Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues Saturday at Scottrade Center:
You can spell Maple Leafs without Q, U, I and T.
After a very slow start to the first period, the Leafs roared back with four straight goals to take a stranglehold on the game early in the third. Toronto held the Blues to just one shot for the first 18 minutes of the second frame and just two shots in that entire period, dominating one of the best teams in the League in their own building in one of their best stretches of hockey this season. St. Louis has played Toronto very hard over the years, which made the Leafs’ effort Saturday that much more encouraging. They have a pattern of digging themselves a hole at times, but demonstrate game after game their willingness to work their way out.
Big night for Naz.
Centre Nazem Kadri’s scoring woes earlier this season have been well-documented, but all along, he’s talked about feeling good about his game and expected his puck luck would change for the better. That’s what happened Saturday when he scored his fourth and fifth goals of the year while putting in one of his better all-around performances of the 2015-16 campaign. The 25-year-old now has three goals in his past four games; the Leafs will need more of that kind of production if they’re to climb back in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A goal gets you glory on the surface, but a hard backcheck gets you praise from your boss.
Kadri’s goal with 1:17 remaining in the first tied the score for Toronto, but it was the hard work of teammate P-A Parenteau moments earlier that put the Leafs in a position to tie it. Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko looked to have a golden opportunity to score his second goal of the night, but Parenteau skated back hard and ferociously backchecked Tarasenko until the latter was separated from the puck. Less than 30 seconds later, Kadri notched his fourth of the season. There’s little doubt head coach Mike Babcock values Parenteau’s efforts as much as he does Kadri’s finish – and Parenteau further endeared himself to Babcock when he scored his seventh of the year midway through the second to put the Buds up 3-1.
Sparks is a work in progress, but still a winner.
Leafs goalie Garret Sparks was looking to rebound from allowing six goals in his second career NHL game Wednesday against Winnipeg, and although he didn’t make the right read on the first shot he saw Saturday, he stopped 14 of 15 shots in the first and kept his team in the game until Toronto’s offense staked out a great lead for him. Like injured starter James Reimer, Sparks sometimes makes saves in a less-than-orthodox fashion, but like Reimer, the 22-year-old is a battler out there.
Solid play from Hunwick.
He didn’t lead the Leafs in offense Saturday – although he did record his second point for Toronto with an assist on Kadri’s second goal of the night – but Hunwick did lead the team in time-on-ice against the Blues (23:43), played on both special teams and quietly was one of the Buds’ top contributors. The 30-year-old isn’t going to appear on many highlight reels, but that’s not why he was signed to a two-year contract this past summer. The coaches and management are more than pleased with their investment in him.