Post-Game: Leafs/Isles – A Stempniak Sighting!

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    This Tuesday night matchup between two non-playoff teams went largely as predicted: sloppy play by both squads at various points throughout the night.  This was highlighted by a few fights and some thrilling overtime play.  Of course, the thrill factor of extra time has seen a slight decrease since it became a staple of Toronto games.  The most unusual events of the night were in fact goals by a few slump-ridden Leafs.

    Here are some notes from this Tuesday night tango:

    -Phil Oreskovic showed the skill set that we all hope will one day translate into him being a serviceable 5th or 6th defenseman for future Leaf squads. A simple, low-minute game, involving some hard hitting and a willingness to drop the gloves when necessary.  Couple that with developing defensive acumen and a hopefully increasing overall level of skill and you have the prototypic Burkian defenseman plugger.

    -Lee Stempniak scored tonight. Don’t feel ashamed if you’re not sure who that is, he rarely shows up for games (he now has two goals in his last 13) and is sometimes confused with the stickboy with respect to  both his relevancy and importance to the team.  However, as mentioned in last night’s broadcast, this blue and white ninja has somehow managed to lead the Leafs forward corps in hits.  Any excitement over the idea of a bruising machine amongst our forwards should be held in check, as this statistic’s significance is questionable.  Yet purely based on his past history and young age, Stempniak definitely warrants some more time to prove himself.  However, he needs to show some more of his goal-scoring prowess to stick around much longer in this organization.

    -Speaking of Leafs desperately needing to break out of a funk, Mikhail Grabovski scored his first goal in seventeen games to win it for Toronto in overtime.  Grabovski has definitely tapered off after a very promising start.  However, unlike Lee Stempniak, those solid two months of production were rife with displays of not only dazzling ability, but unchecked eagerness and effort.  In my eyes, this is the primary difference between these two “young guns” as Lee often seems to drift through the game as an observer.  Here’s to a still-decent rookie season by Mikhail, with the hope that the best is yet to come.

    Tonight continued a trend of recent Leaf games.  This pattern involves reliable goaltending and a newfound attention to detail on the penalty kill.  Couple that with the tenacity and effort that was a Toronto trademark early in this season, and the result has been the relative success that we have witnessed in the past few weeks.  Laying the groundwork for a hardworking mentality in a team is very important in the rebuilding process, and it is currently seeing a large amount of success.  However, to the dismay of many Leaf fans, this has come at the expense of our unprecedented rise in the standings. 

    As always, interested to hear your thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Nik