Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle of Ontario

       How is it going everybody?  Hope everyone enjoyed the Super Bowl this weekend.  I know I didn't. While I know a lot of people were glued to the television on Sunday, there was a game on Saturday that meant a lot to us.  The latest round of the Battle of Ontario occurred between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.  Over the last couple of years there has not been the same type of spark between these two teams as has been seen in the past.  However with both teams fighting for a playoff spot, the games have had meaning again and the fire between the two teams can be felt.

       However this game was not the close affair we have been used to.  Toronto came out on Ottawa's ice and handed them a big 5-0 loss.  A win that for Toronto gave them a valuable two points in the tight Eastern Conference, and more importantly drew them even closer to passing Ottawa in the Northeast standings.  As The Big JB and I watched the game we saw a lot of different things that could have a big impact on the rest of the season for the Leafs.

The Return of Optimus Reim
Reimer on Saturday
       The all-star break brought renewed life for one particular Maple Leaf.  James Reimer started the second game of a back to back with Pittsburgh and stopped 25 shots for his fifth career shutout.  This put a halt to an 8 game win streak for Pittsburgh.  Then came the game in Ottawa.  The Leafs did a good job forcing the Senators to the outside but they still managed to throw 49 shots at Reimer.  However he stopped them all for his second straight shutout.  The 49 saves were the most by an NHL goalie this season in recording a shutout, beating Cam Ward's previous high of 47.  James spent the all star break out in B.C with his trainer getting himself back into the shape he was in at the start of the season.  It showed in these two games and the man thought to be the Leafs number one may have earned his job back.  He will start again tonight against Edmonton as he looks to earn his third straight shutout.

Lupul Sets New Career High In Points
Joffrey Lupul
       With two assists in the Ottawa game, Joffrey Lupul set a new career high in points with 54.  He has been by far the biggest surprise of the season for the Leafs.  Lupul was seen as a throw in last season when Toronto traded Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for rookie sensation Jake Gardiner and the resurgent Lupul.  He has proven a perfect compliment to Phil Kessel and could break the 30 goal plateau for the first time in his career.  With exactly 30 games left in the season, Lupul can now focus on piling on to his career high and push the Leafs to the playoffs.  He is my vote for comeback player of the year.

Grabovski Continues Hot Streak
       With ten points in his last five games Mikhail Grabovski is on fire.  The Leafs are starting to receive some secondary scoring and it couldn't have come at a better time.  With the Leafs fighting for a playoff spot they will need all the help they can get.

Kessel Gets Back On Track
Phil Kessel
       With a goal and two assists, Phil Kessel broke out of his scoring slump and pushed his point total back to a point a game.  We obviously knew he wouldn't keep up his early season pace but it was nice to see him get back on track.  Kessel has shown more consistency this season and is on pace to break the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career.  This is the Phil Kessel Toronto wanted when they traded two first round picks and a second.

Closing The Gap
       After the win in Ottawa Toronto now has 60 points.  Two points up on Washington for eighth spot, Toronto is still fighting to stay in the playoffs.  However Toronto is now only one point behind Ottawa with three games in hand.  With a couple more wins Toronto could catch up to the likes of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  They have also closed the gap on Boston to eight points.  Other then the losses against Boston, Toronto has played the rest of the league just as Boston.  If Toronto can turn it around against the Bruins in the last part of the season, we could see Toronto making some noise in the playoffs.

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