Four games is the maximum number that the Toronto Maple Leafs are capable of winning in succession. At least that appears to be the case. For the second time this season, the teams winning streak was halted at four games, followed by by a disappointing series of losses. The winning streak that went from January 6 - 11, came to a startling halt in the form of a 5 - 1 loss at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. To make matters worse, that loss was followed up with a 2 - 1 overtime defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames, and then a 7 - 0 embarrassment from the New York Rangers. The commonalities of all three losses are lack of scoring, lethargic effort, and defensive disorganization. In these games, the Maple Leafs scored a combined two goals. The most frustrating aspect of these losses, is the team has proven on several occasions that they are more then capable of a higher standard of play. Case in point, was last night's contest against the Anaheim Ducks. The Leafs rebounded from their terrible performance in New York with a 5 - 2 win. Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur once again proved that they are two of the most consistent Leafs this season, as they were in on 4 of the 5 goals. Grabovski scored twice to take over the team lead in goals (20), while MacArthur had a goal and two assists, to remain the overall points leader (40). Tyler Bozak played arguable his best game of the season. He scored the game winning goal, and was superb on the penalty kill, keeping the third ranked power play bottled up in their own zone, while creating scoring chances for the shorthanded Leafs. The Maple Leafs will look to continue the flow of winning when they take on the Washington Capitals on Hockey Night in Canada.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their four game road trip with back to back games in California facing Los Angeles and San Jose. In addition to taking some Vitamin D from the sunny weather the Blue and White also took four points as they won both games. Both games were very similar in how they played out. Reimer made some huge saves early, and remained solid the entire game. The Leafs gave up the lead, tied it, and took the lead, before giving up the equalizing goal. Ultimately, the Leafs would get the wins by scoring in the third, and some frantic final moments would preserve the victories. That was the script in a nutshell for the Maple Leafs time in Hollywood. Phil Kessel would score pivotal goals in both games, with Kulemin and MacArthur contributing with goals against the Kings and the Sharks respectively. These wins would not have been possible without the contributions of Marlies call ups Joey Crabb, Darryl Boyce, and of course James Reimer. Crabb assisted on both Kessel goals, while Boyce scored his second goal of the season. James Reimer was simply outstanding in both efforts stopping a combined 70 of 74 shots. The young goaltender now has a 4W - 1L record with a 1.92 goals against average and a .947 save percentage. The team seems to play a more sound defensive game in front of Reimer, as opposed to the main goal tending duo. There has been talk that Giguere is healthy enough to return from a groin injury, and could possibly play the next game against the Coyotes. This would be a mistake as far as I'm concerned. The Maple Leafs and Reimer are in a groove right now, and there is no need to disrupt that. Reimer is a key reason why the Leafs have won 4 games in a row, and five of their last six. It makes sense to ride the hot hand. Ron Wilson has always preached that players have to earn their spot to play for the Maple Leafs. Well, if he's a man of his word, Reimer will start on Thursday. He's earned that,while Giguere and his injury plagued, mediocre season has not.
Well, the holiday season definitely halted any blogging consistency I hoped to have since my last entry. Speaking of consistency, it is an issue that has plagued the Maple Leafs throughout the entire calender year of 2010, and to be honest, for the past six years. Early on in this new year the team has looked constantly good. They have played four games since 2010 became 2011, and have won three out of those four contests. In the three wins the Blue & White have had an outpouring of goals from three of their four lines. The Leafs stomped on their provincial rivals 5 - 1, left St. Louis singing the blues with a 6 - 5 shootout decision, and gave Atlanta quite a thrashing with a 9 - 3 victory. Their only blemish of this new year came at the hands of the Boston Bruins in a tight defensive contest that saw the Leafs fall by a 2 - 1 count. The reason for the Leafs latest stretch of success? Well, on the surface it comes down to quick puck movement, and a balanced attack. On a deeper level, the play of Mikhail Grabovski has been remarkable. He has a streak of 12 goals in his last 14 games. He and his line mates Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin had 2 goals each in their massive victory over Atlanta. Phil Kessel's strong play to end December and start January has him tied with the aforementioned Grabovski for the team lead in goals with 17. While the Leafs defense is as unpredictable as ever, it has looked a lot better in front of James Reimer. In his three starts this season Reimer has a 2W - 1L record, with a 1.87 goals against average and, a .947 save percentage. His performances prove he is NHL ready, which spells the end for Giguere's time in Toronto, as I can see the Leafs going with a Gustavsson/Reimer pairing next season. The Leafs look to continue their winning ways on the road tonight as they tangle with the L.A. Kings on Leafs TV @ 10:30pm.