Leafs 1 v. Bruins 2: Death by a Million Paper Cuts
If I had six words to describe the game then the post title would do just fine. The Leafs looked very much like a team that just had 5 days off. Despite putting forth a decent effort things were just not clicking. They were fighting the puck all night long and found themselves either getting their shots blocked (15), missing the net (8), or having the puck jump over their stick (a million). This is a point in the standings that can be attributed to one man: J-S Aubin. He was unbelievable and made a string of last ditch saves.
The Leafs struggle is summed up by the Antro-Welly-Poni line's results. The Soviet Bloc and Frodo did good work in the corners, cycled the puck well, won battles for the puck, and were generally the only line to consistently trouble the Bruins. However, they were unable to score despite some great half-chances.
As expected, it came down to special teams and when you are playing the most penalized team in the league (over 17 min/game) you expect a few powerplays. Apparently, the Bruins played their cleanest game of the year as they gave up only two powerplays. Luckily, McCabe, who has apparently learned that getting a wrist shot through is more valuable than blasting a slapshot, scored on a well placed, low wrist shot after Wellwood won the draw.
Unfortunately, the Bruins powerplay used their secret bank pass off the boards to get Kessel a goal. Aside from some dodgy passes, this was Aubin's only mistake. He should have cut the rebound out but those Beantown boards seem extra bouncy. That is the second goal in two games that gets scored in the exact same fashion.
Pavel Kubina's return was inauspicious. He did some good work along the boards in his own end but he looked tentative with the puck and his timing was a bit off. Bates Battaglia continues to impress with his play and he has been rewarded with what seems to be a permanent spot on the Sandpaper Line with Peca and Tucker. Jeff O'Neill continued his great season in the face-off circle with 5 wins out of 7. And since Belak does not really fight could we get one of the Marlies up? Maybe Westrum or Leeb? Would it really hurt the Leafs to give our fourth line a bit more offensive skill?
All in all, it was a game that was hard to follow. It was especially painful as the Bruins apparently read my comments denigrating them and decided to play well. The Bruins tried to set up shop in their own end in the third before McCabe tied it and then they won it on a Patrice Bergeron goal in OT. It was a point stolen entirely by J-S Aubin who made some ridiculous saves in the third to keep the game at 1-0 on a night when it looked like the Leafs would never score. The rust from the team's longest layoff all season is off and the Devils are up next Saturday night. They play for their honour tonight in Ottawa so hopefully the Leafs can do better against a tired opponent. The brightside of the loss: the sens are now in last place in the Northeast.
The Final Word
Lewis said later he had his shooters recently employ the off-net shooting strategy as an option for when the opposition blocks, or negates, the shooting lane. It's not the shortest route to the net, but it has become effective.
Kevin Paul Dupont, Boston Globe, confirming my thought that the first goal was a set play.
If the Leafs had anything to be thankful for, it was another wonderful outing from goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Andrew Raycroft.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, makes the understatement of the week.