Bertuzzi flashes playoff form in lopsided Maple Leafs victory

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There’s the Tyler Bertuzzi that the Maple Leafs want to see in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Bertuzzi, among the Leafs who have something to prove in the final stretch to the post-season, had one of his best games in a Toronto sweater on Thursday night. 

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It wasn’t just that Bertuzzi scored in the Leafs’ 6-2 victory in Philadelphia against the Flyers.

At the Wells Fargo Center, which will play host to the Leafs and Flyers again on Tuesday, Bertuzzi played the kind of game that not only is best suited for the playoffs, but one that fans of the Boston Bruins came to love in the first round last spring during Bertuzzi’s brief stint in Beantown. He was a presence everywhere in the offensive zone, doing what coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to during his morning media availability. 

“Forecheck, make plays in tight spaces, create turnovers, be good around the net, go to the net and create more space for Auston (Matthews), do the work in the offensive zone,” Keefe said. “Do those things and do them well. Puck comes to you, make a play and you got a chance to score, put it in the net. Those are all the things that Bert has the ability to do.”

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Bertuzzi helped the Leafs keep control of the puck in the moments before he scored at 2:01 of the first, then went to the net and got his stick on a Matthews pass. Never mind that the Flyers’ Marc Staal and Ryan Poehling could have knocked Bertuzzi over had they been a little quicker, the Leafs forward knew exactly where he had to be to score. 

That approach followed, and Bertuzzi, who also had an assist, would have had a second goal off a terrific tip had a subtle Matthews hand pass not negated it. 

Once Mitch Marner returns from a lower-body injury, believed to be a mild ankle sprain, Keefe wants to give Bertuzzi a long look on the top line with Matthews and Marner. That didn’t work in the initial stages of the regular season, but Bertuzzi is playing with a higher level of comfort now. 

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Bertuzzi, in the morning, called his shot to an extent.

“Try to find open spots, trying to get (Matthews) the puck as much as possible, get in front of the net,” Bertuzzi said. “He creates space for himself, so let him do his thing and try to find little areas.”

It doesn’t matter whether the Leafs play the Bruins or the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs. Bertuzzi will have to be a positive factor. He could do well to his use game on Thursday to help draw up the blueprint. 

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THE INJURY REPORT

An unfortunate fact of life for any NHL team heading to the playoffs is that injuries will happen in the next several weeks.

That caught up to the Leafs when winger Calle Jarnkrok left the game in the second period after he crashed into the side boards, absorbing the fall with his left shoulder and head.

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It has been a tough go for Jarnkrok, who was playing in his sixth game after he missed 13 because of a broken knuckle.

Yes, the Leafs’ stars will lead, but the team is better when the industrious Jarnkrok is in the lineup. If he’s out for any length of time, one of Nick Robertson or Noah Gregor would draw back in.

And in the third, defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin departed, but eventually returned, after he was drilled into the side boards by Garnet Hathaway. During the first period, Lyubushkin missed a couple of shifts after appearing to hurt his left hip.

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GAME ON

The game was closer than it should have been, at least on the scoreboard, when Matthews and William Nylander scored eight seconds apart before the five-minute mark of the third to put the Leafs ahead by four goals. The hit on Lyubushkin came when the defender made a play to get the puck up the ice, resulting in Matthews’ 55th … How about that playmaker Ilya Samsonov? Not only did the goalie have another strong game in net, putting further claim on being the post-season starter, he picked up his fourth career assist on a goal by Timothy Liljegren in the first period … The Leafs have won eight in a row against the Flyers … Samuel Ersson allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period and was gone to start the second. Felix Sandstrom was fine until the Leafs lit him up in the third, culminating with Matthew Knies’ 12th of the season … The Leafs stand a good chance of setting the franchise record for most road wins in one season. They’ve won 20 road games, putting themselves within three of tying the club mark of 23. With eight road games remaining, we say they win four to re-write that sentence in the record book … Samsonov has won seven consecutive road games. He has not lost on the road since Dec. 29, before he was sent to the minors to re-discover his game … A strong game by the fourth line was highlighted by a Pontus Holmberg goal in the first period … Easton Cowan’s point streak with the London Knights hit a snag this week as he didn’t play against Erie on Wednesday, sitting out with an upper-body injury. Cowan, the Leafs’ first-round pick last year, is considered day to day and hopes to play against Sault Ste. Marie on Friday. The 18-year-old is riding a 32-game point streak.

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