TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 19: Joey Crabb #46 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal in a game against the Minnesota Wild on January 19, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
For all the hand-wringing over the lineup alterations made by Ron Wilson before tonight's game, things went remarkably well. The Dion Phaneuf - Luke Schenn pairing wasn't on the ice for a goal against, Jonas Gustavsson nearly had himself a shutout, and both Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul found their respective ways onto the scoresheet (Lupul actually took over the Leafs' scoring lead with 51 points), despite being split up for the first time this season.
Now, as any sensible Leafs fan will be quick to point out, given the young average age of this team, things could certainly have gone another way. It's true that the Leafs were playing the Minnesota Wild which doesn't hurt, and we may see a completely different kind of effort put forth when Ron Wilson (likely) decides to go with a very similar lineup in the Leafs' upcoming game against the Canadiens.
For now, let's focus on some positives. Jump for more.
One encouraging statistic to point out is that the Leafs, for the second straight game, out-shot their opponents by a wide margin. Generally speaking, when we use things like Corsi or Fenwick numbers to assess a team, we only look at road games, but regardless of the fact that the game against Ottawa ended in a loss, it's still good to see that the Leafs have strung together two good efforts. (For the record, the Leafs' close-score, away Fenwick is 19th in the league. Hopefully this number improves.)
Another fun fact? With this 4-1 win, the Leafs' goal differential jumps back into the 'positive' column to a +2. It's only one indicator that suggests the Leafs have a good shot at the post-season, but I'll take all the good omens I can get. The Leafs still sit one point out of 8th place, but keep pace with a number of other teams also picking up points tonight.
Something that has escaped attention since Colton Orr was dropped to the Marlies is that the Leafs now have four forward lines that are capable of playing for 10+ minutes. The trio of Joey Crabb, David Steckel, and Mike Brown have proven themselves more than serviceable, and it's about time the Leafs have enough depth to put together a reasonable 4th line.
One last positive note comes from our dear friend James Mirtle, who found us this gem: