The Leafs top six filled out the scoresheet tonight against the Dallas Stars and picked up a convincing win. Â This is no coincidence, as Toronto’s success going forward will require many more nights like this from the likes of Grabovski, Kulemin and Versteeg. Â Jonas Gustavsson had another steady night, but was not required to be as spectacular as he was on Saturday largely due to sustained offensive pressure by his forwards.
Toronto played to their strengths with determined forechecking and team speed, only sitting back in the third period once they had opened up a 3-1 lead over the Stars. Â One of the most important outcomes from tonight’s game will be an injection of life into Tyler Bozak‘s game, as the slumping soph netted his first point in over 7 games off a pretty feed from Nazem Kadri.
Here are some thoughts from this Monday night matchup:
-It’s great to see Kadri have a game like this. Â In the establishment phase of a rookie’s career everyone is looking to see what he can do in the NHL: fans, media, coaches and teammates. Â With his brief display of pinpoint passing and offensive flair, Nazem has shown them all that he CAN be an impact player at this level. Â He (probably) won’t be able to do this consistently in his rookie year, and there will be stretches of play which will likely make some fans frustrated and others ballistic. Â But that’s what developing a quality young player in the NHL looks like. Â Both foreign and exciting, this is what will characterize the Maple Leafs over the next few years as they exert an honest effort developing their prospects.
-Mike Komisarek is one of those players who you can tell gets into his own head too much. Â He’s still working on that level of professionalism where he can completely ignore a horrendous mistake of his own doing and move on as normal. Â Simply put, he’s human. Â You could see the shakiness that characterizes self-doubt in a few wayward cross-ice passes in the first period. Komisarek suffers from caring too much, a quality made immediately evident in his all-out effort in his first game against Montreal last year. Â At the same time, this wholesale emotional and mental involvement was what had Habs fans in love with #8 at one point. Â With the chance to regain some of his confidence and a whole lot of his edge, Komisarek could eventually make his way closer to earning his $4.5 million price tag.
-When the Leafs entered the third period, you knew they would have to protect the lead. Â You will often hear commentators and coaches say that you should avoid playing to protect a lead, but that’s wishful thinking in the NHL as most teams (and especially one of the Leafs’ capabilities) have to shut it down at some point or another. Â The last few years would have probably seen a Toronto team crumble and then collapse. Â While only one game, the current squad showed that they can do this job with aplomb, forcing Dallas to the outside and blocking shots eagerly. Â This progress is encouraging, as closing off games will be an important necessity for this club moving forward.
Oh, and somebody tell Luke Schenn he’s not supposed to still be getting better. Â Somebody tell him that after one shaky sophomore season the fifth overall pick was supposed to become a mediocre defenseman at best. Â The kid is young, he’s good, and he’s showing why Leafs management took him in the first round.