Tonight was a night that was a must win game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Winnipeg Jets are breathing down the neck of the Maple Leafs in tenth place currently in the East, and the suddenly surging Washington Capitals have retaken their rightful spot in the lead of the Southeast Division. The Leafs have three more games before the all star break, and not to sound bleak, they must win all four games. At this point with the Montreal and the New York Islanders being far enough back in the standings, winning in regulation or overtime makes no difference. To put this in more perspective, with four wins and a single Senators loss, the Leafs will trail by Ottawa by only a single point. Toronto needs to begin to assert dominance on a game by game basis with the goal being not just qualifying for the playoffs, but chasing teams ahead of them in the standings in an effort to play some extra games at the Air Canada Centre.
-The great line shuffle appears to have paid dividends. It also addressed another common misconception, that Phil Kessel was making Joffrey Lupul look better than he actually was. It would appear that the opposite may have been true. Lupul picked up 3 assists in the win, and with his new linemates looked excellent. This is not a criticism of Kessel either, as the combination with Bozak and Lombardi looked quite dangerous at times.
-Speaking of Matthew Lombardi, this guy is clearly getting past the injury issues. His speed was always apparent, but as soon as his hands catch up this guy will be a great top six forward for the Leafs.
-The Leafs penalty killing has been stellar since the calender turned to 2012. They are more aggressive, and they appear to play with a great deal more confidence when shorthanded, and have still not given up a powerplay goal since New Years Eve.
-With the win tonight, Three games is still the longest losing streak of the season. Dion Phaneuf spoke of this at the beginning of the season being a point of pride among the players in the locker room.
-It’s becoming a nightly ritual having Jonas Gustavsson lose his stick. At times the leafs look like they are performing a keystone cops routine when this happens. It’s hard to imagine that Francois Allaire taught him this, much less would be pleased by it.
-As good as they line changes did, the Leafs defensive zone coverage is still very suspect. The simple breakout has looked like a complicated surgery being performed. If this was a more quality opponent, with all due respect to the Minnesota Wild, the Leafs might not have escaped with the same fate.
-Jonas Gustavsson once again allowed an ugly goal. This one is rather unfortunate as it cost the Monster a shutout. The goal highlights an issue that has plagued the team through this small losing streak, the goaltenders are allowing on average one of these ugly goals a game.
The overall impression coming away from this game is that the outcome that should have happened actually happened. Minnesota is in a free fall and these are the games that Toronto needs to come away with. As mentioned earlier, the Leafs schedule this week is favorable to get caught up and hopefully move back into a playoff position. The great line change offered an opportunity for the forwards to spread the scoring out, and Ron Wilson deserves some credit for taking the temperature of the team. At least for one game, mission accomplished. The hope is this translates into more scoring as the lines become more familiar in the next week. Time will tell.
Sad note to add today, Canadian Olympic Champion Sarah Burke who was injured while practising last week, has passed away. The loss of any athlete while plying their trade is tragic, and from the entire Editor In Leaf staff we send our sincere condolences.