Leafs' Bozak finds new "great group of guys"
Campus visit shows how far former Denver player has come
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs' Tyler Bozak tries to control a tennis ball during a two on two scrimmage at practice. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
If the Leafs hadn’t come calling when they did, second-year centre Tyler Bozak still would be a University of Denver Pioneer.
But the Saskatchewan native isn’t so far removed from his college life that he wasn’t going to enjoy a trip to the Rocky Mountain State.
Besides practising at his own rink on campus on Wednesday, Bozak had dinner with three of his former teammates before they took off for their regional playoff tournament.
“You miss school and you miss everything that goes on with school, but my goal growing up was to make the NHL,” Bozak said when asked if he was tempted to remain in college. “Whenever the opportunity comes, you aren’t going to sit and wait on it so I jumped as soon as I could.
“You miss being around your friends, it was a great group of guys. But it’s a great group of guys here.”
Though he has been too busy to hit the books in his whirlwind two seasons with the Leafs, Bozak says he still intends to finish his business degree by taking some summer courses.
“My parents are on me pretty hard about it,” Bozak said. “I’ll probably try to take a few more courses.”
As impressive as rookie James Reimer has been in the Leafs net, he’s far down the all-time Leafs list on first-year goalies in terms of wins but close in shutouts.
Prior to Thursday’s game against the Avalanche, Reimer had 16 wins, well back of the mark of 27 set by Al Rollins in the 1950-51 season, two more than Felix Potvin (1992-93). Overall, Reimer is tied for eighth among Leafs rookie wins, four behind Jiri Crha (1980-81).
With his third shutout on Tuesday in Minnesota, Reimer moved to within two of the club record co-held by Rollins and Ed Chadwick (1956-57.)
If the Leafs are feeling any nerves about the latest series of must-win games, they certainly aren’t showing it. In fact, they have become so comfortable with their situation that there is little sense of panic.
“I think we’re pretty used to this now,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “Since the all-star break, our focus has been 100% to the next game.
“We don’t let little things bother us. We haven’t been paying too much attention to the scoreboard. The contributions are all positive and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Heading into Thursday’s game, the Leafs were tied for the third-best record in the NHL since the all-star break with 33 points. The San Jose Sharks have piled up the most points with 38 followed by the New Jersey Devils at 37.
The Leafs stayed in Denver on Thursday and had a morning flight scheduled for Detroit where they will practice late Friday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. Expect Wilson to cancel the morning skate on Saturday, though, as he looks to conserve energy for his players ... Bozak wasn’t the only Leaf to see some friendly faces on this road trip. In Minnesota, Phil Kessel caught up with his younger sister Amanda who finished her freshman season at the University of Minnesota as the team’s leading scorer. “It was good to see her,” Kessel said. “I follow her games all the time on the computer. I skated with her in the summer and she can play.” ... Prior to Thursday’s game, the Avs had an 8-4-5 record against Eastern Conference opposition.