On a night when Luke Schenn briefly looked like Rocket Richard (cutting around a defenseman to score on a beauty solo rush) and young Kadri simply shot the puck toward the net twice and ended up with two points, the Leafs had a spring in their step that was painfully absent in Florida two nights earlier.
Reimer outplayed Tim Thomas by a wide margin, though the Bruins did precious little in the first two periods to help their goalies—much like the Leafs left Giguere down in
Kaberle’s miscue led to the fourth Leaf goal. His return to the ACC was, well, far from triumphant, but it was good to see him.
(Did I hear that Recchi was playing in his 1642nd career game? Have all the Leafs combined played that many? Amazing player.)
Bottom line: the Leafs are no worse off Sunday morning than if they had won in
, and got beat by the Bruins. Four points behind the Sabres. And now they have, dare we say it, “momentum” after a nice win. Florida
The Bruins are not the Bruins right now. The question for them is: is this a temporary blip before they hit their stride again in time for the playoffs, or have things actually gone off the rails?
Lebda played only 10 minutes, but was a plus 3, on a night when the third and fourth lines took center stage and the defense scored a couple of goals.
Aulie continues to impress, playing his quietly effective game night after night. He remains the steal of that
He may not become Chara or Larry Robinson, but it appears as though he has the work ethic—and the ambition—to get a whole lot better. That’s a good sign- and good news for the Leafs, as well.
I’ve been trying to think of a comparable situation, when a young, emerging and potential star defenseman was traded early in his career and then absolutely blossomed with his new team? (I know it's very early in Aulie's career and he could take steps back next season, but my sense is he will get better and better.)
Chris Pronger springs to mind, but Pronger was way higher-profile, as a 2nd overall pick in 1993. And the Whalers at least got a future Hall-of-Famer in Brendan Shanahan in return.
I’m sure there are deals I’m forgetting, but when is it ever a good idea to trade high-potential under-25 defensemen?
gave away two of them. Calgary
This deal will haunt the Flames for years to come.
There is much to admire about the Leafs’ season to date. While not quite good enough so far to place themselves in a playoff position, this young team has made strides, which is evident many nights—especially over the past month, including Saturday night against the Bruins.
The emergence of James Reimer is not the least of these steps forward. Against
, he was marvellous once again. Boston
But it’s more than just Reimer that has been positive, though most of us would agree that there are still holes to plug. We may argue over who should leave and who might come in to replace them; regardless, more moves will be made this summer.
One thing though that we can’t complain about is the relative health of the team.
Yes, the goaltending situation has been set back because of injuries (Giguere’s groin and the Monster’s heart) but we have to concede that neither was setting the world on fire when they were playing and only Reimer’s surprise performance has steadied a weak link.
Phaneuf was out for a time with a significant injury, but has still been healthy, if not one hundred per cent, the majority of the season. The rest of the defense corps has been healthy all season, if I’m not mistaken..
Up front, the key movers and shakers have been in the line-up full-time, save Armstrong’s unfortunate series of mishaps.
The point? Compared with many Eastern Conference rivals, the Leafs have had it easy in this regard.
Boston (Savard, among others), (Markov’s absence was just the tip of the iceberg), Rangers (Gaborik and too many others to name) and the Flyers (losses across the board) are just some of the teams who have lost big-time players for huge chunks of the season. Montreal
The Penguins are playing the entire second half basically without Malkin and Crosby, two of the best players in the world. So yes, the Leafs have been fortunate, comparably speaking.
Further putting the season in perspective, for all the good work they have put in lately, the Leafs are only 26-31-16 for 68 points this season—if you take OT and the shootout out of the equation. As someone pointed out to me via Twitter, for the numbers to mean much, you’d have to compare with what other teams are doing to see what affect OT has had for all the teams. I haven’t had the patience to “run the numbers” for every other Eastern Conference team. But my point is simply this: The Leafs are not a .500 team, over the course of this season, no matter what measure we use.
They have made strides, for sure, but they also have ways to go, eh?