Leafs Look For Momentum Shift

The Toronto Maple Leafs finally managed to put an end to what seemed like a never-ending tough stretch of losses, after picking up a win in what Leafs’ head coach, Ron Wilson described as “a strange game”, against the Nashville Predators this past Tuesday night. Putting an end to an eight-game losing streak did not seem likely with the Predators scoring three goals in the first period, the second and third being scored just ten seconds apart.

Young defenseman Luke Schenn, managed to score with just 30 seconds left in the first, but with Toronto down 3-1, nobody expected the second and third period to be the huge momentum shift in the Leafs’ favor, as it very well turned out to be. Toronto managed to draw penalty after penalty while the Predators, as according to Nashville’s head coach, Barry Trotz said “We stopped working, we stopped skating and therefore you take penalties.”  While one can speculate that Toronto’s comeback was possible large in part by the Leafs capitalizing on the numerous power play and 5-on-3 opportunities, the Predators seemed to slow down and lose steam when it mattered the most, giving the Leafs new life. The Leafs gained momentum off penalties and managed to get back in it, winning a much needed game.

Kris Versteeg scored a pair of goals in the second along with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Clarke MacArthur, who started off the season with a bang, scoring five goals in five games, picked up three assists on three consecutive goals scored by the Leafs, which resulted in a 5-4 victory.

With about 13 minutes left in the third, Leafs starting goaltender J.S. Gigeure was forced to come out of the game with a groin strain and was replaced by Jonas Gustavsson who made six saves after replacing Gigeure. According to TSN, Giguere will be out for two weeks while Jonas Gustavsson takes over in net. Acting as the back-up goaltender is James Reimer. Reimer, who was just recently called up from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, has yet to make his NHL debut, but the 22-year old has been performing well in the minors with a .918 save percentage to go along with his 5-3-1 record.

In an effort to inject some life into the team’s offense and getting through the losing streak encountered by the Leafs so early on in the season, prized forward, Nazem Kadri, and defenseman, Keith Aulie, were called up from the minors and made their start on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. With plenty of ice-time for both players, giving them a chance to prove their ability to play at a higher level, the Leafs fell short to the Canucks, 5-3, but managed to impress Wilson.

In Tuesday’s game against Nashville, Kadri managed to get two shots on goal and picked up an assist on Versteeg’s second goal, while Aulie (given 14 minutes of ice-time) impressed coach Wilson with his strong skating and puck handling skills.

“I was impressed with his poise with the puck,” Wilson stated in a recent interview with the Toronto Sun. “It was on his stick and he moved it right away. To be honest with you, some of our veteran (defensemen) don’t move it as quickly as he did.”

The Leafs are just 2-6-2 in their last ten games and will face the New Jersey Devils (3-6-1) tonight in the first of four meetings this season. If the Leafs can take with them the momentum from Tuesday night’s game against Nashville, they can find their way back on track and start winning games, the way the team started off their season.

Tonight, Gustavsson will be up against Martin Brodeur, while captain Dion Phaneuf remains out with a leg injury and Colby Armstrong has been placed on injured reserve due to a hand/foot injury.

Puck drop at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto is set for 7 PM.

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