Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tough Night for Tank Hopes

The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have a pulse.

After their thrashing at the hands of the Bruins last Saturday, the Leafs returned home, where they posted back-to-back wins over the Atlanta Thrashers Monday and New York Islanders last night.

Although Phil Kessel's hot scoring hand has cooled, but others have stepped up, like Kessel's linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky, who tallied his 10th and 11th goals against Atlanta. Last night, Jason Blake did his old team in with the clinching score in the last five minutes after the Isles scored twice in the third to pull even.

Most encouraging for Leafs fans of late has been the play of goaltender Vesa Toskala, who has posted .917 and .938 save percentages in his last two starts while going 2-0. The Leafs are now 10-13-7.

The Buffalo Sabres blanked offensive juggernaut Washington last night, to re-take the Northeast Division lead, so that was a double whammy for the B's faithful.

On the brighter side, Tampa Bay lost to the Edmonton Oilers (meaning that second-round pick looks better for Boston; it would be 37th overall if the season ended today), while St. Louis, Minnesota all won to keep the Leafs in the rearview mirror a bit.

Tonight, the Leafs are back in Boston. A win could leapfrog them over both Florida and Anaheim, who are just one point ahead in the standings, and tie them with Philadelphia and the Isles with 29 points. So, huge game in the standings for the B's tonight.

Oh, and there will be a nice pre-game ceremony tonight. A group of Army Soldiers will present a Bruins flag to defenseman Mark Stuart, who recently purchased a sizeable amount of tickets for servicemen and women and their families at military appreciation night. The flag was taken on missions with a unit from the 25th Infantry Division while operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is the kind of thing that you don't see enough of, and it's nice for the troops to recognize Stuey as an embodiment of the kind of values they admire most in a hockey player, and take the time to appreciate his efforts on behalf of those who serve.

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