Maple Leafs shame Devils

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY POST­MEDIA NEWS

A few su­per­sti­tious Maple Leafs won’t want to re­move those Hall of Fame Game crests from their sweaters af­ter Fri­day night.

Cer­tainly not the snake-bit­ten An­dreas Johns­son, who scored his first of the year in front of a le­gion of Hall mem­bers and six new in­ductees at Sco­tia­bank Arena in a 6-1 Toronto shel­lack­ing of the New Jersey Devils.

Johns­son joined his more con­sis­tent third line pals Con­nor Brown and Par Lind­holm in a four-point night, pro­vid­ing the elu­sive sec­ondary scor­ing head coach Mike Bab­cock has sought since Aus­ton Matthews was hurt and Toronto be­gan sput­ter­ing with home of­fence.

The Leafs have won two in a row on Bay St. for the first time this sea­son, just in time to go on the road un­til Nov. 19.

The pesky Devils came as ad­ver­tised, skat­ing hard and de­ter­mined to out-work Toronto, forc­ing 11 give­aways in the first pe­riod. But the key this night was the Leafs re­pay­ing them in kind and tight­en­ing up through 40 min­utes. Fred­erik An­der­sen’s 38 saves com­pen­sated for any de­fen­sive lapses as he tied Tampa Bay’s An­drei Vasilevskiy for nine wins atop the NHL goalie board.

Just like Tues­day against Las Ve­gas, the night they ended five straight games with­out scor­ing in the first two pe­ri­ods, there were no short­age of op­por­tu­ni­ties in 15 first­pe­riod shots, but only one counted. Af­ter Patrick Mar­leau couldn’t get a clean poke at an empty net power play feed, the de­fence pair of Mor­gan Rielly and Ron Hain­sey worked it to John Tavares, who had an­other open side.

Toronto didn’t re­lent when the next stanza be­gan, with Nazam Kadri tak­ing Mar­leau’s bounc­ing pass and one tim­ing it high on Keith Kinkaid. It was Mar­leau’s 600th NHL point. Then came Ron Hain­sey’s sec­ond sharp look­ing as­sist, cross-ice to Lind­holm and back to Brown for the lat­ter’s sec­ond in as many games.

Johns­son with two more good looks go­ing to waste, in­clud­ing a break­away, be­fore fi­nally picked up his first goal in 11 starts. Jake Gar­diner’s shot hit a Devil and bounced off Kinkaid right to the Swede. Rielly then com­pletely de­mor­al­ized the Devils with a one-time floater from the blue­line, while only try­ing to pro­tect a Leaf line change. Kinkaid hardly moved on the shot, or a po­ten­tial sev­enth goal that was waved off by a high stick. As it is, al­most 50 goals have got past Jersey’s goalies this sea­son.

Rielly, mean­while, joined Thomas Chabot and Brett Burns in the 20-point club at the top of league’s de­fence­men.

Fourth liner Tyler En­nis, who said ear­lier in the day that new Hall of Famer Mar­tin St. Louis was his favourite player as a fel­low Munchkin, scored the sixth goal with him in the house.

Toronto’s only let­down was due to a sloppy break­out by Kadri in the sec­ond pe­riod, com­ing out from be­hind the Leaf goal and get­ting stripped by Blake Cole­man, with Travis Za­jac get­ting the goal.

Toronto, now with a record of 11-5 and sec­ond in the At­lantic to the Light­ning, heads to Bos­ton for Sat­ur­day’s game with Gar­ret Sparks set to give An­der­sen a rest be­fore Toronto then crosses the con­ti­nent for three in Cal­i­for­nia. The Leafs are a per­fect 6-0-0 on the road.

North­ern Ex­po­sure

One of Aus­ton Matthews’ ob­ser­va­tions about the NHL has been that it does not out­wardly seem to pro­mote the in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties of its play­ers as in other ma­jor sports.

“We do that,” in­sisted com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman at Fri­day af­ter­noon’s Hockey Hall Of Fame ring cer­e­mony. “A lot of the fact that play­ers might not get enough at­ten­tion or pro­mo­tion is that it’s their na­ture. Aus­ton is one of the younger play­ers, he’s more adept at so­cial me­dia and I think he’s will­ing to be out there a lit­tle more.

“His­tor­i­cally, the cul­ture of the game didn’t nec­es­sar­ily en­cour­age it, as much we tried to and will con­tinue to do.”

Speak easy

He’s still a soft-talker around the me­dia, but don’t be fooled.

“I’m a pretty in­tro­verted guy,” An­der­sen said be­fore Fri­day’s game. “The bet­ter I get to know guys, the more open I’ll be and be jok­ing around a bit more.

”We’re tak­ing steps per­son­ally with a dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship role. Just giv­ing the guys a chance to win is ob­vi­ously most im­por­tant.”

But if An­der­sen has been more vo­cal, Mike Bab­cock hasn’t heard him.

“You lead by do­ing, not by what you say,” de­clared the coach. “You lead by con­di­tion­ing, by your prepa­ra­tion in the sum­mer by con­tin­u­ing to try and get bet­ter, how you go about your craft and how you re­spond when things go wrong.

“In the end, we’re all mea­sured by team suc­cess and the sec­ond sea­son. But it’s harder to get there than in years back. You have to be ready ev­ery day and he’s done a good job of that.”

Fun and games

Mor­gan Rielly, who was the al­ter­nate cap­tain rep­re­sent­ing the Leafs at Fri­day night’s pre-game cen­tre ice face­off with the six new Hall of Famers, went to the Yonge St. shrine as a kid and a few times since.

“(At first), you tend to play the in­ter­ac­tive games. I played some goal in the sim­u­la­tor. I was not good. As you get older, you have a dif­fer­ent ap­pre­ci­a­tion for it. You read the plaques.” Rielly showed he was a lit­tle new at this cer­e­mo­nial face­off busi­ness, keep­ing the puck af­ter­wards, be­fore re­mem­ber­ing to hand the sou­venir to Jayna Hef­ford.

Bye bye Bay St.

Af­ter Fri­day’s game, the Leafs headed out on the road for a full week, with an emo­tional re­turn to Bos­ton on Sat­ur­day be­fore three games in Cal­i­for­nia. But the play­ers knew bet­ter than to look past a non-sexy op­po­nent such as New Jersey, which might have been a con­cern for Bab­cock a few years ago.

JACK BOLAND/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Toronto Maple Leafs cel­e­brate the 6-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, in Toronto, on Fri­day.

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