In order to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs, your best players HAVE to be your best players. On Saturday night, Toronto’s best led the way.
After falling behind 1-0 early in the second period, the Leafs could have easily panicked and let the game slip away similar to what happened in the series opener.
Joffrey Lupul wasn’t having any of it.
The power forward, who was brilliant during the regular season when healthy, scored twice in the middle frame while James ‘The Real Deal’ Reimer made several big stops at the other end.
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Then came the moment that has the potential to turn the series in Toronto’s favour. The much maligned Phil Kessel, who has had a miserable time playing against his former team ever since the big trade, took a pass from Nazem Kadri early in the third period, burst right up the middle of the ice and fired the puck through the legs of Tuukka Rask. The breakaway goal, as symbolic as it was impressive, proved to be the game-winner and turned a good portion of Leafs Nation from hopers to believers.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game two victory was the Leafs ability to defend the lead. Over the last decade, the team has run around in circles in their own end in similar situations and you always got the feeling that the game-tying goal was imminent.
Randy Carlyle has clearly made a difference behind the bench. The Leafs kept it simple in the third, simply chipping the puck out of the zone and not taking any unnecessary risks.
When the Blue and White did get an opportunity, they pounced. James Van Riemsdyk’s insurance goal showing off his balance, hand-eye coordination and uncanny ability to find the back of the net all in one fell swoop.
Toronto’s best players were at their best on Saturday and because of that, the Leafs Nation now believes that the best is yet to come.