Question: The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost eight games in row, Phil Kessel is nursing a bruised foot and the first line has been surprisingly quiet over the past few games. How do you stop the bleeding?
Answer: Put your faith in Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson – they’ll provide the offence needed to win.
This answer, of course, likely struck you by surprise, but it’s exactly what the Leafs did last night in beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 at the Air Canada Centre. Although unexpected, the timely offence provided by this trio of “role players” put an end to the Leafs’ miserable losing streak and helped keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
McClement has been mostly used as a defensive specialist by the team, killing penalties and winning key faceoffs. McClement’s tally, which opened the second period, stands as his fourth goal this season and the 75th goal in his ten-season, 677-game career. Thus, it’s an understatement to say the goal came as a complete, but pleasant surprise.
In contrast to McClement, Bolland and Clarkson were added this past offseason for their offensive capabilities and their physical presence. Neither player was ever expected to challenge for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, but they were expected to provide some much-needed secondary support.
Bolland has delivered on this promise when healthy, collecting 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in 21 games this season. These numbers are actually in line with his career average for points-per-game.
On the other hand, Clarkson has been a bone fide dud this season. He’s expected to post career-low numbers, and he’s often proven more of a liability than an asset for the Leafs. That’s why Clarkson’s goal, scored on a breakaway and ending a personal 16-game goalless drought, is especially important. Hopefully, it’s a sign of better things to come for Clarkson (and the Leafs) down the stretch.
The Leafs next play on Thursday against the Boston Bruins. This’ll be a tough matchup and they’ll need both their primary and secondary offence firing at 100% in order win. Unfortunately, we haven’t really seen them work in tandem so far this season.
Focussing on the positive, perhaps another pleasant surprise lies around the corner?
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