BY: Jeff Schneberk
Well well well where are all the haters and naysayers now? Out on a two-game Florida roadtrip this week, the Blue and White Leafs completed their trip last night when they threw the Tampa Bay Lightning a little beating.
“We needed a response from our effort the other night (at Florida),” said Head Coach Randy Carlyle. “We got that tonight.”
Toronto now sits tied with the Habs with 68 points. That is good for third place. Montreal is placed higher due to one less loss than Toronto. That is too bad lol. That should change on Hockey Night tomorrow night lol.
Toronto never ever trailed last night and won by a 4-1 final. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier nearly got into a fight, a bunch of Leaf dads were in attendance wearing Leaf jerseys of course, and Jay McClement got a goal and David Clarkson got an assist with a beautiful pass on the goal.
Mason Raymond, Jay McClement, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak provided the goal scoring on this night, Bozak’s came into the empty night. It is always a great feeling when the Leafs finish the game by scoring into the empty net, on home ice or on the road, it feels great to see it.
David Clarkson, returning to the line up on Tuesday night against the Panthers got his name on the scoreboard when he fed McClement who scored the game’s prettiest goal to give the Leafs a comfy 3 goal lead and win.
It was the only goal I have ever seen during the actual play (not in a shootout) where a Leafs skater pulls off similar move to Peter Forsberg’s famous goal in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics in Norway.
As most of us already know, the Winter Olympics begin today over in Russia. The Maple Leafs have three players who will be participating in the hockey tournament. JVR and Kessel skate for the Americans while Nikolai Kulemin will be playing in his home land for the home side; he goes from one of the top teams currently in the NHL East, to skating with two of the top Russian-born skaters ever in Ovechkin, Malkin and possibly Datsyuk. I would like to think that if Team Russia hockey does really well in the Olympics, it will have something to do with Nikolai Kulemin’s play.
Anyway, he had one of his better games of the season tonight for the Buds as he finished with an assist on the night and was flying all over the ice. With rumors about him possibly getting dealt and him wanting to remain a Leaf it was nice to show his role on the team and show he can still put the puck in the net. The move that put Kulemin at centre was an interesting one by Carlyle, he did struggle on the dot but did contributed offensively.
Jonathan Bernier turned another great performance stopping 33 of 34 Tampa Bay shots to earn the win after getting shelled for four goals against Florida on Tuesday night. with Bernier given the last 2 starts and playing great here tonight it would not be shocking if Bernier gets another start against the sad Canucks on Saturday night. Given Riemer does deserve a start before the break, but if Bernier put on performances like the one we saw tonight could you really blame Carlyle for putting Bernier back in there?
The other good part of the 4-1 win last night is the Leafs tighten up the race for second place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. With one more game before the whole league takes a two-week vacation thanks to the Sochi Olympics, the Blue and White are looking pretty sweet right now.
Tampa Bay remains in second place behind the Bruins and have a one-point lead over both Leafs and Habs, who beat up the Canucks 5-2 on Thursday night; a game that saw Max Pacioretty score three goals in that game and also miss two penalty shots. Don’t believe I have ever seen that much action by the same skater before.
Ondrej Palat had the lone goal for Tampa Bay. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop left after two periods with an upper-body injury and was replaced by Cedrick Desjardins, and centre Valtteri Filppula also left due to a lower-body injury. Desjardins is filling in for backup Anders Lindback, who is sidelined by a lower-body injury.
Palat scored to cut the Leaf lead to 3-1.
As most in the hockey world already know, Tampa’s Martin St. Louis has replaced his Tampa teammate Steven Stamkos on the Team Canada roster this month in Sochi. Stamkos has not sufficiently healed from a nasty right leg injury which he suffered back in November I believe, which does make sense seeing as how Leaf hotshot David Bolland, who suffered a brutal ankle injury in a game against Vancouver in October.
Both injuries were bad and both players will be getting an extended recuperation period with the NHL on break beginning following CBC Hockey Night in Canada tomorrow night.
From the Tampa/Leaf game last night, Nazem Kadri saw his six-game point streak end.
NEXT ACTION: Toronto’s Olympic break starts after tomorrow night’s contest at home against the Vancouver Canucks. Note the 6pm game time. Following the Olympic break, Toronto doesn’t see NHL action again until Thursday night February 27 when they play at Nassau Coliseum against the NY Islanders, who I might add may or may not re-sign Matt Moulson.