It’s funny, when the Sabres bounced back to score two quick goals to tie the game Tuesday night at 3, I looked at Mikhail Grabovski on his next shift on the ice and wondered if he was the guy the Leafs needed to steal this one back.
Interestingly, I didn’t think immediately about Kessel, but rather Grabbo. Now yes, it was Kessel who made the play to spring #84, but it just showed me how much I have, as a fan, come half-circle since the beginning of the season. At the end of last season, when I projected who would and wouldn’t be here this season, I opined that Grabovski would not even be with the team this season, and if he was here, he would not be an important guy.
Wrong, and wrong.
The Leafs could very easily have gone backwards when it suddenly became 3-3. Wilson's time out was well-timed and the team kept working and deserved the win. Yes, this is a different team. But I won't include an exclamation mark yet.
I have to mention Mike Brown and Tim Brent. Both guys did their thing in the dying moments, with the Leafs killing a penalty and Miller on the bench. We’ve seen those two guys, in particular, play their hearts out at many key moments this season.
I remain a big believer that the organization should dust off the Bickell Trophy and give it to Brent.
The Kadri watch has been far less intense this time around, for sure. And that has been good for the team, for fans and for young Nazem. (Check out my earlier post on how the arrival of Colborne may have helped Kadri.)
Oddly, I was probably in the minority who, heading into the
game, wasn’t fully buying into the theory that he has been so much better this time up. Last time Kadri had plenty of good chances that just didn’t go in and it was overblown how far “behind” he was in his play. This time, he has scored a couple of less-than-highlight-reel goals and everyone says he’s playing great. OK. Buffalo
For me, it’s much like the last time. He makes those oh-so-sweet passes, which was also quite apparent his first time around. His game is not that different, though he certainly had his skating legs going against the Sabres.
But I will say he has been a bit more physical (and goals always help a player’s confidence, too), and that harder-edged play was apparent in his recent work with the Marlies. Next September we should see the strides everyone has been talking about. But it takes time, as we have discussed here many times. Look at Kessel. He's older than Kadri, is progressing but still has a long way to go to become the player he could be.
Miller has often owned the Leafs through the years, but that certainly wasn’t the case last night. He made some big stops in the third period but he hasn’t been his usual larcenous self against
the last few times the two clubs have played. Toronto
Miller has had some outstanding nights in the second half of the season, though he was consistently much stronger throughout last season. It will be interesting to see which Miller shows up for the Sabres, assuming they garner that last playoff spot in the East.
I made the comment in yesterday’s post that I thought the Leafs would have a really good effort against the Sabres, and would likely win, as a kind of “nudge” as I put it, that while Buffalo is likely advancing this spring, going forward the Leafs would send the message they will be the better team.
And I do feel that way. The Sabres, like the Leafs, have some nice young players, Myers and Sekera not the least among those.
But the Leafs have Reimer (I know there’s no guarantee he will be next season what we have seen so far) and that emerging “Big Four” on defense, so my bets are on the Leafs to leapfrog past the Sabres next season, unless something out of the ordinary happens this summer.
I know, one-game stats in isolation don’t necessarily mean much, but I’m guessing MacArthur felt just a bit good after earning 3 points and being a plus 3 against his first NHL team.
A bit of a tough night for Gunnarsson, with that awkward bounce on
’s third goal, but he still played 25+ minutes. Buffalo
And Phaneuf. A whiff by Miller on that opening goal, sure, but the guy is playing hard minutes, ever night.