Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Monster is playing for survival

Not long ago Brian Burke had acknowledged that he was searching for goaltending help and the media was speculating that Marty Turko would soon be signed. The urgency wasn't just because of James Reimer's injury but more because of the mostly terrible play by his backup Jonas Gustavsson. But a couple of strong games against Tampa Bay and Dallas has quieted the latest goaltending controversy. With decent goaltending suddenly the Leafs look like a playoff contender again as they knock off Dallas 4-3 in a shootout.

Good - I can`t believe the turnaround by the Leafs special teams have gone from awful to great. Especially the powerplay which has been lethal lately. That shouldn`t come as surprise since their powerplay unit has the league`s number 1 and 3 scorers and two of the top point men. I think the turnaround has a lot to do with the players buying into the new systems being introduced by the new coaches hired over the summer.

Bad - Two more players left the game early with injuries. At this point every injury is important as the team`s depth is getting whittled away.The loss of Carl Gunnarsson was most significant because he has been averaging 21:45 minutes per game. Later in the game Ron Wilson benched Cody Franson which left him with only 4 defensemen.

Good - Luke Schenn clearly had his best games of the season but it was also one of the best in his NHL career. He logged 28 minutes of ice time and came up with some key plays including a big hit on Tomas Vincour and goal-saving play off the stick of Michael Ryder.

Bad - Late in the 3rd period Joffrey Lupul was highsticked in the face right in front of an official but there was no call. Although he was cut both above and below his eye, his eye was spared any damage and he was able to return to the game. A 5 minute powerplay might have settled the game. Lupul was able to extract some justice by scoring the only goal in shootout to win the game.

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