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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Leafs Continue Hot Play

Yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs were facing the Atlanta Thrashers and the best scorer in the league in Ilya Kovalchuk. It was going to be a real test of Toronto's defensive ability and goaltending, but they were up to it.

The game was expected to be a high scoring affair, but it was a defensive battle in the 1st period. Toskala and Lehtonen stopped a combined 14 shots in the period to keep it scoreless. But in the 2nd period, the scoring started.

While in the late stages of a penalty kill, Toskala stopped a blast from Kovalchuk, and the rebound went right to Hal Gill. He then dumped it to an open Boyd Devereaux coming out of the penalty box, but the pass went to deep and to the goaltender. But good hustle made Lehtonen make a mistake a fan on the dump. Devereaux then got the puck and shoveled it in to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. Then, 3 minutes later, Mats Sundin took a bad shot from a bad angle, but he caught Lehtonen off his guard, as he opened the 5-hole just as the puck was coming to him. It was Sundin's 16th of the year to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead.

Nut before the period could end, Alexei Ponikarovsky took a hit to the head from Bobby Holik. The result was a hard bite on the tongue, and a whole lot of bleeding. Durong the intermission, he got stitches, but stayed in the game. It turned out to be a good decision.
Because in the 3rd period, after some hard work from Antropov in the corner, Ponikarovsky got the puck, and sniped it top shelf on Lehtonen. And 2 minutes later, he did it again, and again it was off a beautiful play from Antropov. The final score in the game was 4-0, as Toskala picked up his 10th career shutout, and his 2nd of the season.

This was the Leafs' 6th win in their last 7 games, and right now, everyone is firing at all cylinders. Sundin and Antropov are on pace for career years, and Toskala is playing great in goal. He hasn't allowed more than 3 goals in a game in his past 12 games, and hasn't allowed more than 2 in his past 7 games! Ironically, this stretch of good play came 7 games a go, when the Leafs won 4-2 over the Thrashers. So why is Toskala playing so good of late?

"I'm seeing the puck well," Toskala said. "Overall, I'm really comfortable. I'm having fun. That's the key."

The Leafs will now play Montreal in a Saturday night showdown of 2 teams going in opposite directions. The Leafs playing their best hockey of the year, and the Canadians playing their worst home hockey since 1968. It will certainley be a good game to watch.

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