Between the release of the new Call of Duty, a new commitment to my gym routine and a crazy week at work, I haven’t had two seconds to sit down and express just exactly how much I miss James Reimer. Not just because I don’t trust Jonas Gustavsson, but because the team just plays so much more comfortably in front of Reimer. Ben Scrivens has played well in his wins, not so well in his losses. Suddenly, the Leafs don’t look great at home, and, as has been a theme in the rest of their games, when they lose, they lose big. I don’t necessarily find that to be a huge problem, since if they can get the goaltending and defense to keep the game close, they usually seem to end up finding a way to win. Make the jump for a few observations on this week’s up and down ride.
- At least Phil Kessel is still scoring. The Leafs have scored just 3 goals in their last 3 home games, and just 5 in their last 4 overall. Kessel has 2 of those 5, and remains atop the NHL leaderboard in goals (12) and points (24).
- Tyler Bozak’s goal tonight was his first of the year, and while he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up offensively, he’s filled in nicely in Tim Connolly’s absence. Joffrey Lupul looks determined to make this a comeback season of sorts for him, and that top line has certainly erased any preseason questions about who the main scoring line is. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s good to see Lupul and Kessel asserting themselves.
- Gotta feel for Matt Frattin. The kid is playing on borrowed time right now, as he’ll most likely be back on the Marlies as soon as Colby Armstrong is healthy. He’s played very well, in my book, doing all the little things right, playing responsible defense, taking the body and helping to create offensive chances. Unfortunately, none of that has translated into solid production, since he’s got just one assist so far.
- A trio of players that also struggled to produce this week, but isn’t in danger of losing their jobs, the MGK line combined for a whopping 0 goals, 0 assists and 0 points. From watching, I dn’t really have any complaints against Mikhail Grabovski’s play – aside from the fact that he’s been way too cute with the puck and needs to just get back to shooting the puck. That goes for Kulemin too, while Clarke MacArthur just needs to hit the net. If this line could just get going again, I think you’d see a lot different results than we’ve been subjected to for the past 4 games.
- I thought tonight’s game was Luke Schenn’s best game of the year. He played physical, showed confidence with the puck and stepped up into the offense a bit. Me and the rest of the blogosphere have been praying for him to find his game, and if tonight was any indicator of him turning it around and getting back to where he was last year, you won’t hear any more complaints about him from this blog.
- I mentioned it earlier, and one thing that you have to be happy with the Leafs for is their ability to win close games. Tonight, I thought they were gonna pull it off again when Lupul banked in that late goal. Of the 12 games decided by 2 goals or less so far this season, the Leafs are 9-2-1. Part of the reason I have a lot of faith in this year’s team is the fact that they seem to have grown into the ability to close out the tight games. Tell me last year’s Leafs would have won that game in St. Louis – a game-tying goal with 2 minutes left in a 3rd period that they were thoroughly dominated in would have been a back breaker, and I would have been waiting for the inevitable fluky goal on the first or second shift of overtime. Regardless of their recent struggles, this team still has confidence in itself, and believes they can win those games.
- That said, the special teams are garbage. The powerplay’s total ineptitude cost them the game tonight – the Sens gave them more than enough chances to put that game away, and instead went 0-5 and proved to be a momentum changer in the complete wrong direction. The PK actually looked decent tonight, I thought, aside from Jake Gardiner and Mike Komisarek getting caught flat-footed on the blueline, but I’ll give credit for that play to Craig Anderson, who made a heads up play to get the puck back into play and keep the Leafs from completing a much-needed line change.
- Finally, the goaltending. I don’t have any insider information on Reimer’s injury status, but I wish I did, because sitting around waiting for him to get healthy is just an agonizing mystery game. I’d expect Gustavsson to get the start against Phoenix on Tuesday, and you’d think that he’d be motivated to turn in a solid performance to prove that he should still be considered a contender for goaltending duties here. Unfortunately, he, like most other goalies (and I apologize if there’s any goalies reading this, but c’mon – you guys are a weird breed) doesn’t always do what you expect them to do. I want to have faith in Scrivens, because he seems to have the ability to play at the NHL level. In both of his wins, he recorded 38 saves. In his two losses, he has 8 goals allowed on 36 shots. Not exactly the confidence-inspiring play you want lead your team into the next two weeks of games. Reimer, please get healthy.
Topics: Ben Scrivens, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Craig Anderson, James Reimer, Joffrey Lupul, Jonas Gustavsson, Luke Schenn, Matt Frattin, Mike Komisarek, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs