Sunday, February 15, 2009

Something To Cheer About

Down 2-1 entering the 3rd Period of last night's hockey game at the ACC versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked like they were headed towards another disappointing night. However, despite their Goalie's (Vesa Toskala) paltry 3.41 GAA coming into the game, the Leafs bounced back for a fantastic finish.

So far this month the Leafs have been quite the wreck going 2-4 (including the game last night) in 6 games. Even more alarming has been their performance in the losses: Losing 4-3 to the Panthers, 5-0 to the Sabres, 5-4 to the Panthers in a rematch and, losing 6-4 to the Lightning. Doing the Math, that equates to a 5 GAA over the 4 games; ouch! With a record like that its no wonder that the Leafs are sitting on 52 pts overall after playing 56 games. That is less than 1 point a game; ouch! So how did the Leafs manage to explode tonight for a 6-2 win over th Penguins? I have a theory and it is simple.

The Pens (who are currently in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference) had to have been looking past the Leafs. Given the return of Sergei Gonchar to their defensive corp., they might have felt that they had enough punch to knockout the hapless Leafs. Unfortunately the Leafs pulled a rope-a-dope. With Pittsburgh coming out swinging at the top of the game with 2 quick scores it looked like Vesa was being his usual generous self and it happened. The Leafs turned scrappy like a spurned lover on Valentine's Day. They hit back by scoring a goal in the 2nd Period to cut the lead to a one goal deficit and never looked back. The 3rd period was truly something to behold. It was like watching the Leafs play 13 years ago. They played soundly during that period and finally overwhelmed the Pens with 5 goals in the period to put the game away. Even Vesa Toskala played like the Leafs had hoped he would all year; he was really great down the stretch. The highlight of the game was Jason Blake scoring 2 goals back-to-back in a span of 19seconds during the decisive 3rd Period.

Notes from this game:

  • Leafs are currently tied for 8th in overall scoring (with the Pens) in the NHL - someone should have told the Pens before the game.

  • The Pens must have been banking on the Leaf's league worst GAA average. (So before any Toskala fans begin to complain, I suggest they consider the facts.)

  • The Leafs have now won both Saturday games this month and,

  • Finally, winning faceoffs, getting hits, and zone defence play were big factors in this game. The Leafs won the battles tonight and that got them the win. The play of Dominic Moore was something to watch in this game.

Next up the Leafs face the Sabres in another rematch game this month, hopefully this Leaf team shows up.


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