The Toronto Maple Leafs had arguably their best performance of the season tonight in a 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs essentially dominated the game from start to finish and the result was barely ever in doubt. Once again Toronto was out shot, but the majority of the scoring chances came on the Ottawa goal.
It was the kind of effort that should give both the team and fans confidence as they continue to push towards the playoffs. The Leafs now have the luxury of several different scoring options and that means when someone is running cold, there are plenty of others that can pick up the slack.
Here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri
With Lupul missing much of the season due to a broken forearm, these two have seldom played together so far in 2013. On Saturday night, however, we were given a glimpse of what can be accomplished when they get an opportunity. Kadri picked up his second hat-trick of the season and the two combined for eight points on the night. If Phil Kessel could start clicking with them as well, then the Leafs would be looking at one of the more dangerous lines in hockey. Expect Kadri to be the number one centre going into next season, if not sooner.
James Reimer does it again
Reimer had another strong game against the Senators that finished in a 31 save shutout. He is now up to a 13-4-4 record with a .920 save percentage and two shutouts on the year. His play is especially impressive with all the trade rumours that have swirled around the team this season about Roberto Luongo. The Leafs couldn’t have asked for anything more from Reimer in 2013 and I’m not sure bringing in Luongo at this point even makes sense anymore.
Jake Gardiner scratched again
Gardiner was a healthy scratch for the second straight game and it’s a really puzzling decision. It’s one thing to not want him in there for whatever reason, but then why call him up to begin with? If Randy Carlyle isn’t happy with his defensive play then he should at least be working on it down with the Toronto Marlies, instead of eating popcorn in the press box. He has to learn and go through some growing pains eventually and it’s clear he has outgrown AHL competition. Nothing against Mike Kostka, but Gardiner should be in there.
For all the impressive performances from Leaf players this season, the improved penalty killing has been the most important factor in this team’s turnaround. Toronto was 28th last year on the penalty kill and this year they are up to fourth. The Senators were 0-for-5 with the man advantage tonight and the Leafs did a great job while shorthanded in the first period to not allow Ottawa to gain any momentum.