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.