Rejuvenated Leafs Down Devils
The Leafs are streaking! Â That’s right, and not even the losing type either (or the naked Ferrell typeâ€”if that’s what you were thinking). Â Although Toronto only dispatched the lowly Devils (feels weird saying that) this Thursday night, they did so in a relatively efficient and confident manner that bodes well for the near future. Â A solid effort by Jonas Gustavsson and an effective powerplay (feels Â even weirder saying that) drove the Leafs to their second win in as many games.
Here are some quick notes from this Thursday night tilt:
-Nazem Kadri had a great game on a line with Bozak and Kessel. Â Kadri played to his strengths, using his speed to make space and creating plays with quick, accurate passing. Â As I’ve mentioned in the recent past, this is most evident on the power play. Â If Kadri is successful in this league, he will quickly develop a reputation as a “power play specialist”, as he is one of those players gifted with that combination of vision and passing-skill. Â He will need to continue to work on his two-way play, but a continued impact of this level will keep Nazem up with the Leafs for theÂ foreseeableÂ future. Â I won’t postulate on Ron Wilson’s post-game commentary regarding Kadri, as I believe the media will take care ofÂ over-hypingÂ that (slightly puzzling) exchange. Â Kadri would do well to maintain an even keel and continue doing what he has over the last two games.
-Mikhail Grabovski‘s persistence and work ethic is finally paying off. Â He is shedding what is a completely undeserved reputation as a “lazy” player that “doesn’t know how to spell defense” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you’ve all heard it at one point or another). Â Grabovski consistently puts forth a monstrous effort and has an undeniable level of raw skill. Â If he is ever guilty of anything it is of trying too hard (with subsequent mistakes being the end resultâ€”re: his giveaway against Nashville). Â Him and Kulemin form a respectable pairing that could continue to blossom into a long-term role with the Leafs.
-Has Kris Versteeg arrived? Â He has definitely reaped the benefits of a functioning powerplay, but will need to start having a larger impact at even strength. Â With NHL players, the “psychological factor” is of mammoth importance, especially with respect to younger skaters. Â As such, Versteeg’s increasing confidence indicates that there is more in store for the ex-Blackhawk.
The Leafs will now look forward to a Saturday night matchup against the division-leading Canadiens. Â Montreal just got shutout by Rinne and the Predators and will come out hungry for a goal. Â Gustavsson and co. will have to maintain their balance of defensive effort and offensive aptitude (finally!) to eke out a win in what will undoubtedly be an exciting game.
As always, interested to hear your thoughts.