HEY IAN WHITE! You might play with Lidstrom, but you sure don't play like him. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
If you're into advanced statistics, tonight was one of those nights that makes the Leafs' record look less sustainable. The Detroit Red Wings came to town and dominated puck possession for the vast majority of the game, while the Leafs, to their credit, managed to use their speed on the rush to cash in what few chances they had. That they walked away with a 4-3 win looks "lucky" both in terms of stats as well as in terms of observable play.
The Leafs, wait for it, have Jonas Gustavsson to thank for another solid performance in goal. To be fair, the Leafs kept the Wings to the perimeter of their zone for the most part, but there were a number of key saves made - especially in the second period, where the Leafs were out-shot 14-2 - to give the Leafs a chance.
Don't look now, but Gustavsson's save percentage on the season has crept up to .903. OK, so that's not really in any way impressive, but it's hard to knock a man that's winning.
Overall, the shots were 40-18 in Detroit's favor, and, in the end, it was Detroit's over-confidence that gave the Leafs a hope. Toronto managed to capitalize on three defensive lapses in the first twelve minutes of the game by Detroit defencemen who basically forgot that Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are fast, and can put the puck in the net.
Phil Kessel opened the scoring for the Leafs on a penalty shot, after he was hooked from behind on a breakaway. Next, it was a wicked slap shot from Dion Phaneuf, just seven seconds into the Leafs' only power play. The third Leafs' goal of the period was from David Steckel, off a beautiful rush, started in the Leafs' zone by Lupul and Kessel.
From Steckel's goal onward, more or less until the end of the game, Detroit made the Leafs' blue line look like the Maginot Line, and the play rarely left the Leafs' zone. Why Leaf defenders offer the blue line so readily is beyond me. I just can't wrap my brain around this kind of poor gap control.
One outstanding performer was Keith Aulie, who was outstanding for all the wrong reasons. That he finished with an even +/- record on the evening is something of a mystery to me. He is slow, makes horrible decisions with the puck in his own zone, and is beaten in altogether too many puck battles along the boards considering his size. He's young and will need more time on the farm. Ron Wilson needs to find himself another defenceman to play the left side.
It was an ugly, if exciting, game out there, but I'll take it. So long as Burke isn't trading away prospects or picks to get there, I'd love for the Leafs to see a little first round playoff action. I'll take all the luck I can get.