Less than 24 hours after being informed of the death of Brian Burke's son Brendan the Toronto Maple Leafs turned in one of their most complete performances of the season. They outplayed the Ottawa Senators in every aspect of the game Saturday night. The Leafs had spoken about the importance of performing tonight of all nights:
"I think our goal here is to make sure Burkie and his family don’t have to worry about us," said Giguere, who has known his GM for years dating back to their time with the Anaheim Ducks. "They have enough on their plate right now. It’s hard enough as it is to lose somebody you love like this. I can’t even imagine a kid."
In my recap last night, which I wrote between the end of the game and reading the news of Brendan Burke's passing, I hoped that Wilson's strategy of putting his younger charges in difficult sitations would pay off:
We'll see how the team reacts tomorrow night. That will play a big part in how I feel about this game. Right now, I think that there are enough young players here that you can look at the first 56 minutes and think that they are learning something. But if they come out flat tomorrow night it's much harder to cushion the blow.
It is most certainly small comfort but the win tonight immediately reminded me of another almost exactly two years ago. On that Monday night, on the day that we buried my beloved uncle, the Maple Leafs provided two and a half hours worth of distraction as they pummelled the Senators 5-0. The crowd was certainly into the game. Sure, the wave is lame but at least that means that the crowd was doing something other than checking their stocks on their blackberries. Even still, I expect DGB to be compiling a kill list.
I think that the best part about the game was...well, it was the score but the second best part was who led the charge. Luke Schenn posted probably one of his best games as a Maple Leaf. He scored two goals including a rocket for his second, an assist, and he finished the night +4 in 21:40 of ice-time. He was matched in production by Phil Kessel who extended his recent run of play to 6 goals 11 assists in the past 13 games.
Riding shotgun was Tyler Bozak who scored a goal, an assist, and won 61% of his draws. In fact, since he was re-called by the Leafs he has been below 50% in the face-off dot just three times. He's been over 70% twice and over 60% 5 times. In addition, Christian Hanson, Lee Stempniak, and Fredrik Sjostrom did yeoman's work on the penalty kill using their speed to craft out some chances of their own.
As for Jean-Sebastien Giguere what else can be said? These two games is a hell of a start to his career as a Maple Leaf. Don Cherry touched on it and a friend mentioned it when the trade was made but every strong game that Giggy puts together decreases Jonas Gustavsson's contract leverage. If he would have started Friday night the Gig-era would like be off to a 3-0 start mostly because Giguere is apparently invincible:
JS Giguere on pace to never allow a goal as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Bad news for Senators.
As for the Run From Number One the Leafs sit in 29th, tied on points with 28th place Carolina, and 5 points from the New York Islanders in 27th. The teams are tightly packed after that so the Leafs' annual futile push for the playoffs could get them comfortably away from the lottery. If, of course, they keep up their newfound dedication to playing good hockey.
Face-Offs: Tomas Kaberle was only on the ice for two of them while Luke Schenn and Dion Phaneuf were on for five. Carl Gunarsson and Francois Beauchemin were on for six apiece. I think that's another sign that Ron Wilson doesn't trust Kabby's defensive abilities.
H2H TOI: Looks like the Phaneuf and Beauchemin were in charge of making sure Daniel Alfredsson didn't score any goals while he was being booed. Schenn and Gunnarson were given the task of containing Alex Kovalev. Colton Orr's fists were given the tasks of making Matt Carkner disappear:
Corsi and Fenwick: The Leafs actually didn't do very well tonight but the only Senators that did well were their scrubs. Carkner, Peter Regin, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Chris Neil all ended up on the positive side of the ledger but the Leafs would give that up 11 times out of 10.