BOSTON -- The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won a playoff hockey game, James van Riemsdyk was a 14 year old kid honing his skills at rinks across Central New Jersey. There's a good chance he watched that game, a 3-1 win in Game 4 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia.
Nine years later, van Riemsdyk's come a long way. The second overall pick in the NHL draft in 2007, a playoff veteran at just age 24, and suddenly, a Boston Bruin postseason killer. It was JvR's beautiful spinning insurance goal Saturday night that put Toronto ahead and into the win column, sealing up their first playoff win since he was in middle school.
"Grabovski had a lot of speed going through the neutral zone," van Riemsdyk, who turned 24 on Saturday, explained. "I think he kind of drew two guys to him and I was able to slip in behind and he made a great pass to me. However he tried to shoot it, I wiffed and then was able to luckily enough slide it in. I'll take it."
van Riemsdyk has now scored six playoff goals in his last seven playoff games against the Bruins including a goal in Game 1 of this series, his first playoff goal in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Semifinals which commenced quite possibly the greatest comeback in hockey history, and a two-goal performance in Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Semis in which he played nearly 30 minutes of ice time. He's quickly become a nightmare for the Boston Bruins in the playoffs.
"I didn't know that," JvR said when asked about his impressive resume vs. Boston. "Especially since I have been here, it always feels you are going to meet them at some point in the playoffs no matter what. They have such a strong team. They have a lot of really good players. Obviously, it is going to be a continued battle of the series."
Led in part by van Riemsdyk, who's played more career playoff games than any other member of the Leafs, Toronto properly adjusted after a rough Game 1 loss in which they looked like they had no business competing on the same rink as Boston. Where they were no match for the Bruins tenacious forecheck, penetrating neutral zone play and stifling defense in Game 1, the Leafs dictated the pace with much more frequency in Game 2.
"We obviously tried to do a few things to keep them separate," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "But again, the tempo of the game was a lot different from our standpoint where we moved the puck more effectively. We didn't turn it over, so to me that was the biggest difference between tonight and Wednesday.
"We just didn't self-destruct. We worked hard and we competed, and got a few breaks that went our way. Again, we know we're in for a Boston Bruin hockey club that is going to force you to play the game up the walls. You're going to have to earn everything you get, and I'm sure they'll be better on Monday night."
So now the Leafs head back to Toronto for Games 3 and 4, a raucous, still-playoff-starved crowd sure to greet them. And having already stolen a win on Boston ice, the Leafs not only look like they belong after two games, they might even have the upper hand.
"We're going back to our building, and we've said all year that we've got unbelievable fans," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We're happy with the way that we played tonight, but like I said, we've got lots of work to do yet. We've got to take tomorrow, get rested up, reload and get ready for Monday. "