BOSTON-During this remarkable, rather stunning, seven-game streak the Maple Leafs are riding, they have won some with offence, they have baffled opponents with smart defence and they have gutted out victories with gritty determination.
Chalk up last night’s win to ruthless efficiency.
In what was billed as a showdown for first place in the Northeast Division, Toronto simply rolled over the hometown Bruins, shredding former Leafs netminder Felix Potvin for six goals en route to 6-0 pasting.
They played smart, generally safe, hockey when at even strength, scored on their first three power-play chances and then danced on Boston’s grave with three third-period markers.
And they performed with the calculated precision of a paid assassin.
Achieved in a quiet, half-empty FleetCenter, Toronto’s seventh consecutive victory is the longest run of success since the Leafs opened the 1993-94 season with 10 in a row. Potvin was in net for nine of those victories. You have to go back to the 1974-75 season to find the Leafs’ previous seven-game win streak.
“Once we’re up around 30, then we’ll talk about streaks,” said a smiling coach Pat Quinn, who was behind the bench when the Flyers put together a 35-game undefeated streak during the 1979-80 season.
“We were sharp on our power play, got some real breaks in around the net and we had a hot stick.”
But if there is something more impressive than the streak, it’s the attitude in the dressing room.
While, clearly, the Leafs are delighting in running up the wins – outscoring opponents 27-12 in the process – any giddiness has been replaced by the calm of a veteran squad that doesn’t lack perspective.
“We can’t get our heads all swollen. We’ve got to stay smart. We realize in the room what it’s taking to win,” said winger Owen Nolan, who had three assists last night.
“There’s no secret to it. Guys are buying into playing smart hockey. If the play is not there, put the puck in a smart place where we can recover it or at least not give up an opportunity. Everyone is buying into it and finding a way to win.”
Tie Domi said the atmosphere in the dressing room is the best he has experienced in his career with the Leafs.
“We’re a veteran bunch and having fun,” Domi said. “Obviously we had some distractions that got public last year, but this year is a new year and a new team and we’ve never had a better dressing room in the 11 years I’ve been here.”
There were several Leafs, as it has been in most of their victories, who shared the glory. Ed Belfour made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season and 67th of his career. That tied him with Roy Worters – a player, Belfour confessed, he’s never heard of – and two behind New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur for 10th on the NHL career list.
Joe Nieuwendyk, playing the second game of his career as a left winger, potted two goals, including one he batted out of the air, waist high, when Potvin kicked out a big rebound. Nieuwendyk now has five points in the last two games.
“He’s got those marvellous hands, he can pick pucks out of the air. But that’s been the signature of his career all along,” Quinn said.
Domi had a goal, on the power play no less, and an assist. Darcy Tucker scored twice, 28 seconds apart, to end the scoring. Bryan McCabe had Toronto’s other goal. But the contributions weren’t all on the scoresheet.
A perfect example was Harold Druken, who has yet to score in seven games, but drew two penalties last night. The Leafs scored on both power plays.