena where the home team had lost six in a row, the most recent of which was an 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, I expected the Leafs to be the team that Minnesota came out and played a complete game against. I mean, it happens with just about every other slumping team around the league, a visit to or from Toronto seems to always precipitate a stellar goaltending performance or a heroic night from some unsung hero.
Last night, however, the hero was James Reimer. With 29 saves, including 3 on breakaways while the Leafs held a 1-0 lead, the kid recorded his 3rd career NHL shutout in just his 26th start. At the other end of the ice, Niklas Backstrom allowed 3 goals on just 17 Toronto shots, but was victimized by some uncharacteristically sharp shooting from the Leafs. Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski and Carl Gunnarsson all scored for the Leafs – that’s 8 different goal scorers in the last 2 games – and every one of their shots was a snipe to one of the top corners, Grabovski’s ringing in off both posts.
Unfortunately for the Buds, despite a solid road game on their part, the scoreboard was less than friendly to them in the standings. With the win, the Leafs had a chance to gain some much needed ground in the playoff race, with New Jersey, Carolina and Buffalo all in action. The Bruins downed the Devils, 4-1, but a pair of goals from Nathan Gerbe and a shutout from Ryan Miller gave the Sabres a 2-0 win over Montreal, while the Senators did the Canes a favor, and started backup Curtis McElhinney over newly signed Craig Anderson, leading to a 4-3 Carolina victory.
A quick look at the standings shows the Leafs needing to pretty much win out down the stretch, as they remain 5 back of Buffalo for 8th, and 2 back of Carolina for 9th, with both teams holding a game in hand. They also sit 4 points ahead of both New Jersey and Atlanta, although the Thrashers have 2 games in hand, while the Devils also have one more game to play than the Leafs. Not much Toronto can do except play their best hockey and hope for alot of help.
The Leafs head to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, with a Saturday night matchup against the Red Wings looming on the weekend. I’m off to work, so that’s all for now, as always, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/editorinleaf.
Tags: Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Carl Gunnarsson Carolina Hurricanes Craig Anderson Curtis McElhinney James Reimer Joffrey Lupul Mikhail Grabovski Minnesota Wild Montreal Canadiens Nathan Gerbe New Jersey Devils Niklas Backstrom Ottawa Senators Playoff Race Ryan Miller Toronto Maple Leafs