For all the hype surrounding the seemingly inevitable fight between Grabovksi and Kostitsyn, the two Belorussians were not quite at the forefront of a very chippy game between the Leafs and the Canadiens.Â The animosity apparently encompassed both squads, as the tone was set early by a first period showdown between Georges Laraque and Brad May.Â As is the case with most matchups of these two rivals in Montreal, the crowd’s energy fed into a quick-paced sixty minutes that saw both teams control the play in the offensive zone for lengths of time on end.
Here are some notes from this Saturday night showdown:
-An interesting attempt to mix things up on the powerplay by inserting Lee Stempniak on the point.Â While it didn’t exactly pay dividends, he needs the jump for sure, and this was a position he thrived at with St. Louis.Â The absence of Kaberle is always so noticeable when the Leafs have the man advantage.
-Luke Schenn’s first goal won’t exactly remind you of a Ray Bourque snipe, but it’s been a long time coming and the kid definitely deserves it.Â This was just one of 18 shots in a first period that saw more offensive output and pressure than the Sabres game in its entirety.Â Inconsistency is clearly the trademark of our young NHL squad.
-For all the excitement about the Belorussian Brawl, I still found Don Cherry’s amusement at the futility of “Belolagoosy” fighters and undying faith in the fate-changing abilities of his “Hockey Gods” to be amongst the most entertaining portions of the early part of tonight’s broadcast.
-The Kulemin-Grabovski-Stempniak line showed some nice puck movement on the goal that was called back in the first period.Â I can only assume that the almighty Hockey Gods must have wanted to correct this wrongdoing as another nice passing play saw Nikolai Kulemin finish for his 8th goal of the season.
-Jason Blake and Dominic Moore had another strong game tonight.Â The always-talented Niklas Hagman just may be the appropriate complement to this two-headed monster.
-It’s a favourite pastime of Leaf nation to follow the ups and downs of some of their most bitter opponents (read: the Canadiens and the Senators).Â On that note, it is amazing that the high-flying Canadiens are so clearly lacking confidence in so many areas of their game this season.Â Carey Price looks unsure of himself while his forwards lack the panache they displayed last campaign.
A final note (chiefly because it has been the hot topic of late) should be Vesa Toskala’s solid play tonight.Â Toskala is at his best when he confidently challenges shooters, and maintains his crease-awareness.Â He is much too small a goalie to stop much when he abandons his positioning to go for a swim.
As always, interested to hear your thoughts.