My post-game notes from tonight’s 3-2 loss inside Mellon Arena:
-Some promising individual performances, but the chemistry amongst many of the lines was lacking.
-All three goals were avoidable. If Anton Stralman and Josef Boumedienne were facing up ice when playing the cross-crease passes there wouldn’t have been an issue. It just seemed to be a freak incident when Stralman lost his footing on the third marker and Kaberle’s jumping of the gun in heading up ice gave the Pens a 2 on 0 situation.
-Discipline was a problem, as it was last night.
-Nik Kulemin was again quiet for the vast majority of the evening, but there were definitely some glints of what he’s capable of. It was interesting to see his best shift in either game occur in a 4-on-4 situation. That seems to speak to the fact that he’s adjusting to the smaller ice surface.
-Whatever Wilson’s selling, Blake’s buying it. His work rate and shift-to-shift intensity has improved greatly from last year. He’s minding his defensive duties and excelling in penalty kill situations. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain it over the course of the season.
-Luke Schenn was the team’s best defender. Tomas Kaberle could learn from his impeccable sense of positioning. He made the occasional mistake but recovered and expiated well in those instances. He impressively shoved Malkin to the ice before recovering the puck in the first period. I don’t think it makes practical sense to hurry Schenn into the line-up this year, but there’s absolutely no doubt he’s a full-timer next year. One area in need of continued improvement is his foot speed.
-Jiri Tlusty has visibly grown in strength, speed and confidence.
-The Ryan Hollweg catalytic element was missing. I think he’s found a home here as he offers an ingredient that can’t be found anywhere else on the roster.
-Jamal Mayers performed well in the face-off circles and fared well in his early-game tussle. Combined with Hollweg and Dominic Moore the Leafs should have a redoubtable energy line. Mayers’ fourth line line-mates in Tim Stapleton and Kris Newbury failed to provide anything in the way of jump and the team could’ve used it tonight.
-Niklas Hagman worked well within the new system.
-Josef Boumedienne was disastrous in period one, but like the team as a whole, he improved as the game progressed.
-Grabovski finished well, but he’s not going to hold a spot in the line-up long if he isn’t more consistent on a shift-to-shift basis and avoids dangerous give-aways, especially considering the fact that he can only play in the top six.
-Only one of three goals (the second) was questionable by Justin Pogge. He remained composed after a troubling start. All-and-all a solid showing.
-After a slow start, last year’s Leafs might have rolled over. The team did well to stick around and perhaps could’ve mounted the full come-back if there was better capitalization on their chances.