Leafs Blow out 'Canes
The first surprise of the night for this writer occurred when James Reimer started for Toronto, contrary to prior information from both Leafs TV and another popular goalie starts website, which both had J.S. Giguere getting the nod.
Kudos to both Coach Wilson for giving Reimer the chance to rebound after a tough game Monday night, and to the player himself, who stormed back with a convincing 36-save victory in which he surrendered just a single goal.
With Eric Staal shooting nine times at the rookie, it's nothing short of amazing that the birthday boy in blue and white stood his ground, as he has so often after a less than spectacular outing. His second period stop on a Staal partial-breakaway was particularly worthy of a personal highlight-reel inclusion. Any thought that the book is out on Reimer can be summarily dismissed, as his uncanny ability to bounce back and re-calibrate his mechanics certainly mitigates the notion that he's been 'solved'.
While Chad Larose opened the scoring for Carolina in the first by tipping a Brandon Sutter Point shot, Captain Dion Phaneuf had the equalizer on his stick during a powerplay with less than a minute to go in the period.
The Canes are virtually undefeated when leading after the first, making Phaneuf's 6th of the year even more crucial to the Leafs cause.
Dion hit the back of the net at just around 11 minutes for his second powerplay goal on the night to put the Buds ahead, and Tyler Bozak converted a great Daryl Boyce cross-crease feed on a courageous second effort down low in which Boyce took the hit to make the play. It's that kind of selfless effort that not only inspires his team, but just may inspire the powers that be to get him re-signed sooner than later. Clearly, he's exactly what John Mitchell was once hoped to be for Toronto: a gritty, physical and courageous energy line guy who doesn't mind paying the price to get it done.
While this may be the last time Mitchell ever gets mentioned in a Leaf blog, the same can't be said for Daryl Boyce, a career longshot thought to have little more than injury callup-type upside. You have to respect his determination and willingness to do what so many before him refused to with any consistency. He's earned every shift he's played.
Once again the Leafs surprise, confound, torment and delight, as they usurp an opponent they had no business beating. With just 19 shots at an elite goalie like Cam Ward who just stoned the Sabres with a 40-save shutout, on a team with a bona fide superstar in Eric Staal, and the likely Calder winner in Jeff Skinner, a quick 2 points to the home team should have been a foregone conclusion.
Despite the glaring inequity in the shot department, the Leafs were the more deserving team, killing off five minors, two of which were back to back. The team-wide commitment to D was both apparent and quite effective with Leaf players taking away shooting lanes, lying down in front of pucks, and breaking up plays in the high slot, leading to some pretty crafty breakouts, even without a Kaberle to propel them from the back end.
Four points out, 10th spot, and 11 games to go. Whatever happens, the Leafs are making it very interesting, and difficult to predict how the dust will settle.
Mike Komisarek left the game early with an undisclosed injury and did not return. He will be re-evaluated in Florida as the action continues tomorrow vs. The 13th place Panthers.
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