Fresh off a tough week against the defending Cup champs, the Leafs didn’t have an easy task in front of them tonight as they headed to Madison Square Garden to take on the red-hot New York Rangers, winners of 12 of their last 14 games. Despite missing Mikhail Grabovksi who was flown home to be at the birth of his child, the Leafs came out flying and staked themselves a 3-0 lead in the 2nd, hanging on to win 4-2. Jonas Gustavsson got the win, making 30 saves in another solid performance, while the Leafs’ top line looked dominant all night and they got scoring from all over the lineup.
- The Monster was downright awesome for most of the night. You could argue he should have had the Rangers’ first goal, but it wa s a good shot through traffic, and he came up absolutely huge on a number of other chances late in the game as New York really pressed the net in the final 30 minutes. Whatever has calmed him down in the crease seems to be the missing ingredient, as he looks much more collected and composed, and solid positioning, something that has never really been his strong point, was his saving grace on multiple chances tonight.
- Phil Kessel, as good as he was, was not the best player on the ice tonight. Joffrey Lupul looks like a man re-born right now, playing with flair and confidence all over the ice. He is rarely knocked off the puck, and pulled off some beautiful dangles tonight, something I don’t really think he’s ever been known for. He got his 13th goal of the year on a great feed from Tyler Bozak as the powerplay unit continued to click, and the Leafs’ top line generated multiple man advantage opportunities with their dominant play in the offensive zone.
- Kessel added to his league-leading point total with 2 assists, boosting him to 34 points on the season.
- Cody Franson showed off that cannon of his with the game’s opening salv0 and showed that he’s continuing to grow more and more confident with the added playing time. Should be interesting to see how things shake out once Mike Komisarek is healthy.
- Luke Schenn had another strong game, making a couple strong defensive plays and leveling Artem Anisimov in open ice late in the 3rd. After a slow start, it’s good to see him start getting back to form.
- The powerplay is still ranked 2nd in the league behind Vancouver, while the penalty kill was solid again. They allowed a goal during a 2nd period 5-on-3, but shut the door in the final minute, and got a shorty from Dave Steckel to ice the game.
- They let the Rangers back into this one – no question. Early in the 2nd, this game looked to be all but over, but a couple quick goals against put the Leafs on their heels, where they spent most of the 3rd period. Against one of the hottest teams in the league, that’s to be expected, but it would have been nice to put this one away a bit earlier.
- Nikolai Kulemin was -1 with no points tonight. He just can’t buy a goal, despite being in good scoring position on numerous occasions.