The Toronto Maple Leafs, improbably, strolled into the Staples Center and picked up a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. It certainly was not pretty. The first period was one way traffic and as much as the Leafs led the shots on goal race for most of the rest of the way they were pinned in their end for long stretches of the game. James Reimer, soon of the Toronto Marlies, has made 138 saves on 146 shots this year including 30 on 32 shots tonight. His game was, as it has been, steady and under control. He even laid a nice hit on Ryan Smyth. Will he go down? Ron Wilson and Brian Burke are not beyond asking players to 'prove' to them that they belong. Nazem Kadri did not and he went back down. So far, James Reimer, in a very small dose, responded to the impending demotion with hockey's version of 'No, I won't go to the Ricoh'.
The Leafs used two goals in 34 seconds in the second period from Darryl Boyce and Phil Kessel to overturn a 1-0 first period deficit. That first goal, scored by Wayne Simmonds, exposed Dion Phaneuf's weak approach along the boards. The second Kings goal came as a result of something that was prevalent tonight: the Leafs failing to clear the zone and running around like maniacs. Of course, after Nikolai Kulemin gave them a 3-2 lead and Phaneuf put them down a man, that approach helped seal the win. The final six minutes were an orgy of 'watch the game' goodies as the Leafs ground a win out by hitting anything that moved, blocking shots, and throwing themselves in harm's way to clear the zone. They finisehd the night with 45(!) hits and 17 blocked shots.
Tonight was Ron Wilson's 599th win. Tomorrow night he can pick up # 600 in San Jose. Sometimes there's symmetry in life. The Leafs will have to play more like they did in the second or third if they want to help their coach hit the milestone or if they want to extend their 4-game road winning streak. 2011's started out pretty well so far.