LEAFS CONTINUE TO TREND UPWARD

Steve Lansky
February 26 2011 11:36AM

A handful of unexpected things happened Thursday night at Bell Centre in Montreal. Enigmatic centre Tyler Bozak (not a typo) had his first three-point game of the entire season. Didn't see that coming. Phil Kessel followed up a game-winning goal (v. the Islanders) with a four-point game. Sure as hell didn't see that coming. And the Leafs, as a team, did something only elite clubs tend to do.

After the Leafs had taken their 3-1 lead, chased Alex Auld from the Canadiens' net, and tromped into the room after the first period - they blew it. They blew the lead. Just four minutes into the second, the lead was gone. The game was tied. Typically, that's when the Leafs pull the old el-foldo. Nonsensical penalties would be taken. Power-play goals would be surrendered. And Toronto would go home with its tail between its legs. But, for some reason, not in Montreal.

That's when Tyler Bozak (again, not a typo) pumped one on the PP. Then, for good measure, Bozak tallied again to start the third. The Leafs came back to win the game after they'd blown a two-goal lead. Coming back to win a game after blowing a lead is, generally, a characteristic reserved for elite-level teams in any sport.

Now, let met make this perfectly clear, the Leafs ARE NOT an elite-level NHL team. But, by doing what they did Thursday night, they exhibited another characteristic of a winning club. They are becoming the team Brian Burke clearly feels they can be.

Another barometer of a team’s overall effectiveness rests in one-goal games. Teams with an over-.500 record in one-goal games are, generally, winners. Right now, the Leafs sit 15th in the NHL in one-goal affairs. Their record is 14 wins, 5 regulation losses and 7 overtime/shootout losses. That’s .538. Of course, the Leafs’ last four wins have been exactly that – one-goal games. Huge.

Last season, the Leafs ranked 22nd in one-goal games – 16 wins, 8 losses, 14 overtime/shootout losses, .421.

That fact that, prior to Monday’s trade deadline, Burke’s understood priority is a defenceman, rather than the fan-desired centre to “get Phil Kessel the puck,” confirms that he doesn’t give a rat’s a** about what popular opinion says. Burke’s gonna do what Burke’s gonna do. How can you not like that?

Was Tyler Bozak’s breakout game a harbinger or a one-off? Don’t forget, Phil Kessel had a 14-game goalless drought. Is that a distant memory…or could he hit the doldrums again any time? Answers begin Saturday v. Pittsburgh.
 

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Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
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#1 CoryNewb
February 28 2011, 07:31AM
Trash it!
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trashes
+1
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props

Not a horrid weekend. 2 out of 4 possible points. Showed some sparks of a great team. But they are, unfortunatly, in no better place today than they were Friday. Which is a bummer. March is going to be rough. But it's time to let us know if we need to get our hopes up like Flyers fans last season.

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