Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another shootout victory for Leafs

TORONTO—Like it or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs are well-versed in the shootout.
And unlike last season, that’s actually a good thing for them.

Last night at Air Canada Centre, the Leafs made it through three periods and overtime yet again and managed to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 for their league-leading ninth shootout victory of the season.
It was Toronto’s third-straight win, and three of their past four overall have come via the shootout.
Some how, some way, they keep getting there and have it to thank for a playoff position 49 games in.
“I think if our team had a choice, we’d try to end the game a bit earlier,” conceded defenceman Morgan Rielly, who scored his first home goal this season.
“But I think that’s just an aspect of hockey nowadays.
“It just turns out that we’re pretty good at them,” he reasoned.
Only the Washington Capitals have gone to the shootout more times than the Leafs (24-20-5), who have showed a penchant for at least forcing overtime.
They have just three regulation time victories in their past 28 games yet are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference race.
“Obviously, we’re fortunate this year that our record in the shootout is a real, strong positive for our hockey club,” said coach Randy Carlyle.
“There’s been a lot of extra points gained by it.
“If we can continue to find a way to get points, that’s what our job is,” he reasoned.
Whereas the Leafs went 0-for-5 and rued shootouts during last year’s lockout-shortened 48-game season, they keep getting the job done this season.
Against the Sabres last night, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak all scored while goalie James Reimer stopped one of two attempts.
Whether it’s Reimer or Jonathan Bernier, those shooters have experienced a lot of shootout success, so it’s made sense for assistant coach Greg Cronin—who fills out the lineup—to keep going back to them.
Lupul is six-for-seven, van Riemsdyk is six-for-nine, and Bozak is three-for-five.
“Think we’re confident in the guys that we can send out there to score goals and confident in our goalie,” van Riemsdyk said.
“We seem to have guys that are confident going in with their moves and the goaltenders are confident in the net.
“It makes it a good match-up in the shootout,” he noted.
The Sabres (13-27-6), meanwhile, dropped to 6-3 in shootouts this season but were thankful to get there thanks to Cody Hodgson’s early third-period, power-play goal and a strong penalty kill in overtime that included a good scoring chance for defenceman Tyler Myers.
“That was huge,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said of the penalty kill.
Goalie Ryan Miller, who again could be the U.S. starter at the Sochi Olympics after leading the Americans to silver in Vancouver, gave up goals to Olympic teammate Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, and Rielly.
Matt Ellis and Matt Moulson also scored for the Sabres.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Anaheim bombed Vancouver 9-1 and Pittsburgh edged Washington 4-3.

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