Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 24
Hold your head up, hold your head high – Argent
The Maple Leafs are doing their level best to stay in the playoff race. True, they’ve faltered, but they remain tantalizingly close enough to keep their fans buoyed and thinking there may be a miracle here somewhere.
On Monday, that hope looked completely dead. Toronto faced one of the better squads in the east, Tampa Bay. Loaded with talent, the Lightning continued their mastery of the Leafs with a decisive 6-2 win. It was a major letdown after the big win against Buffalo on Saturday. Some of the Lightning’s ‘lesser lights’ did most of the damage, with Matthias Ritola and Nate Thompson getting the first 3 goals and Teddy Purcell adding 3 assists. Vinny Lecavalier, Dominic Moore and Mike Lundin rounded out the scoring, while Dion Phaneuf continued his recent hot streak and Nik Kulemin added his 26th of the season. Once again, Dwayne Roloson was a wall the Leafs could not penetrate. James Reimer on the other hand looked worn down and allowed 5 of the 6 Tampa goals.
And so not much was expected of the Leafs going into Carolina. And surprisingly, the Leafs emerged with a 3-1 victory behind strong tending from Reimer and more scoring from Phaneuf. Chad Larose got the ‘Canes out front on a powerplay goal, as Toronto allowed the opposition the first for for the 8th straight game. Phaneuf wired a one-timer late in the first to tie, then scored his second of the game midway through the second. Darryl Boyce added another and Reimer made 36 saves to draw the Leafs back into the chase for the post-season. Matt Lashoff played his first game for the Leafs after playing well with the Marlies this year.
A lot of talk swirled that despite the performance in Carolina, the game against Tampa was maybe an indication that Reimer was tiring. Regardless, Coach Wilson had already decided to start JS Giguere against Florida the night following Carolina. And Wilson was roundly criticized for the move, as the Leafs dropped an important game 4-0 to a team that has already packed it in. Sergei Samsonov, Stephen Weiss and Mike Santorelli scored in the second, while Keaton Ellerby added one on the third to take care of the scoring, while Toronto’s shooters made Scott Clemmensen look very good in the Florida net. Giguere really could not be faulted on the goals except perhaps the third one. The only significant notes for the Leafs were that Colby Armstrong was out with a broken foot suffered against Tampa, while Nazem Kadri appeared in the lineup after being recalled.
So again, the Leafs enter Saturday night with their playoff dreams all but over, especially as they welcomed Tomas Kaberle and the Bruins back to the Air Canada Centre. Typical of the week, it was a somewhat strange game. Against one of the season’s best goalies, the ‘lesser lights’ of the Leafs carried the team to victory. Luke Schenn got his 4th of the season by carrying the puck from his own blue line and cutting in on Tim Thomas before lifting the puck over the goalie’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead. Adam McQuaid banked one past Reimer off Phaneuf’s skate to tie it up. Kadri let a shot fly that caught McQuaid’s elbow and went in for Kadri’s first NHL goal. Crabb and Brown scored 30 seconds apart, each getting their 3rd of the year, and chasing Thomas. Tuukka Rask got in net and let an Aulie slapper in for his second of the year. Phaneuf and Nathan Horton got into a scrap midway through the 3rd. Dan Paille capped the scoring with 20 seconds left for a 5-2 Leaf win to keep the slim hope of the playoffs alive.
Toronto Maple Leafs record: 32-31-10 – 74 pts (10th Eastern Conference, 22th overall)
Hot Leafs: Phaneuf (3G, A), Crabb (G, 2A), Brent (3A)
Leading scorer: Kessel (54 pts)
Goals: Kessel (28)
Assists: MacArthur (33)
PIM: Orr (128)
Wins: Reimer (15)
GAA: Reimer (2.59)
Sv%: Reimer (0.922)
This week: On the road to Minnesota on Tuesday, Colorado on Thursday and Saturday in Detroit to face those always hot Wings.