Sunday Mashup: Tops in the East

Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Leafs Nation woke up this Sunday morning with the Leafs in first place in the Eastern Conference standings after a redeeming effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night on Hockey Night in Canada. For a few hours, anyway – Tampa Bay could take over the Conference lead with a win today over Florida.

A certain level of production will be expected of David Clarkson given his pay stubs, but his ability to impact a game without showing up on the scoresheet was on full display last night. The Davids of Mimico led Leaf forwards in ice time with 21-22 minutes, as Carlyle leaned heavily on Clarkson and Bolland’s ability to close out a game and refusal to give up an inch of ice. Clarkson led all skaters with eight hits.

Bolland’s line, along with the Phaneuf and Gunnarsson pairing, kept Crosby off the scoresheet and in customary losing form complaining to the referees, while Franson and Kadri took on the Malkin assignment; Malkin was quiet but did notch a powerplay assist.

A lunchpail third line of Carter Ashton, Jay McClement and Colton Orr received around 11 minutes of ice time as they brought a simplified but effective effort, consistently mucking it up in the right end of the rink and getting the better of the Penguins’ bottom two lines. Not that this combination should be a third line fixture under ideal (i.e. healthier) circumstances, but credit to all three players for last night’s effort. Ashton in particular took advantage of an opportunity to not only play but play in the top 9, impacting the game more than he did at any point in his first stint on the team with some strong work on the boards.

Let’s be sure to mention that the Leafs likely aren’t even in the position to go win the game with a big third period if not for James Reimer’s heroics in a 16-save second period in which the Leafs were quadrupled on the shot count. Two consecutive pad saves with Pascal Dupuis wide open off a 2 on 1 were unquestionably the MLHS Turning Point. And what more needs to be said of the combination of JvR and Kessel in terms of their talent levels and telepathic chemistry.

Sunday morning discussion point: With Lupul sounding probable for Tuesday and Bozak out at least for the next three games, how do you see this lineup shaping up for this week’s Western road trip? Does Lupul obviously join Bolland and Clarkson on line two? Or perhaps Ashton and McClement on line three (assuming Kulemin’s still out)?

Thanks to Tim (@tj_bayer) for putting together this morning’s links…


Last night’s Game in 10 | Full Game Replay | Game in 6 | Randy Carlyle Post Game

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri makes the most of top-line opportunity in win over Pittsburgh Penguins
I’m pretty OK with Kadri at first line center for the next few games. From Michael Traikos of the National Post.

Shoalts: Leafs get shutdown effort from Bolland and Phaneuf
Crosby gets Phaneuf’d. From David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail.

Maple Leafs’ Bozak out 7-10 days with lower body injury
This news came across the wire after the game.

Maple Leafs getting the best out of Bolland
Carlyle continues to gush about how much of a pro this guy is.

Exploring David Clarkson’s Toronto roots
David Clarkson revisits his Etobicoke roots. Video from CBC Sports.

VIDEO: Minnesota players celebrate goal, get helmets stuck together
This isn’t Leafs-related, but it’s pretty funny nonetheless. From Chris Peters of CBS Eye On Hockey.