The Toronto Maple Leafs visited Newark, New Jersey Saturday night for a playoff-type tilt with the Devils. The game featured great saves, multiple goal posts and an intense pace right up until the final buzzer.
Toronto was able to maintain their fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Devils slipped out of the playoff picture and into 10th place.
In his first game back after missing six due to an upper-body injury, Leo Komarov was able to snap his 19-game goalless drought early in the opening frame as he deflected a point shot past Martin Brodeur.
The Leafs flexed their penalty-killing muscles once again, holding off a minute-long 5-on-3 disadvantage.
Tyler Bozak took a lead pass and was able to sneak behind the defenders for a breakaway goal midway through the third period.
David Clarkson would make things interesting just three minutes later, as he found Reimer’s five-hole to chop Toronto’s lead in half.
The Leafs faced two more late power plays, but ultimately closed out the game, leaving Newark with two more points in their pocket.
Enough cannot be said about James Reimer’s performance in goal for the blue and white, as he stopped 27 out of 28 shots. Silencing his critics once again after a shaky game against the run-and-gun Philadelphia Flyers, he had all the answers in Jersey. He made more than a few game-changing stops that left Devils fans with their jaws to the floor and heads in their hands.
This year’s squad boasts the league’s third-best penalty-kill percentage. In every single season since the lockout, Toronto has been 28th-ranked or worse in penalty killing, with exception to their unimpressive 24th-ranked PK in 2006. In every one of those seasons, goaltending was the weak link. Coincidence?
Bozak Keeps Rollin’
Tyler Bozak has quietly produced outstanding numbers, despite the masses saying he’s not capable of the number-one centre role.
In his last 11 games, he’s scored five goals and totaled 10 points. This is rather impressive , considering his partner-in-crime Pill Kessel hasn’t found the twine in nine games. It’s even more staggering when you consider his other wing-man in James van Riemsdyk has only scored once in his last 12 games.
He has 11 goals in the year, but it’s not just his numbers that have been adequate, but his game play. His awareness on the ice and his play-making savvy combine to make an electric performance every single night. He’s multi-dimensional and that’s kept him on the top line, putting up numbers night-in and night-out.
On The Road
The Leafs ability to string wins together away from home could prove especially important in the… wait should I say it… playoffs. Toronto’s road record hangs with the best of them at eighth in the NHL.
Everything is running on all cylinders in Leaf Land at the right time. With four wins in five games, goaltending remaining stout and despite all the adversity with Joffrey Lupul’s injuries, the extent of success appears to be limitless.
Toronto will keep their focus on the same area of the map and play a home-and-home with the New York Rangers Monday and Wednesday.
Six of Toronto’s next seven games feature playoff teams, with the only exclusion being the the New Jersey Devils.