The Maple Leafs deserved better in tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. It was frustrating to see another strong effort come up short. The Leafs really need to start pulling out some of these close games if they want to get back into contention.
They can’t afford to lose those games “that they deserved to win,” because it doesn’t seem like they are good enough to win the games “they should have lost.” Take a look at the Montreal Canadiens; 5 of the their 6 wins this have come in overtime or shootout. Instead of being 6-6-0, the Habs could easily be 1-6-5. However, they’ve found ways to pull out those close games. I hate to say it, but it’s a sign of a better team.
But it’s not all doom and gloom; the Leafs are playing with a lot more confidence, mostly because they are playing in front of a competent goaltender in Gustavsson. Things may have turned out differently tonight if the Leafs didn’t get a couple of bad breaks. There was Mike Komisarek’s phantom high stick on Ribeiro that led to a 5-on-3 power-play goal. Also, there was the debatable too many men on the ice non-call that led to the tying goal. I guess it’s the old story though, you need to be good to be lucky, and lucky to be good.
There were however, several strong performances from tonight’s game:
– Gustavsson, of course, looked solid again. You couldn’t fault him on any of the goals and he made numerous ‘timely’ saves.
– Jason Blake had his best game of the season. He didn’t look great in the first period, as he had a couple of turnovers, but played well the rest of the game.
– Garnet Exelby also had a few nice hits, and didn’t look out of place as he has in most games. The one hit behind the Leafs net when the Stars were controlling the puck was especially key, as it led to the breakout that led to Kulemin’s go-ahead goal in the third.
– It was nice to see Nikolai Kulemin get a couple goals. He along with Mikhail Grabovski had a couple of nice backchecks that prevented possible scoring chances.
– Although Luke Schenn only had about 13 minutes of ice-time, I thought he played a solid game. He seemed a little more decisive with the puck and was reading the play better without the puck. Hopefully, this is a small step in the right direction for Luke.
Did anyone else notice if Viktor Stalberg played at all in the third period? I know he took a couple of big hits, so I hope he didn’t get hurt again and that Ron Wilson was just shortening the bench in the third. However, I didn’t think he was having that bad a game in order to have his ice-time cut completely.
Anyway, let’s hope the Leafs can get back in the win column Friday night in Buffalo.
P.S. Brian Burke was courtside at the Raptors season opener tonight. I think it was on TV around 8:00 pm. Hope he left in time to see the puck drop.
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