The more I see James Reimer do his little cheer like he did last night after stopping Antoine Vermette on the penalty shot, the more I excited I get as a Leaf fan.
You have to scroll through six minutes of video here but it is well worth it: http://video.mapleleafs.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=802&id=515498&lang=en
Despite being badly outplayed (again) for a large portion of the game (again), Leafs finally got a different result on the scoreboard (a first), even though it took longer than most of us would have liked.
In winning game number 35, they also kept themselves above the .500 mark and getting dangerously close to falling even for the first time this season.
Joffrey Lupul provided the heroics with a nice shootout goal, after James van Riemsdyk’s shot actually required video review, I have never seen that before in my life, and hope I never have to again. The only weakness was a Martin Handzal shot that got past James Reimer awfully softly with under five minutes to play; Phoenix then cranked it up a notch but wouldn’t score again in regulation, and the blue and white won 2-1 for the first time in three games.
Also, James Reimer got his first win in the Leafs net in awhile, continued his argument that he should be the number-one starter and put in one more bid that he should start on January 1 when the team participates in the 2014 Winter Classic.
Phoeniz outshot Toronto 35-27, so right there it makes perfect sense that the Leafs won the game.
Before the Hanzal goal, it looked like he was on his way to the shutout.
Reimer’s play overall was one of the key points to the win last night, here are the other four:
• Phil Kessel and the rest of the first line looked good tonight, creating a number of chances. The trio of Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk combined for 12 shots. Unfortunately for that line, Mike Smith was very good in the ‘Yotes net, and they couldn’t find the score sheet. Nonetheless, it was a great showing on their part, and if they continue to play at that level, the results will come.
• Lupul scored one of the nicest goals in the shootout that essentially delivered the team the win, he was sidelined recently with a lower body injury but obviously he still has the moves.
• Number three is the chemistry and their speed. They took the lead when Troy Bodie scored to make it 1-0. Then for the most part, they were on top of things, short a few power outages at various points, such as the one that led to the Hanzal tying goal, they looked good. Perhaps the most entertaining hockey I have seen this season was the overtime rush these guys put together. Did Toronto take that momentum and apply it to the shootout? Who knows for sure but they got the win and that is what counts.
The only thing that didn’t make sense was Carlyle’s use of Nazem Kadri, or lack of it, on the team’s number-one power play unit. Unless Carlyle is steamed at Kadri (again) or is just up to his usual craziness as the team’s Head Coach, it only makes sense to play a natural centre at the CENTRE position, right? Toronto had three power plays last night but couldn’t score on either; the only good news out of that is Phoenix couldn’t capitalize either.
• And reason number four to feel good if you are in LeafsNation, for the most part this season, Leaf callups and new acquisitions have been answering the call. Troy Bodie scored a nice five-hole goal. Since been acquired from Anaheim, Peter Holland has contributed. Jerry D’Amigo scored his first NHL goal in home game recently. John-Michael Liles shouldn’t be a call up but he was last night and showed plenty of hustle late in the game, and if we still consider rookie Morgan Reilly a newbie, he keeps showing flash and as a result the Leafs won’t let him play for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
Next up for the Leafs is a date with their Winter Classic counterparts, the Detroit Red Wings, on Saturday night. For anyone lucky enough to win tickets, the Toronto Maple Leafs twitter account is holding contests each game night for a pair of tickets to Michigan Stadium.