There's no doubt the Toronto Maple Leafs have their fair share of faults, but one thing they do have going for them is good timing. Just when I thought they were slipping back to the form that found them in danger of being O for October they bounced back with a shutout against the Boston Bruins. There's really no bad time for a win obviously, but the timing on this one was perfect.
This was Jonas Gustavsson's first game back after his second heart operation. Although he wasn't exactly overworked, he did make all the right saves at the right time. His presence in net seemed to restore some of the teams confidence coming off back to back losses this week. In both games Toronto looked terrible in almost all aspects of their game but in Friday's game against Buffalo it was definitely a lack of timely saves that let them down. Actually any saves would have been good.
It was also about time they came up with as good effort against the Bruins. They've been owned by this divisional opponent and needed this win to prove to fans and critics they can beat teams of this caliber. The fact that it was a shutout at home on a Saturday night was even more icing on the cake.
Vesa Toskala has been very good this month and should take a lot of credit for the Leafs return to the playoff race. Having said this, it was clearly time for a break. After being pulled in Buffalo it was easy to see. With the Monsters return that's now possible. With a 7 - 4 record so far this month and 5 games left, a winning record for the month of December is definitely within the realm of possibilities as well.
More great timing was provided by Nikolai Kulemin as well. He probably played his best game this year blocking shots and provided his usual strong defensive play. Other credit should go to Francois Beauchemin and Jason Blake. Both players have picked the most demanding part of the schedule this season to play their best hockey.
There's no doubt Leaf fans have put up with a lot this season. October was horrendous. November was better but not good enough to make us ALL believers. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't been perfect this month, but just when we needed them to be great they have been. They've vaulted back into the playoff race by gelling as a team and for the most part sticking to Ron Wilson's game plan. Their good players have been good and their one or two great players have been great. When the new year rings in, they could find themselves a five-hundred hockey team with a playoff position. Not bad for a team with only 1 win in their first 13 games.
As tough as the schedule has been In December, it does`t look like January is going to get much better. What are your thoughts? Are they up for the task or will January's pace return them to mediocrity?
.....................................................................Toronto 2 Boston 0