A March meeting with a solid team in the playoff chase (yes, that’s actually Florida I’m talking about here) went pretty much as expected.Â Signs of life from the Maple Leafs were quickly overwhelmed by the desperation and talent (surprise! again!) of this Panthers squad.Â Sadly, this tussle lacked the fan factor that made Tuesday night’s game in Tampa a joy to watch.
Here are some notes from this Thursday night tilt:
-Ok, honestly, what the hell Florida? Your arena is half full, half again of which are fans of the road team.Â One of your exceptionally brilliant fans feels that this hockey game is a suitable place to go crazy with their new car horn toy in what had to be one of the most annoying broadcasts in recent memory with respect to the auditory aspects.Â It is safe to say that the incessant bleating-which prompted a zombielike uttering of “Let’s Go Panthers…” from the two people in attendance that weren’t asleep-got on all our nerves.Â Couple that with the classy “meow-growl” that plays whenever a goal is scored…and I know I’m not the only one that was tempted to just watch this one muted.Â Millen and Bowen giggling about the new group Crackberry didn’t help.
-Doug MacLean was spot on when he said Martin Gerber is not an ideal number one goalie. He was great tonight. Gerber was under siege for many portions of tonight’s matchup, but there are still a few too many glaring flaws in his game.Â He has the talent to make great saves, and would do well under strong defensive teams (read: reason why he failed in Ottawa), but can hardly be relied on to steal too many for your squad.Â That being said, he is definitely an efficient stopgap measure and by all accounts is a stand-up guy that will hopefully continue his strong career next season…elsewhere.
-Blake’s line had a good game in the offensive zone tonight.Â This included Lee Stempniak, a topic of discussion in recent days here at MLHS with regards to his future with Toronto.Â My thoughts on the matter are simple: we have the kid for another year, with roster and cap space to spare.Â Give him free reign and see if he can do what he’s supposed to.Â On that note, another player in the exact same category, Mikhail Grabovski, also had another great night.
-Following this theme of the future of some of our current roster players, where do we see Matt Stajan fitting in on Brian Burke’s team?Â Leaf fans have often slotted him into the second or third line center spot.Â However, Burke has made it clear that his top six are to be rife with slick talent.Â We can all agree that Stajan has his strengths on the PK and on draws, but in terms of talent is borderline with respect to what Burke is looking for.Â On the flipside, his bottom six are going to be characterized by grit, size, and belligerence.Â Once again, I think we can all agree that Matt falls right on the edge of this characterization. It is possible that he plays our third line center with the ability to move up to the second line spot in the case of injuries.Â However, it is just as possible that the ambiguity of his skill set sees him heading out of town for a decent return with a more definitive player replacing him.
With Toronto’s season winding down, the focus turns increasingly to the offseason, the draft, and the future of this Maple Leafs team.Â With this shift in attention comes a multitude of questions.Â Who stays? Who goes?Â And who will join us this summer?
As always, interested to hear your thoughts.