The Leafs have made some roster changes in advance of tonight’s rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The club has sent forward Nazem Kadri and defenseman Keith Aulie down to the AHL Toronto Marlies to make room for returning veterans Colby Armstrong and John-Michael Liles, who have been activated from injured reserve and will be in the lineup tonight.
Armstrong has missed 41 games this season with a high ankle sprain and concussion issues, while Liles has been absent for 16 games since suffering neck/concussion related symptoms after absorbing a heavy mid-ice check from Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad on December 22.
After Jonas Gustavsson allowed four goals on 35 shots last night in Pittsburgh, Ron Wilson has opted to start James Reimer in the second of the home-and-home series. The Penguins are similarly starting backup Brent Johnson, after receiving a stellar performance from Marc-Andre Fleury.
Toronto’s performance through the first two and a half periods was equal to their best efforts of the season, with the team’s impressive speed and creativity on display, but their failure to cash in on more of their opportunities left the game within Pittsburgh’s grasp and their obvious inability to hold on to a lead reared it’s ugly head once again, giving up 3 goals in the last 11:27 of the third period, including the tying goal to Evgeni Malkin with six seconds remaining.
For those who think that GM Brian Burke should not tinker with a team that has a number of fine and entertaining qualities, last night’s collapse is Exhibit A why that is wrong.
Toronto has now allowed 152 goals against in 50 games and consistently displays chaotic disorganization in their own end and insufficient strength and size along the boards to get the puck out of their zone and a remarkable tendency.
Toronto could very well make the playoffs even if Burke decides to not make any changes, but the Leafs high-octane speed game used during the regular season will get squelched in the post-season by bigger, tougher, sounder defensive clubs like Boston or New York.
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