How good was it to see a game in which the Leafs (both teams for that matter) were contesting every foot of ice in
It so reminded me of the many tough and grinding playoff series the team was part of in the early 2000 Quinn years, against
and the Islanders but especially the Flyers. Every night it was a battle, players not giving an inch. You didn’t want to miss anything, because the games were so good, so intense and you never knew when that key moment would happen. Ottawa
Well, these Leafs are playing that way. Skill guys make plays. Grinders grind. And every once in a while, the grinders make plays and the skill guys grind it out.
The Leafs are now, officially, hard to play against.
Kadri is beginning to score, though each of his first three NHL goals have not exactly been of the ‘write-home’ variety. But that’s OK. With these in his back pocket, the highlight-reel goals will come.
But you know what I liked even more than Kadri scoring and then his nifty little shootout winner? It was his rush up the wing in overtime when he went around big Chara and took the puck to the net.
I have a sense we’ll see that more and more in the years to come.
In my conversations with people and from the many e-mails and comments I receive on this site, I know that some (myself included!), with good reason, question whether Reimer is the “answer” for the Leafs long-term. Is this just a short-term mirage, we wonder?
He’s young, inexperienced in NHL terms and we keep hearing that the league has the book on him now.
Yet, he keeps playing well, and is particularly hard to beat when the game is on the line, a la Ken Dryden and Grant Fuhr from earlier generations of winning goalies.
Can he do this next season and beyond?
I don’t know. But the reason I believe that he can is that he just seems to have the make-up, the demeanor, to handle the adversity that will inevitably come his way.
So while you never know, I say…..yes.
I’ll keep saying it until he is accorded the honor: Tim Brent deserves the Bickell Trophy. How many times have we seen the gritty forward, destined to be a Marlie in September, make huge shot blocks to keep the Leafs alive this season?
As those who follow this site will know, I’m among those who was sad to see Tomas Kaberle leave the Maple Leafs a few weeks ago. While I was often frustrated watching the now veteran defenseman over the years, I was mostly a fan of his play and how he conducted himself as a member of the Leafs.
That said, I had been writing for a long time that, as much as I would have, on a personal level, liked to have seen Tomas retire a Leaf, it was best for him to go somewhere else. (Click here to read one of my earlier posts on Kaberle.)
He clearly wasn’t Burke’s kind of player and though the organization would deny it publicly, Kaberle was as good as gone from the time
So it had to be awfully uncomfortable, mentally, playing in a place where he knew management and the coaching staff wanted him somewhere else. While he always proclaimed that he loved playing in Toronto, and by all accounts that was probably largely true, he must feel a sense of relief playing in a different market with more modest expectations from the fans. And he must be pleased with the fact that, at 32, he is on a team that will be in the playoffs this spring (the first time for him since 2004).
Now the question is: can Kaberle be a difference-maker in
, a team further along the curve than the Leafs at the moment? Can he be the difference-maker? Boston
I really don’t know. He was always a nice player, a classy guy. But we know he’s not a physical presence, and playoff hockey can be about how you handle the battles in the front of your net, which has never been Kaberle’s strength.
Thursday night against the Leafs, he was a minus 2, and almost as inauspicious as he was in his first game back at the ACC. On Lupul’s game-tying goal in the third period, Kaberle had a chance to react and make a play on Lupul, block the shot, something, and he kind of did what he sometimes did in
—he reacted passively. The result was a goal. Toronto
It will be fascinating to see how he handles the opportunity to play in the playoffs. He doesn’t need (assuming Chara is healthy) to be the top guy on defense, though he will play significant minutes down the stretch and in the playoffs.
How he plays this spring will go a long way toward determining his legacy as a player—whether he is remembered as just a “nice” player, talented but not a guy who made a team a lot better, or someone who was good enough to put a good team over the top.