On a solid start, Ryan O’Reilly’s return, and the fourth line: Muzzy’s Muzings

Photo credit:Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
10 months ago
Close, but no cigar.
David Pastrnak scored the OT winner on the power play as the Leafs fell 2-1 to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Sam Lafferty opened up the scoring midway through the second period. In fact, it was 1-0 Leafs until the 11:32 mark of the third when Charlie Coyle tied it up after a failed clearing attempting by Luke Schenn.
Both Ilya Samsonov and Jeremy Swayman were fantastic; each made 31 saves. The Leafs went 1-2-1 against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins in 2022-23.
Meantime, Tampa fell 6-1 on Long Island, which means the Leafs locked up second in the Atlantic Division and home ice in Round 1.
All things being equal, Sheldon Keefe had to be elated with that start. Sure, the two power plays helped, but anytime you can take the crowd out of the game in the first period in Boston, I would consider it a win. Just like the playoffs, there wasn’t much ice out there, and I thought both teams defended well. Jeremy Swayman was dialled in early, too. Against the best team in hockey, that was probably as good a start as you can ask for without scoring a goal. Lots of positives to grab, for sure.
Was it good to see Ryan O’Reilly out there, or what? In his first game back after missing 14 with a broken finger, the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner did not look out of place whatsoever. He’s so good in the dirty areas. Talk about having a potential stud shutdown centre. And personally, I think it’s the right play for Sheldon Keefe and company —at least to start. At the very least, there’s no question they know what they have if they elect to go nuclear with the top-six. Come playoff time, I think O’Reilly’s going to bring so many intangibles to the table. The guy’s an absolute stud.
Another night, another fantastic outing for the fourth line. For starters, I loved how physical they were. That, of course, was highlighted by Sam Lafferty’s first period hit on Matt Grzelcyk and subsequent tilt (obviously) with A.J. Greer. Then, in the second period, Lafferty gets a tap-in from who else but the red-hot Zach Aston-Reese. The ZAR, Kampf, Lafferty trio has been money in the bank lately. In the postseason, you need your depth pieces to make a difference, and if this is a sign of things to come, fire me up.
The Leafs will play their final home game of the regular season on Saturday night when they finish off their four-game season series with the rival Montreal Canadiens. Remarkably, Toronto’s 1-2-0 against the cellar dwelling Habs.

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