Leafs 5 v. Bruins 1: The Power of Bounces
During the Leafs descent the most discouraging aspect of most games was that the Leafs were not losing because of terrible efforts. There were games in which they were done from the opening face-off but there were enough games that saw the majority of the game played well only to see the team undone by a bad bounce, bad goal, bad call, or a missed opportunity. Frustration mounted as strong efforts were de-railed by the whims of fate. It was enough to make you want to swear off third periods.
If there was any team that the Leafs could use some bounces to beat it was the Bruins. Tim Thomas' insane goaltending and Boston's ability to find a way to beat the buds (four freaking times in a MONTH!) contributed to some, I guess despondent would be the word, posts. In the blue boys' opener of 2007 their hard work was rewarded by two goals that turned a game that was hanging in the balance into a comfortable win.
The game opened with both team's captains notching powerplay goals. Our old friend Chara knocked in a rebound as he assumed a familiar role in front of the Leafs' net. Mats replied by re-directing a great pass by Bryan McCabe past Thomas. Then came the bounces. First, some good forechecking resulted in a loose puck coming out to the point where Hal Gill's fluttering shot got past a perfect Chad Kilger screen to give the Leafs the lead. The third goal showed the value of a determined and hungry fourth line. Newbury, Ondrus, and Belak pinned the Bruins in their zone with a ferocious and unrelenting forecheck. Right before the goal Belak, sans helmet, took on and held off Chara before Newbury picked up the loose puck and fired it towards the goal. Luck intervened as Tim Thomas' attempt to redirect the puck away from danger ended up deflecting the puck into his own net.
Two good bounces as a result of some hard work and a 1-1 game becomes a 3-1 lead going into the third period where Mats Sundin proceded took over the game to ice the Leafs first victory in the new year. First, he took a Jeff O'Neill pass, went on a solo rush past a couple of Bruins, and rifled a shot past Thomas. Then on a powerplay he returned the favour by making a nice cross-crease pass on his backhand to set up a tap-in by O'Neill. With so many forwards out of the lineup the call-ups and Steen and O'Neill have to keep up this effort to help Mats Sundin ensure that the Leafs can remain in the playoff hunt.