It seems as though a barrage of shots on net is not the answer for the Leafs scoring woes this season. For the 10th straight games, the Leafs put up 30+ shots last night only to be shut out by Ryan Miller who is currently the best goalie in the National Hockey League.
Miller made some ridiculous saves on the likes of Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski. Fans should be encouraged by the recent run of points in 5 straight games for the Leafs leading into last night and the consistent outputs of sniper Phil Kessel and Niklas Hagman. However, at some point we start to see the drop off after those two guys. The rest of the Leafs are just not consistently finding the back of the net and making every goalie wearing opposing colours look like Patrick Roy.
Last night's game saw the return of Mike Komisarek to the lineup as well as an apparent injury to rookie defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. Tonight against the Habs we will see either Exelby or Finger in the lineup as his replacement. As for Komisarek, he seemed to play a very steady and solid game last night similar to the performances fans in Montreal grew accustomed to. However, with a game in Montreal tonight, do not expect a warm welcome for Komisarek in his old barn.
Another encouraging sign from last night was the consistent play of rookie keeper Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson kept the Leafs at a reasonable score throughout the game and had the Leafs been able to pot at least one goal early on, Gustavsson would have been a huge factor given some of the great saves he made early on. The Swedish goaltended still has many parts of his game that need refining (rebound control, overplaying passes across the net, playing the puck); but the raw skill, speed and size he has cannot be taught as well as the way he seems to be able to put bad goals behind him and keep his team in the game.
Tonight the Leafs will play the Habs in another huge division game. The Leafs cannot continue to lose division games if they hope to continue the climb out of the NHL basement. Montreal will be ready for the Leafs at home and an important key for the Leafs will be to try and not fall behind early and let the crowd get too much into the game. The Leafs could also benefit from scoring the opening goal of the game which they have done only 4 times this year.
If you have any comments before, during, or after tonight's game, drop me a comment.
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Written by Mike Crupi