Here are five takeaways from Toronto’s 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators Thursday at Bridgestone Arena:
Limited shots show Leafs’ discipline.
Toronto held the Predators to only four shots on net in the first period and 22 on the night. Some of that could be attributed to the poor ice conditions in Nashville – Buds winger Joffrey Lupul alluded to the issue in a first intermission interview with TSN – but once again, the Leafs were tough on their opponent during puck battles and made the Preds work for everything they got. That’s exactly what head coach Mike Babcock wants to see on a nightly basis, and right now, his players are responding as he expects them to.
Shawn Matthias is going to be a fan favourite in short order.
He’s not going to lead the team in scoring by season’s end, but Matthias is slowly-but-surely endearing himself to Leafs fans with his consistent performance. He did a great job setting up Tyler Bozak’s game-tying goal in the third period, and his efforts on the penalty kill can never be questioned. The 27-year-old is positionally sound and an honest worker bee of a player. Babcock needs as many of those as he can get.
James Reimer is still rolling.
Once again, the Buds received a stellar showing in net from Reimer who is giving Babcock a tough decision to make when Jonathan Bernier is ready to return from injury. Reimer is arguably looking as good as he has in his six-year Leafs career, and the 27-year-old is doing so on a Buds team that isn’t as deep as the others he’s played on. Toronto fans have got to be happy to see one of the best human beings on the team have some success.
Nazem Kadri cannot buy a goal, but he sure is trying.
Regular followers of the team are well-aware Kadri has been leading Toronto by a country mile in the shots department, yet has just one goal to show for it. That pattern continued Thursday, as he was the Leafs’ top shooter with seven shots on Pekka Rinne, but still couldn’t put the puck in the net. He did get agonizingly close, hitting the post on a power play, but puck luck is not his friend right now. It’s not even his acquaintance. That said, he’s going to continue firing it every chance he gets, because he’s the team’s most gifted offensive talent and sooner or later will see his luck change for the better.
Every point matters.
For the fifth time in their past six games, Toronto recorded at least one standings point, and Peter Holland gave them their first shootout victory of the season in the fifth round of the skills competition. They’ll need a lot more victories to climb back into the post-season race, but the team was feeling good about their play before they took on the Preds, and they’re no doubt feeling just as good after recording their fourth win of the year.