I don’t care where in the tanking/playoff spectrum you stand, beating the Ottawa Senators is always sweet. Especially in a game riddled with physicality and controversy, against a rival considered at season’s dawn a contender vastly more talented than the re-building Maple Leafs.
Straight into the game notes…
*Exactly half of this game was played on special teams, which is not an overly surprising statistic when you take into the account the physicality, passion and downright dirtiness that characterized the game. 14 of the 24 penalties in this tilt were roughing calls and six others were either slashes or cross-checks. The Leafs‘ 29th ranked penalty kill came through on seven occasions, largely thanks to one of Vesa Toskala’s best efforts of the ’08/’09 campaign so far. As much as the Sens offense has been stagnant this year, their power-play hasn’t been overly poor, sitting 17th league-wide. The Leafs, in particular Jaime Sifers, Pavel Kubina and Ian White (3, 3 & 4 BS respectively), did an exemplary job of blocking shooting lanes.
*Tonight was definitely a flash of the VeTo of last season. It’s safe to infer that this game was won between the posts. Martin Gerber was well, Martin Gerber, while Toskala was there when needed and then some. He produced a couple of high-octane saves during scrambles, particularly in short-handed situations. His 30 stops on 31 shots faced was definitely deserving of tonight’s first star.
*One thing that stands out from tonight’s boxscore besides the absence of a game misconduct for a #19 in white is the number of respective give-aways. The Leafs were fairly stingy in this regard, coughing up but five pucks, while the Sens gave the puck up on 12 occasions, most notably the mix-up involving Anton Volchenkov that led to Dominic Moore’s back-handed goal. It seems to me that this has been an ongoing ailment for our struggling Ontario counterparts.
*Speaking of Moore, what a story this guy is. A waiver pick-up earning 900K that’s on pace for 40+ points. That’s a good bang for one’s buck. Identifying Moore’s potential two-way ability if emancipated from Jacques Lemaire’s gridlock defensive system was certainly one instance in which JFJ actually did something good.
*The Jason Blake – Moore – Lee Stempniak line was a bright spot for the Leafs tonight. Blake’s been a bit off-and-on this year, but his ability to buzz the offensive zone and create chances for himself has been more and more evident recently. Certainly, that 40-goal season that’s now but a distant memory is never to be repeated, but if he continues his pace for 20 goals and 30 assists and adds energy to his line night-in-and-night-out, that $4 million/5yr contract is much more palatable.
*Ian White was amazing and ballsy tonight. A team-leading 4 blocked shots, 4 hits and an assist in 23 minutes of ice-time. Additionally, he squared off with that dimwit Chris Neil. Since when does a good, clean hit – on a guy in Fisher who had been dealing out his fair share tonight no less – have to be met by some sort of retaliatory act each and every time? Anyways, the growth of that brawny â€™stache appears to have brought with it a corresponding injection of vigor into Whiteâ€™s game.
In general, a spirited overall effort from the Leafs. The entire Buds’ defense corps played exceptionally. P.S: I hope Spezza gets the fine he deserves.