It appears a holiday road trip was exactly what the doctor ordered for the banged up Leafs. A tired loss in Carolina was sandwiched by a couple of huge offensive performances against Washington and Tampa Bay, before the Leafs headed out west and bested the Stars and Ducks after Thanksgiving. Tonight’s game was another demonstration of everything that made this such a successful road trip: solid goaltending from Jonas Gustavsson, great forechecking and speed in the offensive zone, generally responsible defensive play, scoring from the top line and the powerplay units and great energy from the kids in the lineup.
- The Leafs’ powerplay is now ranked 3rd in the league at a 22.7% success rate, and both units look incredibly confident with the puck. No more of the standing around we got used to watching, no more of the foolish, forced passing. Solid positional play, excellent cycling from the point and down low and another powerplay goal to show for it.
- Gustavsson continues to look more and more confident between the pipes. Can’t even think about blaming him for either of the goals tonight (first one was through a screen of at least 3 players, 2nd was a hell of a shot by a guy who scored 50 goals last season). If he can translate this newfound confidence into steady play when James Reimer gets back, it would be a huge asset to the club, obviously.
- Tyler Bozak is making things very difficult for the Leafs’ management once everyone gets healthy. Obviously guys like Mikhail Grabovski and Tim Connolly are more established as offensive contributors, but the way that top line, and him in particular, are producing, it’s going to be difficult to justify breaking it up.
- Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul continued their ascent at the top of the league scoring leaderboard tonight. Kessel had an assist on Bozak’s second goal, while Lupul assisted on both of their center’s tallies tonight, moving him back into a tie with Claude Giroux for 2nd behind Kessel with 29 points.
- One of Luke Schenn’s best games this season, as he continues his return to form. Nice to see him get credit for the empty netter to ice the game in the final minute.
- Speaking of the defense, a big reason the Leafs have the 2nd highest goal output in the league is the fact that they have been getting great contributions from the blueline. Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson have been utilizing those heavy shots of theirs, while John-Michael Liles shows no qualms about jumping in and joining the fray, evidenced by the pretty play he made to set up Bozak’s first goal.
- Couple of big reasons the Leafs had such a solid week was the hot streaks that Joey Crabb and Clarke MacArthur have been on. Both have goals in their last 3 games, and have been scoring them at opportune times.
- The Leafs currently sit at 2nd in the Eastern Conference with 30 points and a home and home series with the Boston Bruins coming up this week.
- The Leafs got a bit scrambled in their own end a couple of times, including the penalty kill where they allowed yet another goal, keeping them near the bottom of the league in penalty kill efficiency.
- Nikolai Kulemin remains snakebitten when it comes to goal-scoring. His ice time has taken a hit, as he played just 12:25 tonight, but he was out there at the end of the game with the Ducks’ keeper on the bench, and earned another assist. He continues to play well at both ends and has created offense with that play, registering a +2 rating on the night.
- Francois Beauchemin made sure the curse of the ex-Leaf stayed intact, as he scored the game’s opening goal on the powerplay against his former team, something we all wished he would have done once in awhile while he stayed in Toronto. Matt Frattin got him back for it later in the game.
- MacArthur’s 3rd goal in as many games was a backbreaker for the Ducks and set the Leafs up for the rest of the game.
Topics: Anaheim Ducks, Clarke MacArthur, Cody Franson, Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin, John-Michael Liles, Jonas Gustavsson, Luke Schenn, Matt Frattin, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel, Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak