The Toronto Maple Leafs were hoping that Tyler Bozak would provide an immediate boost to their flagging offence upon his return to the lineup Sunday night, and that’s exactly what he provided.
Bozak wasted little time cracking the scorecard, assisting on the game’s first goal. It wasn’t pretty, but Bozak was able to push the puck over to Phil Kessel off a faceoff in the Carolina Hurricanes’ end and Kessel did the rest.
On most nights, an early assist would be enough to claim a successful outing. Bozak, however, had different ideas. He would collect two more assists before the final whistle blew. One of those assists came off Kessel’s second goal of the night while the other one came off Paul Ranger’s second goal of the season.
Beyond the much-appreciated offence, Bozak showed little rust in the defensive side of the game as well.
He held a 56% success rate in the faceoff circle – on the night, the Leafs absolutely dominated the Hurricanes in this department – and he logged over 17 minutes in ice time without any difficulty.
If there was one area where Bozak proved unhelpful, the penalty kill still stands out as an obvious weak point on the team. The Leafs’ struggles in this area continued as they were unable to keep the Hurricanes honest, surrendering one goal on three power play opportunities.
I guess you cannot get everything right on the first try, but on an overall basis, Bozak’s return to the lineup was the type of positive development that the Leafs desperately need to see these days.
Following Sunday night’s game against the lowly Hurricanes, the Leafs get two nights of rest before facing off against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Winter Classic. The stakes will be considerably higher in this game – unlike the Hurricanes, the Red Wings are a legitimate playoff team – which can only make the payoff of another victory that much sweeter.
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