|James Reimer celebrates after a shutout victory over|
the Pittsburgh Penguins
John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong returned to action last night. The Leafs send Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie down to the Toronto Marlies in order to free up roster spots for the two returning players. Both played exceptionally well, given their respective roles in the line-up, it looked as if neither had missed a single game.
James Reimer was perfect last night as he stopped all 25 shots thrown his way by Pittsburgh. Granted, he did get a little help from the goal posts and crossbar on more than one occasion, but he settled into the game rather quickly and was steady as the game progressed. He recorded his second shutout of the season and held the one goal lead for the Leafs.
I've mentioned before that in order for the Leafs to have success down the stretch this season, they need to be playing with James Reimer in net. He is the better goaltender, period. This is not to knock on Jonas Gustavsson, who played well when given the opportunity, but he is not a number one goalie in any organization at the moment. Reimer was a bit out of sorts in the first few minutes of the game last night, which is expected for a goalie that has barely played in nearly a month, but he managed to settle down quickly and make all the important saves. That's the difference between him and Gustavsson. Jonas Gustavsson is prone to letting in that one bad goal each game and no matter how many miraculous saves you make, once you let in that bad goal you deflate your team and usually lose the game.
I'm interested to see who Ron Wilson will choose to start in net on Saturday night when the Leafs play the Senators. It's a very important game for Toronto as Ottawa is just four points ahead of them in the standings but have played two more games than the Leafs at this point, and will have played three more games by Saturday. The Senators are currently on a four game losing streak.
There were two other games in the Eastern conference last night. The Rangers beat the Sabres in a shootout after going 65 minutes without either team scoring a goal. The Panthers also edged the Capitals by a score of 4-2. Michal Neuvirth really struggled as he let in two goals from long range, one that was from just inside the center ice line and another that was just inside the offensive blue line.
There are only five teams in the Eastern Conference with more goals for than goals against, and the Leafs are one of them. This really isn't a very useful stat, but the old saying goes "it's hard to win games when you don't score" or in this case when you're being outscored. The Panthers are -12, the Senators are -4, the Devils are -6, and the Capitals are -4. Only a handful of teams have made it into the playoffs with a negative goal differential in recent years, so if the Leafs can keep their pace going the future looks bright.