Some of you may recall that, a while back here at VLM, I posted a piece that said the Leafs needed not just one “statement” game, but a number of such efforts.
It’s always hard to know if the impact will last, but for now, I feel we can call the win in Boston on Tuesday night one such game.
I’ll simply say that, once we got the requisite fight out of the way in the first few minutes, the Leafs looked an awful like the “good” Leafs (versus the “bad” Leafs) we saw at times last season—and a fair bit in the playoff series against these same Bruins. They received outstanding netminding. They moved the puck quickly and with authority for the most part. They used their speed (maybe having the “right” forwards in the lineup helped with that) and their special teams were essentially perfect: two power-play goals and nothing allowed on the penalty kill.
Kessel was a presence with three assists. Bozak was involved all night at both ends of the ice. Besides his goal, van Riemsdyk looked like Rocket Richard (right) going around the Bruin defender for a dangerous play on Rask in the third period. (The Rocket was famous for bulling his way around defensemen and driving to the net for a shot on goal, as JVR did against the Bruins on that great solo rush...the Leaf winger sure has some moves around the opposition net, eh?) There was some crisp play, some hitting, a bit of everything, really. Everyone played more than 10 minutes except for Ashton and McLaren.
I won’t pronounce the Leafs back on track just yet, but this has to help build some inner confidence individually—and collectively as a roster. I posted on Twitter before the game that I felt the Leafs would be ready to play, and they pretty much were.
I thought I saw a team that was calm, all things considered, when they had a two- goal lead in the third. An odd bounce off the backboards gifted the Bruins their third goal, and they had some close calls, but you would expect that. The Leafs were flying around, blocking lanes (and shots) and doing everything they could to keep the late lead.
The Leafs held on, and earned a win—a big win on the road against a top club, at a time when the Conference standings are awfully tight.
Did you see signs that something was different? Did a light bulb go on?