It might actually be a Game in 9. Or a Game in 27. Who knows? I’m writing this sentence at 7:08pm.
1. The game just started, and I’m already sick of the TSN commentary dedicated to “PHIL HASN’T SCORED YET AND IT’S GAME #3!” He’s been making plays amazingly well since Saturday and even backchecking. Like, a lot of backchecking, for him. I really hope this first point turns redundant at some point in the next couple hours.
2. I like Tyler Bozak. I really do. But a first line/Kessel-capable centre, he remains not. He’s tenacious and full of energy, but he simply doesn’t read plays as quickly as Kessel, and it costs the Leafs chances they should otherwise have a a result of Kessel’s (did I mention wickedly underrated?) playmaking ability. Update: He would score a PP goal in the dying minutes, wouldn’t he? Fine. You can stay, Tyler.
3. Engelland and Orr go at it early with a terrific scrap that express everything hypocritical about fighting in the NHL. Starts with a confrontation at the blue line (where it looks like Engelland tried to pull Orr’s helmet off?), transitioned into a standup fight with lots of impressively heavy blows landed (props to those guys, seriously), went on needlessly long to the point where they were both exhausted and praying for the refs to step in, then ended with smiles, hugs, and handshakes for all. Probably a “good job,” “you too,” in there as well. What a sport.
4. “Sluggish” was indeed a good way to describe JVR when the game started. There was no jump to his game. Everything he did was tentative…or missed the net. Up until what became point #8 in this summary, he was kinda sorta Lee Stempniak.
5. A) Does Mike Komiarek really think that (first period) cross check isn’t a penalty? B) Why on earth did Komisarek start tonight over Franson? C) Franson has to be wondering what the hell he’s done so wrong in Toronto. I bet they score here….UPDATE: Yep.
6. Malkin’s first goal on Reimer was pretty soft. Great quick shot, but from a sharp angle. It’s one goal. The sky is not falling. But it’s the kind of goal Reimer’s got to stop allowing if he’s going to make the jump everyone wants him to make and really silence his critics.
7. The Leafs‘ first goal came off a curious MacArthur-Kulemin-Kadri combination (amidst a shift change) that looked dirty in execution but was actually a pretty slick rush. Kadri was likely trying to shoot, but he shouldn’t confirm that, because it was a pretty terrific pass.
8. Wow. The second goal is way more impressive. Borrowing a word from Ferraro, a glorious break wide on the rush by Kulemin sets up JVR for a tap-in, rendering point #4 in this moot. A JVR-Grabo-Kulemin line has made a whole lot of sense on paper since the winger was acquired from Philadelphia.
9. The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ 5 on 3 power play is a consistently sad, immobile, indecisive, non-intimidating display of erectile dysfunction.
10. Oh boy. JVR really let that shot go for his second goal. Excellent timing for a wakeup, since our LW1 may have just left the ice with a broken hand.
11. Grabovski, Wednesday: “I need more fire. Fire burn the ice.” I think I know what he means, but regardless, what a shot for the Leafs‘ fourth goal. Is it too early to establish that any players featured in Carlyle’s game day comments will automatically be awesome that night? (Ergo: MAYBE YOU SHOULD START REVEALING YOUR STARTING GOALIE, RANDY!)
12. Here’s the James Reimer problem. Everyone will focus on the softness of the two goals he allowed tomorrow. And sort of maybe kind of rightfully so. Even the Crosby breakaway (“COME ON, IT’S A CROSBY BREAKAWAY!”) was a pretty weak shot. But the real story should be how solid – if not very exceptional – Reimer was on everything else. Not bad for his first start in how many hundreds of days, against one of the league’s best teams.
13. Mike Kostka still doesn’t look out of place in the NHL. He brings the sort of sound, well-rounded play that we usually look to Gunnarson for.
14. Solid all-around effort by the Leafs. A very defensively capable showing against one of the NHL’s best offensive teams, which is something we should all be considerably encouraged about. No one predicted a 5-2 Leaf victory today.
The Toronto Maple Leafs under Randy Carlyle are, night and day, a different team than the Toronto Maple Leafs under Ron Wilson. Tenacious on the puck, defensively sound, and just visibly organized. It’s still early in the season. It would be foolish to draw sweeping conclusions from the first week.
Considering how crappy I felt as a Leafs fan less than two weeks ago, however…a night like Wednesday’s Pittsburgh opener is a positive worth remembering.
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