Tonight’sÂ loss against the Northeast rival Buffalo Sabres seemed to play out like the typical Maple Leaf ’09-’10 regular season game thus far. A fairly decent effort for about 75-80% of the game, a few brain cramps here and there, a ton of unconverted offensive opportunities, an unlucky bounce or two, along with the end result of an “L” in the record books.
Quick post-game thoughts from tonight’s game:
– Nikolai Kulemin has impressed me a ton this season, particularly over the course of the last 2-3 weeks. He’s so strong along the boards, using his strength and smarts to angle opposing defenders off the puck to win those down low battles. He needs to convert a few more of those slot opportunities however. He certainly caught Wilson’s attention tonight, earning him a bump up to the 2nd line for a little while as well as 2 minutes of ice-time on the penalty kill. It looks like we could have the makings of a very good 20+ goal hardworking grinder on our hands sometime in the near future.
– As many have noted, tonight was by far Luke Schenn’s strongest game of the season. He seems to thrive with a bigger workload, earning 18 minutes of ice-time tonight because of the Gunnarsson injury, and played with a whole lot more assertiveness and confidence. One shift in particular early on stood out to me as Schenn made a great pinch along the boards to keep the puck in zone and followed it up with a calm pass to Hagman on the other side. On the same shift, Schenn cut to the middle of the ice and let off a low, hard slap shot, one of only a handful we’ve seen in his entire 100 game career. That confidence with the puck from the point and willingness to use the skills he displayed in Kelowna will go a long way in helping him become a valuable two-way defender.
– Komisarek’s presence was surely felt tonight in his return to the lineup. He added a certain element of physicality and nastiness that was lacking from the team during the past few weeks. He lined up a couple big hits early that really set the tone, and made a great play later in the game by catching up to the speedy Buffalo forward Clarke MacArthur to break up a solo rush. This is the Komisarek this team needs night in and night out.
– Stajan is killing me a little inside over the last little while with his lackluster board play. He’s always a split second late when it comes to pressing his body up along the sides to prevent clearing attempts, and is being tossed off pucks in the corner like a rag doll. He’s made a few nice plays with Kessel during that span, but the multitude of passes sent behind his wingers instead of in stride really make me question whether or not there is a better centerman option with the organization right now in either Grabovski or even Bozak.