There is nothing quite like watching the Leafs have trouble scoring on a struggling goalie. Far too often over the last few seasons the Leafs have fallen victim to show stopping, soul crushing displays of netminding. When you come up against the likes of Ryan Miller, Henrik Lundqvist these types of heroics are slightly easier to swallow. The tough ones are games like tonight.
Cam Ward, historically a strong and reliable goalie, is mired deep in a Toskalaesk season. This would be a problem unless he is actually just auditioning for a role on the Team Canada soccer team. (Where the main goal seems to be jumping away from the ball) Regardless, the Leafs made Ward look good tonight. Sure, they peppered the Carolina Maple-canes net and dominated the play for a majority of the game, but Ward usually got to stay in position and let the puck hit him.
Phil Kessel, speedy as ever, was a large part of the problem. There he is on a 2-on-1 with Joffrey Lupul with the Canes defensemen leaving the passing lanes open. Instead of attempting a creative play Phil does what he tries all too often these last few games, ignores the open player and fires the puck top shelf. As most goalies have been lately, Ward was ready and stopped it along with every other time he tried it.
As the game progressed this predictable trends continued and as the Leafs pressed the shots came from all angles. Ward was there to stop them all (well, most) and the Boys in Blue stopped utilizing their creative passing in favour more shots either centre mass or well wide.
But hey, it turned out well this time: Toronto won, goaltending didn’t cost them any points and Ward let one slip past. Hopefully this is a confidence booster, the last one needed before Christmas. With some serious competition coming up over the next week this team needs to be in good spirits, not dried up, brittle on the ground, disintegrating like all other leaves in the fall.