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There Was Good & Bad In Loss To Avalanche

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Guy walks into his doctor’s office. He asks for the result of his tests.

“Well,” the doctor says. “I have good news and I have bad news.”

I will leave you to write your own punchline but the Leafs 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado
Avalanche presents a classic good news-bad news scenario.

Ah, hell. Let’s start with the bad.

You’ve got three months to live.

Kidding. That was the doctor joke.

The Leafs looked nervous and disjointed for much of the night. They couldn’t put the blocks to an Avalanche team completing a murderous five-game road swing. The Avs won all five including victories in Boston and Montreal.

James Reimer was the second-best goalie of the night thanks to solid work from former Leaf netminder J.S. Giguere who stopped all but two of the Leafs 29 shots. Reimer was beaten for the three goals on 24 tries.

“It’s frustrating on my part, I felt I should have had some of those shots,” Reimer said. “Not to say they were terrible goals but they were stoppable.”

If you are of the James Reimer still has much to prove school there Chicken Little, you got a little bit of ammo. Not much but a little.

While Nikolai Kulemin scored the game-tying goal with 4:43 to play, the Leafs’ big unit of Clarke MacArthur, Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski has yet to really click. MacArthur is still trying to shake off the effects of his two-game suspension.  It was Kulemin’s first goal of the year.
Grabovski has scored once and MacArthur is still pitching a shutout.

Last year, the line had five goals after four games with four coming off the stick of MacArthur.

“We need to step up and help out,” MacArthur said. “In the second period we should have had three goals. We hit posts, I missed an empty net.

“It’s coming. We made some good little plays. It was a lot better than the first game I had back. It was good to at least get the point and move on,” MacArthur said.

Now the good. Phil Kessel continues his torrid pace. His six goals and nine points puts him atop the league in both categories. Had I told you in September Kessel would be leading the league and the Leafs had gained seven of their first eight possible points, you would have thought me mad.

And if you want to find your happy place a little sooner, consider this.

Let’s just say for conversation’s sake you were a Leafs fan who wanted to see Matt Lombardi between Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Maybe you felt that while Kessel is tearing it up, an NHL veteran who has amassed 268 points to Tyler Bozak’s 62 would bring the necessary experience to keep Kessel in overdrive.

And maybe you felt that rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner deserved a place back in the lineup. Gardiner is a game-changer and he supplements John-Michael Liles beautifully as a slick puck-moving blueliner.

Well, you may get your wish.

Coaches of all stripes usually honour a streak. If you win, you make no changes. 

That would have changed had Tim Connolly been ready to return to the lineup from The Upper Body Injury that time forgot. But you had to know that if Connolly was going to be hurt, you would see the veteran Lombardi up front sooner than later.

All of which leaves some interesting questions before the Leafs finish their five-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets, Wednesday.

Was the Lombardi move temporary?

Will coach Ron Wilson return Gardiner to the lineup against Winnipeg?

Kessel opened the scoring in the first minute of the second period when he looked off Giguere and ripped a shot past the startled Avalanche netminder.

Kessel has scored six goals in his last three contests.

Three minutes later, Daniel Winnik put a shot from the high slot through the five-hole on Reimer to tie matters.

The Avs went ahead late in the second when Milan Hejduk put a shot between Reimer’s glove and his body.

In an attempt to shake things up, Wilson pushed Lombardi up to play with Lupul and Kessel but nothing took.

Wilson said it was a gut decision.

“We weren’t getting the offence I thought we needed. You start moving things around and it gives a little jolt to the guys who move up and a slap in the behind for the guys who are skipping a shift.”

With Lombardi temporarily promoted, Wilson moved David Steckel to play with Matt Frattin and Colby Armstrong.

Kulemin found a bouncing puck a few feet beside Giguere and quickly chipped a backhand over the Avs goalie but a rebound off Reimer in overtime found the stick of David Jones and that was that.

Briefly: Dion Phaneuf easily led all skaters with 28 minutes of ice time. The Leafs outshot the visitors 29-24. Despite missing the morning skate and Sunday’s practice, Mike Brown played Monday. Brown had two shots in nine minutes of action. After winning two thirds of their faceoffs against Calgary on Saturday, the Leafs won only one third or their draws.
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