(WINDSOR, ON) – Who knows if it was the Nazem Kadri effect which helped the Leafs stave off elimination in a 4-3 Game 5 win over the Bruins in Boston. What we know for sure, though, is that the defensive minded centre’s hard nosed style of play, on both sides of the puck, is what Toronto needed.
More of the same will help them to not only survive the Boston series, but also to make a serious advance toward becoming the Stanley Cup champions any time soon.
One thing for certain, is that Kadri’s assist on Andreas Johnsson’s goal, at 10:12 in the 1st period, gave Toronto the commanding 2-0 lead they desperately needed while playing on road before a raucous Boston crowd.
It also raised the confidence level of the entire Leafs team to a peak level which never faltered at neither end of the ice.
Connor Brown kicked off the scoring for the Leafs at 6:36 of the first, then Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored at 10:36 and 11:55, respectively, in the 2nd.
Leading 4-2 going into the 3rd, the Leafs only allowed just one goal by Noel Acciari then held their Boston nemesis off defensively the rest of the way, despite being out shot 45-21.
Boston pulled goalie Tuuka Rask after 31:55 as he allowed 4 goals on only 13 shots. Rask has a 2.90 GAA and .904 save percentage in the post season so expect him to start the next game.
He was replaced by Anton Khudobin, who turned away all 8 shots he faced.
It’s also notable that the Leafs were whistled for just one penalty in each of the 1st and 3rd periods. It indicates that a lesson has been learned about avoiding unnecessary roughness, beyond that needed to keep the feisty Bruins at bay.
Game 6 is tonight at 7pm in Toronto and promises to be a barn burner, to say the least. Toronto does not want their season to end in front of their fiercely loyal fans and Boston does not want to play the surging Leafs in a sudden death Game 7, even back on their own pond.
Jets Fired Up
For the first time in franchise history, the Winnipeg Jets have advanced to Round 2 in their conference play-offs after thrashing Minnesota with a 5-0 shut-out.
Next up for the Jets will be the Nashville Predators or the Colorado Avalanche, who are headed to Game 6. The Avalanche avoided elimination in Game 5 by reaching down into their AHL ranks to pull up their 3rd string netminder Andrew Hammond.
Hammond, as you may recall, was also tasked to help extend the Ottawa Senators 2015 play-off run, by going an exceptional 20-1-2 record and compiling a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage in 24 games. This time he almost single handedly kept Colorado alive by stopping a resounding 44-of-45 shots, to secure the Avalanche’s 2-1 win.
Mind you, the Predators are still heavily favoured to win the series.