Whether you love the shootout or hate it, the Toronto Maple Leafs are dining out on it this season, writes Mike brophy. For the second straight home game and ninth time this season, the Maple
Leafs were victorious in the shootout defeating the visiting Buffalo
Whether you love the shootout or hate it, the Toronto Maple Leafs are dining out on it this season.
For the second straight home game and ninth time this season, the Maple Leafs were victorious in the shootout defeating the visiting Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Toronto scored on all three of its shots -- James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak all scoring on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. The Sabres managed one goal on James Reimer.
Toronto is now 9-4 in the shootout and its nine wins lead the NHL. San Jose and Washington have eight apiece.
Van Riemsdyk, who has scored three game-winners in the shootout this season, said for now his club has a certain comfort in participating in the shootout.
"I think we confident in the guys we can send out there to shoot and we're confident in our goalies," van Riemsdyk said.
Van Riemsdyk was the first Toronto shooter and surprised his future Team USA teammate Miller with a longish shot.
"I think he reads the game really well so you have to try to catch him off guard and that's what I did," van Riemsdyk confessed.
While he is pleased that his team has been successful in the shootout this season, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said he is not comfortable when it rolls around after the five-0minute overtime period.
"I don't think you can ever get into those situations and feel comfortable," Carlyle said. "Obviously we are fortunate this year that our record in the shootout is a real strong positive for our hockey club and it has earned us a lot of extra points. If we can continue to find a way to get points that's what our job is. We can get ourselves back climbing into a playoff position."
However, he recovered and recorded his first victory since Dec. 19 when the Maple Leafs defeated the Phoenix Coyotes. That win came in a shootout, too. Since then Reimer has started three games and was pulled in two of them.
His biggest save in the game came with 21 seconds remaining in overtime as he stopped huge Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers' blast on a one-timer from the high slot.
"You don't think much on a play like that; you just hope it hits you," Reimer said.
No fan of the shootout
Reimer makes no bones about the fact he's not a big fan of the shootout.
"I'm personally not a big fan of the shootout, but they have been good to me this year," the goalie said. "It is something I try to practice most days as much as I can and obviously shootouts are big points and they're huge come the end of the year. As far as my comfort level I feel pretty good, but when your team scores three (in the shootout) it makes things easier."
Reimer stops Girgensons
With the scored tied 1-1 at 5:38 of the second period Reimer was called upon to stop a penalty shot by Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons. The Sabres player was awarded the free shot after Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner hooked him on a breakaway.
Wednesday's game was the fifth and final meeting of the regular season between Toronto and Buffalo. Toronto takes the season series 3-2.
Kessel on a roll
First line right-winger Phil Kessel scored just his second goal in seven games, but now has points in four straight games. After being held pointless in three in a row, Kessel has two goals and seven points in four games. He scored on his only shot on goal in the first period after intercepting a weak clearing attempt by Buffalo defenceman Christian Ehrhoff. The goal came a few minutes after Kessel had hit the goal post on a sharp-angle shot.
Maple Leafs' best line
The third line featuring centre Peter Holland between wingers David Clarkson and Nikolai Kulemin played superbly. Kulemin scored his sixth goal of the season to tie the score 2-2 at 7:23 of the second period and while Clarkson didn't earn an assist on the play, he did a fine job screening Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
"I was just hoping I didn't get nailed by his shot," Clarkson joked after the game.
There were 15 pro scouts in the press box Wednesday night including two from Anaheim. There is plenty of speculation new Sabres GM Tim Murray may be listening to offers for goalie Ryan Miller as well as scoring winger Matt Moulson. Both players have expiring contracts following this season. There will be a huge market for Miller who, when he is on his game, remains one of the best stoppers in the NHL. Moulson could be a much sought after rent-a-player by a contending team.
Bolland back on blades
Injured centre David Bolland returned to the ice Wednesday morning for the first time since suffering a severed tendon in his ankle Nov. 8. There is no set timeline for when Bolland will return to the Maple Leafs. In 15 games he has six goals (two game-winners) and 10 points.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.