Leafs Roll Over the B's on Barilko Appreciation Night
The well-rested and obviously loose Toronto Maple Leafs vindicated themselves at home vs the Bruins on the night of Tomas Kaberle's homecoming with an impressive 5-2 stomping of the visitors, who sit 3rd overall in the east.
As the former Leaf was invited by Leaf's announcer Andy Frost to take the opening ceremonial draw on Bill Barilko night, the appreciative ACC crowd enthusiastically welcomed the classy longtime Leaf with a heartfelt, well-deserved ovation.
With the niceties dispensed with, a well-charged Leaf team soon went to work...
At 9:44 in the first, in apparent tribute to Bobby Orr (who was in attendance), Luke Schenn went coast-to-coast, powering his way to the net to beat Tim Thomas with a highlight reel beauty. “ I felt comfortable right from the start, and noticed I had a little extra jump in my legs..I really don't know what happened; I was just glad to see the puck in the back of the net”.
The B's got lucky with an errant bounce off of Phaneuf's heel that got past James Reimer, but Nazem Kadri answered back before anyone had a chance to blink, with his first career NHL goal. Kadri looks more composed, doing a nice job of hanging on to the puck and creating some chances down low, which Coach Wilson commented on in his post-game presser. With that first one under his belt, the confidence should start to come for Kadri, and when he's playing with confidence, he's very effective.
After the first intermission, Daryl Boyce assisted on fellow Marlies callup and 2nd star Joey Crabb's goal, due wholly to hard work in the dirty area where players take a ton of abuse for a chance to make a difference. Kadri got the 2nd assist on the eventual game winner that also put the Leafs up 3-1.
Boyce left the game in the 2nd with an upper body injury and could not continue.
James Reimer rallied the troops with a stunning save on a Tyler Seguin breakaway resulting from a bobble on the blueline by Carl Gunnarrson, as Luke Schenn scrambled to get back. Reimer was equal to the task on 5 chances generated by Seguin during the game, leaving the snakebitten rookie shaking his head with frustration.
Mike Brown used his speed at the Leafs blueline to get by Tomas Kaberle and waltz in on Tim Thomas with a five-hole snipe that drove the former Vezina winner out of the net.
Tukka Rask fared no better as the Leafs poured it on, with Aulie beating the former Leaf prospect on a low long side point shot before he had a chance to settle into any kind of a rhythm. Rask's all too obvious display of frustration directed at his teammates didn't go over well with Coach Julien, and the temperamental keeper found himself riding the pine once again to start the third period.
With the game clearly out of hand, the Bruins tempers began to flare, as evidenced by Nathan Horton's ridiculously unnecessary insistence that Phaneuf fight him. Reluctantly, Dion obliged, and proceeded to pound the Bruin forward, leaving him bloodied and humiliated for his troubles.
Reimer continued to dazzle right to the end, with a jaw dropping glove save from 6 feet out on Shawn Thornton which left an admiring throng of 19 thousand chanting the keeper's name. “ The fans are the ones that make the game fun...hopefully they enjoyed the game tonight; it sounded like they did”.
Once again just four points out Reimer had this to say on the issue of the Leafs playoff push: “we still feel like we're in it...it's a little bit of scoreboard watching, but all we can do is play our best and hope that's good enough “.
Daniel Paille got one past Reimer with less than a minute to go, but it mattered little. The victory was won by then, and Reimer was named first star with 35 saves on the night.
Joey Crabb, with a goal and 2 assists had hearty praise for the team wide effort:
“Everybody was rolling and everybody had a good game, I don't think anybody took a night off”.
While the top 6 didn't hit the back of the net, it was certainly an all-hands effort, with Lupul, Kulemin MacArthur and and Grabovski all getting at least 2 shots apiece on goal.
Grabo got a little revenge on Zdeno Chara for slightly scattering his grey matter during their last encounter, with a hard blast that the Bruin behemoth took on the foot, hobbling the not so friendly giant
although it was nothing serious, as Chara left the rink on his own steam after the match.
The Leafs did a great job of transitioning with quick breakouts that left the Boston forwards trapped deep, causing an inordinate number of odd man rushes throughout the night, pressuring the Bruins D into a number of errors while creating scoring chances.
Coach Wilson certainly felt the dominant performance that the Leafs needed to stay in the battle for 8th with just 9 games to go was due to a much needed opportunity to replenish energy levels since Thursday: “We had a lot more energy tonight, probably due to a light day yesterday and nothing today...this has been a tough grind for everybody and we haven't had the energy to play the way we are capable of playing”.
The Leafs have three contests this week, facing Minnesota on Tuesday, Colorado Thursday, and Detroit next Saturday. No doubt, they'll muster every last ounce of energy as they challenge for that final spot.
By tying last year's output tonight, the Leafs have shown quantifiable improvement in Burke's second complete year at the helm. Whether they have enough in the tank to get into the first round remains to be seen, but they are certainly trending in a nice direction...
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