Anybody still want to debate the wisdom of starting Gustavsson against the Penguins?
For my money, this was the right play.Â Â Anyway you slice it, after a 2-0 start against two undermanned/terrible teams,Â tonight’s game against the Penguins was set to be a measuring stick of sorts (despite the fact that they were somewhat undermanned themselves).Â If Wilson runs his number one guy out there and he gets torched, the Leafs’ momentum comes to a crashing halt: we are measured, and found wanting.Â Instead, the coach pitches the Monster at a talented (and desperate for a home win) Pittsburgh team, and sends a message to the rest of the squad: bring your lunchpail and hardhat, it will be necessary to win the little battles along the boards and elsewhere on the ice to have a chance at two points in this game.
If the Leafs get the win, their confidence grows like the Grinch’s heart.Â If they fall flat and cough up two points to one of the bona fide contenders in the East, all is not lost because everybody – players included – is left thinking, “well, we lost, but we played the Kid.”Â So long as Giguere can come back with a good effort against the Rangers, the Leafs’ early season momentum and confidence continues to grow.
Lo and behold, Ron Wilson’s team got the message tonight, and the Leafs walked into Pittsburgh and won the game 4-3.Â For large portions of all three periods, the Leafs imposed their will on their adversaries.Â TSN’s broadcast crew was obsessing in the 3rd about the Leafs not having a shot for something like 12 minutes, but they failed to mention that the Penguins had only managed two of their own in about the same time period.Â Whining about the lack of shots totally missed the point, in my view; the Leafs were clamping down and preventing scoring opportunities.Â They were doing the little things that teams have to do to NOT cough up leads like last year’s Leafs did.
These two points are Mike Brown, Tim Brent, Mike Zigomanis and Clarke MacArthur.Â The effort, determination and hustle of those surefire Hall of Fame inductees ticket buyers broughtÂ home the bacon tonight.Â In the process, they obscured a relatively lackadaisical performance by Messrs Kessel and Bozak in particular.
I thought the Leafs were full value for tonight’s win, and the Monster shook off some early rust to finish strong.Â I thought this team looked like they cared.Â I thought this team looked like a team I can believe in.
What do you think?