Watching the Maple Leafs is fun again. The team has its flaws but the boys can fly and play an entertaining style of hockey. It's like Pat Quinn is back behind the bench with his 'run and shoot' offense. Tonight's 2-0 shutout win against a divisional rival, Buffalo, was important if a playoff berth is to be secured. Too often in the past these must win games were abysmal failures. Another win against the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday evening will dig the Sabres into a hole that will be very difficult to get out of. There is a lot of pessimism in Leafs Nation but what we are watching has not existed here in a long time.
Good - Jonas Gustavsson earned his second shutout in the past two weeks and just the third of his NHL career. I like many had written him off after another bad start of the season. But his past 5 starts have been all good and have relegated James Reimer to bench warmer. Unless he gets injured in the bus ride home, he will be starting a 6th straight game. His save percentage in January has been .942. He had to make some tough saves later in the game to hang on to the win and shutout.
Bad - The high flying first line had an off night with Kessel and Lupul not recording a shot on net until the final period. Normally Kessel leads the team in shots in most games and stands 9th in the NHL for the overall shot lead.
Good - On a night when the first line was quiet, there was enough secondary scoring. Slowly Nik Kulemin appears to be coming out of his length slump. Tonight he had 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 shots, and 4 blocked shots. If the Leafs are to have any success in the second half they will need to spread the scoring around and not rely exclusively on Kessel and Lupul.
Bad - Nazem Kadri continues to have an occasional mental lapse which leads to a turnover. Tonight it did not cost the Leafs and later in the game it was able to clean up his act.
Good - The penalty killers were perfect tonight but then they never stepped on the ice. The Leafs found the perfect solution to weak penalty killing - no penalties. Well actually they did take a penalty with two minutes remaining in the game but Buffalo also took a penalty to make it offsetting penalties.