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Leafs win third straight with Gustavsson in goal
Say what you want about Jonas Gustavsson. He's too awkward in net. He always lets in the easy goals. He's flopping around everywhere. It's all about winning and Gustavsson lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It was his and the team's third win in a row.
North York - January 8, 2012 - Say what you want about Jonas Gustavsson. He's too awkward in net. He always lets in the easy goals. He's flopping around everywhere. At the end of the day all that matters is whether or not he gets the win and he's riding a three game winning streak. The most recent win being tonight's game against the Detroit Red Wings, one of the best teams in the league.
The Leafs started off strong in the first period scoring three unanswered goals. Phil Kessel was hooked on a breakaway and scored on the resulting penalty shot. Dion Phaneuf scored a powerplay goal a few minutes later and Joffrey Lupul would set up David Steckel for the third Leafs goal. At the end of one period not too many people would have expected the Leafs to be sporting a three goal lead, but things would change in the second period.
The second period was all Red Wings. The Leafs could not get the puck out of the defensive zone as the Wings worked the puck down low shift after shift. The Leafs did manage to insulate Jonas Gustavsson for the majority of the first period and early into the second but things came apart when Todd Bertuzzi tipped in a shot for the Red Wings first goal. The ref ruled it a goal on the ice but his stick was at one point a foot above the crossbar so the goal was reviewed. Upon review the goal counted due to there not being sufficient evidence to overturn the ruling by the referee on the ice.
Apparently the only angle CBC wanted to show the fans at home was from 20 feet above ice level behind the net. It's impossible to tell if a play is a high stick from that angle. You would think that in a sport where goals are reviewed for possible high sticks there would be a camera angle at the same height as the crossbar to have an accurate view of what's a goal and what isn't...apparently that's not the case.
So the Wings are on the board with a rather questionable goal in my opinion. Just a few minutes later, with Detriot carrying all the momentum, Jonas Gustavsson makes a big diving pokecheck to prevent a partial breakaway from materializing. The Leafs didn't get their first shot of the second period until over 13 minutes into the period. Detroit would score again in the second on a miscue of defensive zone coverage between the Leafs players.
The third period was better for the Leafs, but just four minutes into the period Jiri Hudler scored the tying goal and the three goal lead that Toronto had built in the first period had evapourated. The Leafs were slowly getting their legs back and managed to hold off the Red Wings for the next few minutes. Then, Tim Connolly won an offensive zone face off forwards and the bouncing puck made it's was to Lupul, who pulled the puck to the front of the net and lifted it over a sprawled Howard. The Leafs would hang on to the lead and win their third game in a row.
- The Leafs sent forward Matt Frattin and defenseman Korbinian Holzer back down to the Toronto Marlies. Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch for tonight's game.
- Colby Armstrong had a set back in his recovery of a concussion... There is no timeline for his return.
- Dion Phaneuf played tonight despite his cheek being swollen to the size of a softball after taking a puck in the face in Thursday nights hockey game. Phaneuf scored the second goal of the game and didn't miss a beat despite his injury.
- Joey Crabb did not look too good playing on the second line with Kulemin and Grabovski. He's had his up and down shifts with that line but it just seems that the chemistry isn't there.
- There seemed to be a lot of chemistry between Connolly, MacArthur and Kadri, but since Tyler Bozak was injured and Connolly moved up to the first line, there hasn't been that chemistry with Matthew Lombardi centering that third line.
- Both Brown and Komisarek returned from their respective injuries to play tonight. They both played well enough in their first game back.
- Jonas Gustavsson picked up his third win in a row. He is getting great goal support from the Leafs who have scored 59 goals in Gustavsson's last 12 starts (nearly five goals for per game).
I'd like to see a bit of line juggling when Tyler Bozak returns to the line-up. If Ron Wilson decides to keep Connolly on the first line, which is almost a guarantee, I'd slot Bozak to center the third line between Kadri and MacArthur. Joey Crabb would be the odd man out and I would move Matthew Lombardi up with Grabovski and Kulemin on the second line. I think Lombardi's speed will compliment the second line where as Bozak's passing will work nicely with Kadri, who has great vision, and MacArthur, who would be the trigger man on that line.
The Leafs finish their current home-stand on Tuesday night as Buffalo comes in to town. Then on Friday the Leafs will make the short trip into Buffalo to complete the home-at-home series before heading back to Toronto for five more games at home over the next two weeks. I'd imagine Jonas Gustavsson will get the start again on Tuesday as it seems Ron Wilson could be running a "win and you're in" coaching philosophy regarding the starting goaltenders. I like the idea as it will push both Gustavsson and Reimer to improve their game, though when the dust clears I would assume James Reimer would be the starting goaltender. He plays in a very calm manner that seems to be contagious to the rest of the Leafs line-up and for the most part they play better in front of him. If Reimer was getting the kind of goal support Jonas Gustavsson has been getting the Leafs would have put up a few more wins in the month of December.
The Leafs are at the half-way marker of the season and currently sit in sixth spot in the East. If they keep up the hard work and determination, Toronto fans will be delighted to see playoff hockey return to the city for the first time in nearly a decade.
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