March 26 2013 09:15PM
Photo via Abelimages/NHLInteractive
All that matters after the conclusion of this game is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are six points clear of the ninth place team in the Eastern Conference, have a decided advantage in the all important "wins" and "regulation or overtime wins" tiebreaker, and at the very least are poised to flirt with important games in mid-April, even if every game down the stretch is doomed to be a nail biter filled with mistakes, errors, lapses, goofs and blunders.
Every time Dion Phaneuf gives fans on a breakout pass resulting in a breakaway. Every time Nazem Kadri's drop pass finds a player jersey. All those small events, that have been passed off as "well, that's just those Leafs" for the last eight seasons are elevated in importance. This is what it feels like, Leafs fans. This is what it's like to cheer for a team that really has a shot, if you've forgotten the feeling. A late-game scoring chance against and your heart sinks a little deeper, and somehow, it doesn't stop beating like a leaky faucet after the puck has been covered and the game has been stopped.
Toronto won a Tuesday night game against an inferior Southeast Division opponent to pick up two points in the thick of a playoff race. They looked bad while doing it, but three quarters of the way through the season, who cares anymore?
March 26 2013 03:18PM
I don't know if there is an image that captures the Leafs struggles in the latter third of last season than this perfect exhibition of brilliance by Luke Schenn. At that time, the Leafs had already lost four straight games, three of them coming at home. They had won just one of their last nine games and had slipped to three points back of a playoff spot.
Toronto's not there right now, but they're teetering, having won just two out of nine. They are getting lucky in the sense that four of their seven losses have come in the shootout so they're still picking up points during the slump, and while I hate the term "must-win", the Leafs are in the midst of a rough patch of the schedule. The play Florida tonight, don't have to beat them, but should beat the worst team in the NHL this season, a team with tonnes of injuries and goaltending issues.
March 26 2013 11:53AM
The Leafs a cough one up the the Bruins.
Also, you may not like James Reimer, but he rules.
March 26 2013 11:28AM
Jussi Jokinen owns the faceoff circle.
Jussi Jokinen has a $3-million cap hit this season and next. Kaspars Daugavins is on a cheap one-year deal that expires at the end of the season and he'll become a restricted free agent. Both players are almost inexplicably on the waiver-wire today.
Well, not necessarily "inexplicably". There's a lot of player movement required in the next few days to get some teams to an acceptable salary cap and roster space threshold if they want to add any bodies at the deadline. Both squads are getting players back from injury and are tightroping the 23-man roster limit. In a perfect world without injuries and limits and trading deadlines, quality players wouldn't appear on waivers. Mike Colligan wrote an interesting piece at the start of the season about roster pinches that occur throughout the year:
March 25 2013 09:03PM
Photo via Jared Wickerham/NHL Interactive
We know this media market well enough to note that goaltending, goaltending, goaltending, has been a source of concern for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the years since the second lockout. The Leafs bounced through a number of names, including Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, several players brought in as "the No. 1 guy" to stabilize the position for the Leafs since the Curtis Joseph era led into the Ed Belfour one.
A guy fell out of the sky—James Reimer—and he has been nothing short of excellent for the team in net. While the Leafs have struggled in recent years, they haven't with Reimer in net. Even with the perceived issues on defence, up front, with size, with grit, with commitment, with coaching… through all that, the Leafs are 45-28-13 when Reimer takes the net. That's a 98-point pace.
Reimer let in somewhat of a softie to allow the Boston Bruins to tie the game 2-2. But Reimer was also the reason the game was 2-1 to begin with. When Nazem Kadri sprung Nik Kulemin leading to the 2-0 goal, that was the Leafs' fifth scoring chance on the night. To that point, the Bruins had had nine. Reimer made big stops at the start of the second period on Danny Paille, Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Jordan Caron, but after the Leafs took the lead and the Bruins pressed, there was little he or the defence could do.
Ultimately, the Leafs dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Bruins. They take three of four possible points against Boston.