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Minnesota Wild Dominated by the Toronto Maple Leafs



Joey Crabb celebrates after scoring a high-light

reel goal in the first period

PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

The Leafs brush off a tough three game losing skid as they beat the Wild 4-1. Nazem Kadri scored early as he spin around and smacked the puck out of the air and into the back of the net just 50 seconds into the opening frame. Joey Crabb would also score in the first for a two goal lead. Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski would also score for Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson didn't have much work, but was solid when he needed to be. He had the shutout going until the last few minutes of the game when he let in a goal from the icing line.

It looks like the line juggling coach Ron Wilson made prior to the game worked out well for the Maple Leafs. Joffrey Lupul was moved to a line with Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri, and they worked well throughout the game including scoring early into the game. Matthew Lombardi was moved up with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak and the second line of MacArthur, Kulemin, and Grabovski, that played so well last season, was reunited. At first I wasn't too sure about having Lombardi on the top line with Bozak and Kessel because I don't think Lombardi is capable of filling the offensive role that Joffrey Lupul occupied. Although it's true, Lombardi wasn't the offensive player that Lupul has been on that line, he helps out in the defensive zone and should keep some of those dreaded minuses off the stat sheet beside numbers 81 and 42.

Though it didn't really make a difference on the scoreboard or in the points column, the bad goal that Jonas Gustavsson let in reminds the Maple Leafs of their goaltending struggles. Neither Reimer nor Gustavsson have really taken the opportunity to become the starting goaltender with stellar play. They both have a bad habit of letting in a bad goal in almost every game. It's not a big deal when your team is winning 4-0, but in closer games, such as Tuesday night, that soft goal can cost you the game. That being said, Jonas Gustavsson played well overall tonight and I would expect him to get the start Saturday night against the slumping Canadiens.

Gustavsson is has 10 wins in his last 14 starts. Despite his uncommon demeanor in between the posts, including the fact that he might make a record for the most times a goalie has lost his stick in a regular season, he's been the one getting the job done. He looks more composed in the net and seems to be calm now with a few games under his belt as opposed to earlier this season when he wasn't playing as much.

Keith Aulie was the odd man out on the defensive side of things for the Leafs. The young defenseman had such a promising end to the season last year, but this year has not been as good as he needs to be. Mike Komisarek found his way back into the lineup tonight. Since being sent down for a game with the Marlies, Jake Gardiner has played very well for the Leafs. With the news that John-Michael Liles is expected to return within a week, I suspect Keith Aulie would be the odd defenseman out and will likely be sent down to the Marlies.

In other news around the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils couldn't hold their one goal lead over the Bruins. Boston scored four times in the third period to edge Brodeur and the Devils. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 and the Winnipeg Jets also beat the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1. Care to guess what the score was in the Islanders vs Flyers and Senators vs Sharks games? New York and Ottawa each won their respective games by a score of 4-1.

So how does this look for the Leafs and their playoff hopes? The Devils loss is good news for Toronto but other than Toronto doesn't gain much ground. Neither the Capitals nor the Panthers played tonight, so the Leafs currently sit one point out of the top eight, but have played one game more than both Washington and Florida, who both play tomorrow night.

With 36 games remaining for the Leafs, and the expectation for the playoffs being at least 93 points, Toronto needs to go at least 21-15 to close out the season. Not an easy task, but not out of the question for the Leafs. Toronto has three games before the All-Star break, each against opponents near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They host Montreal on Saturday and then have a home-at-home against the Islanders that starts on Monday.



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