January 11 2012 09:09AM
Former members of the Soviet Union are happy with Ron Wilson's equal distribution of ice-time
The Leafs played an excellent “road game” at home last night against the Buffalo Sabres. After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead the Leafs played a smart, disciplined, defensive game that relied on speed and a strong forecheck. If the Leafs can play the exact same way on Friday they can put some distance between themselves and the Sabres and move a little higher in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture.
While there were a few occasions in which they found themselves hemmed in their own zone the team did a good job of keeping the Sabres to the perimeter and limiting traffic in front of Gustavsson and second chance scrambles in the crease. They also managed to stay off the PK all year. Turns out the solution to fixing the penalty kill was to simply not commit any infractions.
With Mike Brown, Mike Komisarek, and Matthew Lombardi all finally healthy, the Leafs are icing their deepest line-up of the season. This has allowed Ron Wilson to roll four lines all game, something he did with much success earlier in the season. Here are some things that stood out in the Shift Charts.
- Every single Leaf played past the 15 minute mark of the Third Period. Cody Franson came off the ice with four minutes remaining in the period and did not go back on. This is where the Leafs depth is valuable. They are 16-0-0 when leading after two periods this season. Keeping a long bench has contributed to their ability to defend a lead.
- By contrast, Regher, Kaleta, and Paul Gaustad saw almost no ice time in the third period, Kaleta in particular. He played three shifts for 1:41 of ice-time in the Third.
- Every Leaf except Lombardi played over 4 minutes in the Third period. Lombardi played 3 and a half. This is excellent use of all four lines by Ron Wilson. Both Mike Brown and David Steckel saw 5 minutes of ice-time from the 4th line. Colton who?
- Phaneuf and Aulie drew the “tough” assignment of the Pominville-Hecht-Boyes line, playing about 9 minutes ES against them.
The biggest thing that stands out in this win is how effectively Wilson managed the ice-time of his players. He finally has role players in the bottom six who can be relied upon to defend a lead. This is the team Burke promised him, and he is using them very effectively.
It will be interesting to see what changes and adjustments Wilson makes when the two teams meet again on Friday in Buffalo.