Last night the Leafs took on the streaky Dallas Stars. In a way, the Leafs and Dallas have had a very similar season. Both came into the season with low expectations, then got off to fast starts. They kind of tailed off at the beginning of November but have began to right the ship a little in the past week.
The Leafs won 4-3 in a shootout and it was a pretty fun game to watch. The refereeing wasn’t great, both sides probably wanted some calls to go their way that didn’t happen. I’m not going to talk about the missed high-stick on Lupul late in the 3rd because it’s a non-issue now. It was a good win for the Leafs who battled well vs. a Dallas team that really came to play. Dallas got the first one before the Leafs scored 2 in the first period. Early in the 2nd, Dallas tied it up and had a really good period despite only scoring 1 goal. In the 3rd, the Leafs took the lead early then Dallas tied it midway through. Nothing happening in OT, so on to the shootout. I really like the shootout, I just wish it wouldn’t decide games. They should just leave it as an ASG skills competition. Anyways, the only scorer was Joffrey Lupul and Gustavsson make a tight save on Ribeiro to get the win for the Leafs
- Luke Schenn is back ladies and gentlemen! He played 27 minutes and had 6 hits last night. He was the same Luke Schenn we got accustomed to last year. Ron Wilson said after the game that Schenn had ‘easily his best game of the year’. He dished out a HUGE hit on Tomas Vincour in the 3rd. Now, I saw a few Stars fans complain that he got his elbow up on the hit and the Stars broadcast team even went as far as calling it a ‘flying elbow’. That last one is just wrong. I re-watched the hit about 10 times in super slow-motion, and I still don’t think he got his elbow up. But, if Shanahan does choose to suspend Schenn, it shouldn’t be more than 1-2 games.
- Guess who lead the Leafs in ice-time tonight? If you said captain Dion, you’re wrong. It was young defenseman Jake Gardiner. He played 28:34 tonight as Wilson leaned heavily on him and Schenn after Gunnarsson was injured after blocking a shot, and these two responded. I can’t get over Jake Gardiner. He’s been so good this year. He’s 3rd in TOI among rookie defensemen behind New Jersey’s Adam Larsson and Montreal’s Raphael Diaz (who has played 2 more games and is only ahead by 10 minutes, so Gardiner would probably be ahead after those 2 games). He’s been the perfect combination of defense and puck moving and he’s once again found himself in The Good section.
- The Leafs penalty kill has been so good in the past couple weeks. They didn’t allow a goal last night on 4 chances. The PK was once 30th in the NHL, but has now only given up 4 goals in 39 chances, good enough for a 87% clip over their last 11 games. Let’s hope they keep it up.
- The second line of Clarke MacArthur-Tim Connolly-Nikolai Kulemin has been great over the past few games. MacArthur got a goal tonight while Connolly and Kulemin each picked up an assist (both have 8). This line is looking really good and Connolly might be doing such a good job that Grabovski might be centering the first line when he gets back.
- Dion Phaneuf had another strong night. Not just in ice-time (27:09, 2nd on the team) but he picked up 2 points (1-1). He set up Crabb’s goal after he just held the line and shot it on net and Crabb tipped it. On his goal, he blasted a one-timer that just squeaked past Lehtonen. The captain is having a great season so far this year.
- Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne have had great chemistry on the 3rd line with Joey Crabb. They continually make chances for each other and both had good games again tonigh despite only getting a point between the 2 of them (Colborne assist on Crabb goal).
- Phil Kessel. This sounds ridiculous, right? The NHL’s leading scorer in The Bad section? Fact is, he had a bad game. He showed some speed, but nothing special. He was also a -2. Every player has bad games, so obviously I am not worried for him.
Other than Kessel, I can’t really think of anything bad for the Leafs. The team was pretty solid tonight. Now moving on to the surprisingly bad Anaheim Ducks on Sunday in Anaheim, Calif.