TORONTO – Ben Scrivens flashed a mischievous grin and answered in the negative. Had he been thinking about his first career shutout in the National Hockey League as the clock wound down at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday?
"Umm no," he said, pausing before smiling wide. "I was focused completely on the game."
The 26-year-old was perfect with 34 saves as the Leafs rebounded from an uninspiring loss two nights earlier, topping the ailing Senators – absent Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek – by a 3-0 final.
Stepping into the starting role with James Reimer currently on the shelf, Scrivens offered his team safety and stability for 60 minutes against Ottawa, equaling the sturdiness Reimer managed to provide before hitting the IR with a knee injury last week. Relatively untested early – just five saves in the opening frame – Scrivens kept the Leafs in front whenever they were on their heels, withstanding an array of 29 shots in the final 40 minutes.
"They had their odd-man rushes, they had their chances, and he stood tall in there," said Tyler Bozak, who managed his fifth goal of the year. "He played a heck of a game for us."
While the Senators peppered him with 19 shots in the middle period, Randy Carlyle believed Scrivens was at his best in the final frame as Ottawa increased its vigour in crashing the crease, Mika Zibanejad drawing a goalie interference penalty at one point for such efforts.
"He stood in the net and stood tall," Carlyle said, echoing the thoughts of Bozak. "He made some big stops. He was in good position. He battled hard."
Unquestionably the biggest unknown for Toronto before the season, the Leafs now have two goaltenders sitting amongst the top-12 in save percentage league-wide. With a .927 mark and 2.23 goals against average in seven games (six starts), Scrivens' numbers almost exactly mirror those of Reimer, who posted a .929 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average before going down against the Flyers last Monday, scheduled to miss a week but likely out for longer.
"Definitely happy that I was up to the task. Really a chance to test my mettle so I was pleased with how I did," Scrivens concluded.
1. Reset Button
Carlyle called it a 'reset' for his team after they were outworked and outmuscled in a 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday, one of their least engaging performances of the season. "We put that to our players that our commitment to the work ethic had to be to a higher level than it was in the last game," Carlyle said following his team's third home win of the season. "We knew we were going to play an Ottawa club that was going to be very hungry. Any time you play teams that are decimated with injuries – and we have our fair share, but they've got an abnormal amount over there and they filled with some call-ups from the American League – you know you're going to get the American League players' A-plus effort and that's what they did tonight." It was far from a dominant effort – the Senators pressed hard in the second and third – but the Leafs effectively shut it down to earn the victory. "We had to learn from the last game," said Colton Orr, who played with Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur on Saturday, "but put it behind us and have a good night here tonight. We did what was asked of us and came up with a big win here tonight."
2. PK Rising
While it has had some wobbly moments, the Leafs penalty kill has been nearly perfect over the past five games, shutting down 17 of 18 opportunities. Without their Norris Trophy-winning defenceman, Ottawa was stopped in all four of its chances on Saturday, most critically with three minutes left in the final frame and Dion Phaneuf whistled off for slashing. "It starts with goaltending again," said Bozak of the penalty kill. "They're going to get shots on the PK and Scrivs played huge again. But I think we're just pressuring the puck a lot better. We had a little bit of sloppy clearing attempts early in the game, but we figured it out. We've just got to keep that going." The Leafs are tied for 20th in the league on the penalty kill (80%), all the more important when you consider their struggles on the power-play, especially at home (detailed below).
3. Fourth Line O
With a goal that began off an aggressive forecheck, Frazer McLaren scored his first as a Leaf in the opening minutes against Ottawa. It was just the second career goal for the Winnipeg native (47 games), his last marker falling all the way back on November 29, 2009. "It was a couple years ago and it was against Roberto Luongo in Vancouver," said McLaren. "It's been awhile." The six-foot-five winger is trying to carve out a George Parros-type niche under Carlyle – some energy and toughness – dressing in seven games with the Leafs so far. While far from their role, the fourth line – McLaren with Jay McClement and Mike Brown on Saturday – has managed to chip in with offence in three of the past four games.
4. More minutes for Orr
Joining Kadri and MacArthur, Orr played nearly 13 minutes against the Senators, the most he's seen in a Leafs uniform in three-plus seasons. "You get rewarded when you work hard," he said. "I'm just out there trying to make room for my linemates and make sure I'm good defensively, just keep working." After suiting up in just five games a year ago, his future in the NHL in question, the 30-year-old Orr has managed to dress in every game this season, clearly making an impression on Carlyle, who places high value on the role of toughness in his lineup. "I thought he gave us what we needed," said Carlyle. "It's amazing how things quiet down when he's out there." Orr just missed a career-high for ice; he logged 13:16 on January 8, 2009, while a member of the New York Rangers.
5. Spreading the ice on defence
A definite concern earlier this season, Carlyle appears to have grown more comfortable with his lot on defence, spreading the minutes around evenly to all six defenders on Saturday.
Leafs Defence TOI:
Dion Phaneuf - 24:15
Mike Kostka - 21:13
Korbinian Holzer - 19:45
John-Michael Liles - 19:10
Mark Fraser - 18:07
Cody Franson - 17:30
The main intent would seem to be easing the strain on Dion Phaneuf, who logged 24 minutes for the second consecutive game. In the opening month of the year, Carlyle was over-dependent on Phaneuf and his partner at the time, Mike Kostka, wearing them thin with heavy nightly tolls, including 30-plus minutes for each in a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on January 26th. He admitted to needing ease that burden and has done so of late, finding a comfort zone with the same six defencemen dressing the past seven games.
Quote of the Night:
"We're in a market that explores these types of promotions to a different level because of the history that's been here. And we're never going to cast a negative upon the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But right now we're about us. We want to try and create some of our own. We're trying to gain respect. That's all it is. It's not any disrespect to anybody us, but we'd like to make our own mark for ourselves."
-Randy Carlyle, on why his team remained in the dressing room for the ceremony honouring the 1963 Stanley Cup champion Leafs.
2-35 (6%) – Leaf powerplay at home this season.
0 – Goals for Phil Kessel at even-strength this season.
4-13 (31%) – Nazem Kadri on the draw against the Senators. Kadri has struggled of late in that regard, now 12 for his last 42, a mark of 29%.
Four-game point streak – Dion Phaneuf, two goals and three assists in that span.
10 games – Goal drought for Mikhail Grabovski.
12:51 - Total Time on Ice for Colton Orr.
22:49 – Total Time on Ice for James van Riemsdyk, the most of any Leaf forward.
The Leafs head south for a Monday date with the Panthers, the first half of a back-to-back set in Florida with the Lightning to follow on Tuesday.