March 31, 2012
Leafs win one at homeScrivens solid in net against Sabres
By Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
TORONTO - If small sample sizes are your thing, go ahead and anoint Ben Scrivens as the Maple Leafs’ starting goalie for 2012-13.
Jonas Gustavsson, nursing a knee injury, is day to day and could be allowed to walk as a free agent this summer. James Reimer deserves to get a fresh start next September, and that’s if his health is up to par.
Scrivens was sharp on Saturday night, making 29 saves against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre as the Leafs snapped a franchise-record 11-game home losing streak with a 4-3 win. The Leafs, 0-8-3 in that span, had not won at the ACC since Feb. 6.
Scrivens, who had an eight-game fling with the Leafs in November, was hotter than a Toronto day in mid-March with the Marlies before he was recalled on Saturday morning on an emergency basis. The 25-year-old won six of his previous seven games with the Marlies, sprinkling three shutouts into the line of victories.
“This team was maybe a little bit fragile and I just wanted to come in and make as many saves as I could,” Scrivens said. “I really just wanted to give these guys a chance. All the credit goes to them. They have a had a lot of pressure, both internally and externally. Scoring four goals against a goalie like Ryan Miller, hats off to them.
“My time up here earlier on the season really helped me tonight. But also, playing on a good team like the Marlies helped me tonight too.”
The confidence Scrivens gained with the Leafs’ minor-league affiliate was obvious against the Sabres. Scrivens challenged the visitors constantly, and it was evident when the game was just a few minutes old that he had more poise than anyone who had tended the Leafs net in the preceding eight weeks.
But if the Leafs are to take a true step as an organization, general manager Brian Burke has to try to acquire the kind of goalie that was at the other end of the ACC ice.
Miller wins 30 games a season in the NHL falling out of bed, and for the most part since he became a Sabres regular in 2005-06, has been more than a dependable netminder. The Sabres are fighting to make the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons, and without Miller, that number undoubtedly would be reduced.
If Burke really does build teams from the goalie out, as he has said, then it’s about time that started to happen.
The challenge for Burke will be acquiring that calibre of goalie during the off-season. Free agency tells us that men such as Tomas Vokoun, Josh Harding, Martin Biron and Chris Mason will be available.
Burke has to shoot higher.
Could Roberto Luongo, whose contract last forever, or Cory Schneider be on the market in Vancouver if the Canucks flame out in the playoffs? Has Miikka Kiprusoff run his course in Calgary? Will the San Jose Sharks revamp their goaltending situation if they have yet another early exit, provided they make the playoffs?
The Leafs can’t start another season under Burke with fingers crossed about the goaltending. Perhaps Scrivens, a restricted free agent this summer, will have a super training camp. But one has to hope that Burke will have found someone who simply can’t be budged out of the No. 1 role.
Matt Frattin scored what became the winner at 10:20 of the third period when he snapped a shot past Miller. Phil Kessel, with his career-high 37th, Joey Crabb and John-Michael Liles also scored.
Mikhail Grabovski left the game with a laceration and did not return. His status is unclear.
Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres.
“It’s more relief (than anything else),” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said about the club’s first home win in almost two months. “The players should take the recognition and the accolades. It has been tough on everybody. To me it is about them coming out and finding a way to get it done.”