Effort should always be there at a minimum, but the Leafs have shown recently that effort isn’t a given. Thankfully, thanks to performances by three players, the Buds rebounded and are aiming to keep momentum moving forward.
Don’t put Kappy in a corner. With trade speculation including his name (and Andreas Johnsson’s prior to his injury), Kapanen put in a marquee performance against the Pens. Yes, he scored the third goal, his twelfth of the season, on a second period breakaway but his general effort levels are what caught my eye.
Kapanen was in on every puck battle, was using his straight-line speed to his advantage, and wanted in on every opportunity to break the puck out or pin the Pens deep on the forecheck. The goal was the cherry-on-top to an inspiring effort that pushed the team forward.
No one needed a win, let alone a shut out, more than Frederick Andersen. Not up to his generally Vezina-quality form in the past month, Andersen has also been feeling the pressure of a motivated Jack Campbell pushing him from the backup goalie spot.
Andersen is obviously the way forward for the Leafs when it comes to individual performances. Of course, everyone needs to pitch in for success, but Andersen has the ability to steal games for the Leafs and shutting out Malkin, Crosby and the Penguins will do wonders for his confidence.
Campbell will still factor in down the stretch with back-to-back duty as well as scheduled rest regardless of the Leafs clinching or fighting for the playoffs. Still, Andersen is obviously a lynchpin in the Leafs success this season and will take this resounding win and move forward.
The best is left for last as Jake Muzzin had arguably his best night as a Leafs last night. He scored, he assisted, he shut down an elite offence, and he threw his weight around. It was the perfect night for Muzzin, and this type of performance is exactly what he needed especially after his recent comments.
You better be the one propelling the team forward when you’re demanding more effort from your teammates, and Muzzin did just that. He was right to call out the team (likely including himself) because every player on the roster can and should be playing better.
With a pending contract extension for Muzzin on the books after the trade deadline, it’s clear he’s a locker room and on-ice leader for the Leafs, regardless of jersey lettering or not. With huge hits to the back end, Muzzin has been a rock and will be relied on to continuously be one for the remainder of the season.