Home, sweet home for Leafs

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY

From Fred­erik An­der­sen get­ting “di­alled in” dur­ing O Canada, to the crowd ‘ba-ba-ba’-ing through the cho­rus of Sweet Car­o­line, capped by the post-game stick salute, the Air Canada Cen­tre is no longer Sleep Coun­try Canada for the Leafs.

Af­ter years at­tempt­ing to get some mojo at home, the Leafs are on the verge of sweep­ing a fiveg­ame stand for the first time in fran­chise his­tory. Win­ning on the ice and eight of nine over­all head­ing into Wed­nes­day against Colum­bus has en­hanced the bells and whis­tles for a night on Bay St.

An­der­sen’s work in net and ex­cite­ment gen­er­ated by Aus­ton Matthews, Wil­liam Ny­lan­der and Mitch Marner, all with seven points dur­ing the four-game home streak, has team con­fi­dence at its high­est mid-sea­son level in years. Keep­ing it go­ing, per­haps get­ting home-ice ad­van­tage in April is the next step.

“We’ve played some re­ally good teams in that stretch (Ana­heim, Nashville and Tampa Bay),” said cen­tre Tyler Bozak, who has seen much of the dark side of play­ing in Toronto. “We wanted to see how we matched up and thought we did a petty good job, but we have to keep get­ting bet­ter.

“(Coach Mike Bab­cock) likes his match-ups and at home, it’s a lot eas­ier to han­dle those things. We have a lot of depth and guys who can move around the lineup and play in dif­fer­ent spots. The teams that win ev­ery year have a ton of depth.”

Bozak and James van Riems­dyk teamed up for Mon­day’s win­ning goal over the Bolts on top of a twogoal night from Ny­lan­der and three as­sists from Matthews. Van Riems­dyk in­sisted he wasn’t look­ing too closely at the home/road dy­namic, though the Leafs failed to win just once in reg­u­la­tion when they had five in a row at the ACC last month.

“The more I’ve played, the less I’ve re­al­ized stuff like that. Play­ing at home, guys are more com­fort­able in their rou­tines and with their con­trol­lables. You try and have a con­sis­tent ap­proach. You guys can fill us in on the (records) later.

“You can see peo­ple are hav­ing a good time in the stands, the team’s do­ing well and all that sort of stuff feeds off each other. Our job is to do it no mat­ter where we play.”

As much as the young guns have been the van­guard, it’s An­der­sen’s name that is get­ting chanted more and more. Fans of re­cent gen­er­a­tions loved Leaf goalies Mike Pal­ma­teer, Ken Wregget, Felix Potvin, Cur­tis Joseph and Ed Belfour, but An­der­sen is get­ting his due. With 15 home wins and a pro­jected 12 more starts that aren’t part of back-to-backs, that would give him a shot at the fran­chise record of 22, held jointly by Joseph, Belfour, Harry Lum­ley and the team’s most suc­cess­ful stopper, Turk Broda.

“It’s been fun to play at home and the sup­port has been grow­ing,” An­der­sen said. “We still have to work, but that (crowd re­sponse) is what we can dream of. It’s great to re­pay them with some wins.”

VERON­ICA HENRI/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Wil­liam Ny­lan­der, right, and the Leafs cel­e­brate the for­ward’s sec­ond goal of the game in the Leafs’ win over the Tampa Bay Light­ning on Mon­day.

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