Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 22
People get ready, there’s a train comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board – Curtis Mayfield
There seems no end to this ride the Maple Leafs and their fans are on. Oh, the ride may come to an end, there are still 6 weeks and 20 games remaining in the schedule. But, since February 1, Toronto has posted a 8-2-4 record and climbed back to within a few points of 8th place in the East.
The Leafs had to be tired heading into the game against Atlanta. A win at home against the Isles Tuesday, a road trip into Montreal Thursday, at home to Pittsburgh Saturday and now on the road again for a 5pm Sunday start. It is the dog days of the schedule, and every team goes through these scheduling hassles. The line that did so much damage the last time Toronto was in Atlanta piked it up again, with Kulemin scoring, assisted by Grabovski and MacArthur. Kessel continued his hot streak also, scoring unassisted. Reimer was playing well, and stopped 18 before he had to leave the game after taking an Evander Kane hit to the side of the head. The move was precautionary, and the hit was unintentional. Giguere came in and looked like he may not be fully healed. Giggy looked a little shaky, and gave up 3rd period goals to Andrew Ladd and Tim Stapleton, which sent the game into OT, where Ron Hainsey completed the Thrasher comeback. The loss gets the Leafs a point though.
At the trade deadline Monday, Brian Burke made only one move, sending John Mitchell to the Rangers for a 7th round pick in 2012. The deadline was fairly quiet all around the league.
Reimer was back in net as Pittsburgh returned to town. The Leafs looked for vengeance after taking the loss a few nights earlier, but it would have to wait as Matt Niskanen opened the scoring, his first since being traded to the pens. Kulemin scored his second in as many, again from Grabovski and MacArthur. Chris Conner put the Pens up again in the second. The third saw the 2 teams trade chances, until Kessel got his second in 2 nights by tipping a Gunnarsson shot by Marc-Andre Fleury. In overtime, Dion Phaneuf started an end to end rush, which resulted in a perfect passing play from Gunnarsson to Kessel to Grabovski who shoved the puck in for the win.
Leafs traveled to Philly for a game the next evening. The Flyers lead the East and are always tough on Toronto. Recently traded Kris Versteeg burned his old team with a goal in the first, matched by Kulemin tipping his 3rd in 3 games 21 seconds later. Keith Aulie got his first NHL fight in, knocking down Scott Hartnell in the second. Versteeg notched another, and it looked like maybe the Leafs were in trouble. But captain Phaneuf got his 4th to tie it with about 10 seconds left in the second. The Leafs played a determined game, and some hard work on the boards resulted in a wraparound play from Darryl Boyce to count the winning goal.
As one might have expected, there was a significant letdown against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Leafs had gained points in 9 straight games, but Chicago was riding a 7 game winning streak. The game was out of reach early as Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik had the Hawks up 2-0 in less than 5 minutes. Jonathan Toews made it 3 before the period was over. Joffrey Lupul made a nice play to score unassisted on a breakaway, but Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell extended the lead. To the Leafs’ credit, they continued to work, and which Chicago may have coasted a bit, the Leafs had chances, including a Grabovski penalty shot that Calder-hopeful Corey Crawford stopped. Joey Crabb did score, and Luke Schenn added one in the final minute to make it a seemingly more respectable 5-3 loss.The Leafs come out of it perhaps learning a lesson as to what it is going to take to make their way into the post-season.
Toronto Maple Leafs record: 29-28-9 – 67 pts (10th Eastern Conference, 22th overall)
Hot Leafs: Kulemin (3G, 1A), Grabovski (1G, 3A)
Leading scorer: MacArthur (50 pts)
Goals: Kessel (27)
Assists: MacArthur (31)
PIM: Orr (128)
Wins: Giguere (12)
GAA: Reimer (2.45)
Sv%: Reimer (0.924)
This week: The schedule does not get any easier from here on out. The Leafs travel to Long Island to take on the isle on Tuesday, then home games against Philly on Thursday and Buffalo next Saturday.