This hug is tighter than the one The Monster gave to the post on his lone goal against.
Despite his assertion that his line-up changes were minor, the Leafs lines looked much different last night than they have at any point this season. Despite this quibble, you can’t argue with the results. The Leafs skated away with a 4-1 victory over the suddenly terrible Minnesota Wild. The Leafs dominated the play all night and Minnesota managed their lone goal on Gustavsson’s failure to hug the post tight enough.
The biggest change was separating Joffery Lupul from Phil Kessel. The swap seemed to light a fire under Lupul as he played on of his best games of the season picking up three points. The powerplay and penalty kill both looked solid as well.
While we shouldn’t read too much into the results of one night, you’d have to think that Ron Wilson will roll the same line-up Saturday night when the Habs come to town. Here is what stood out to me in the Head-to-Head and Shift Charts.
- First things first, Keith Aulie needs to go back to the AHL. He just isn’t ready for a roll on the top two pairings. Let him log a tonne of ice time down there.
- Phaneuf was the only Leaf defenseman to play over 20 minutes at ES. Wilson did a good job spreading out the ice time equitably. Phaneuf played 26 minutes overall and was not on the ice for a single GA.
- Luke Schenn saw no time on either the PK or PP. If the Schenn-Phaneuf pairing is going to be a thing going forward, this has to change. But it’s an interesting strategy by Wilson to shelter Schenn a little by only playing him at ES.
- No Leaf played under 10 minutes last night. The Leafs are at their best when they can roll four lines consistently, this game is another example of that.
- Every single Leaf played until at least the 17 minute mark of the third period. Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson were the first ones to see their nights come to an end with about 3 minutes left in the third.
- About five or six times last night Jake Gardiner carried the puck through the neutral zone and established control in the offensive zone, sure could have used that the past two games.
- I was very pleased with the new look defensive pairings. Would like to see them get an extended audition.
Things looked great last night. This is partly a combination of playing a struggling Wild team, but also the result of a true team effort. The Leafs should ice the same line-up on Saturday against the Habs so we’ll see if this was just a flash in the pan or a shift that might have some staying power.
What stood out to you?