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Who you gonna call? Grabbo

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 Buffalo 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.

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 Toronto the last few times the two clubs have played.

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 Buffalo’s third goal, but he still played 25+ minutes. 

And Phaneuf.  A whiff by Miller on that opening goal, sure, but the guy is playing hard minutes, ever night.


  1. Might be time to join the brotherhood, Michael. ;)

  2. KidK...believe me, I'm almost there! He just keeps delivering...(I checked the link...good stuff...)

  3. A really good hockey man can spot talent. Stafford Smythe used to say, "It sticks out like a sore thumb," I always believed that Kessel would deliver; sometimes the key is in getting it all to click. Here is a motto I live by. It comes from Ernest Hemingway: "There is no failure of talent, just failure of character."
    Being a Leaf, in the truest sense of the word, is all about character.

  4. Grabbo has surprised me, too. At the end of last year, I remember thinking he and Kulemin showed promise, but I wouldn't have predicted they'd both be pushing 30 goals. I've loved watching their line all year.
    I agree with your assessment of Boyce, Brent , Crabb et al. To my eyes, the Leafs started their turnaround when BBC showed up. Along with Armstrong, Sjostrom and Brown, they displayed a grit we haven't seen in a while. And I'd throw Rosehill in there too. Opposing D-men get rid of the puck faster when he's cruising around. I find him a more complete player than Orr, who has too many meaningless fights IMHO.
    I don't share your assessment of Kadri though. First time up he was easily pushed off the puck, and seemed to make the wrong decision too often. My guess is he was trying too hard to impress. This time around he's made far fewer poor choices, and has picked more appropriate spots for his "flashy" plays. His coverage in the defensive zone seems stronger as well.
    As for Miller - well, I think the Leafs new mojo is as responsible as any end-of-season fatigue he's feeling. Phaneuf's shot had a funny rise on it - I'm not sure any goalie would have stopped it. The increased traffic in front of the net - something the Leafs haven't bothered many goalies with over the past few years - also played a part. I like Miller, but he's not quite as invincible as we've made him seem!
    As I've said before, we're not likely to make the playoffs this year, but "wait until next year" really has excitement behind this time!

  5. Thanks for your post, Elizabeth. The Smythe family knew hockey players.

    And Gerund O', I think we're almost on the very same page. The sandpaper shown by Brown and all those you cite has made a huge difference. We all know that the Leafs, since the end of the '04 season, have not been hard enough to play against. They aren't easy to play against anymore.

    As for Kadri, you may well be more accurate in your assessment than I am. I think he is indeed playing harder, smarter(though there was a potentially critical turnover in the second period in the Sabre game that could have been costly.) You know me- as I've posted before, I just think sometimes we say a guy is playing better simply because the puck is going in, when otherwise a guy's game is pretty much the same.

    But the clock is far from running out on Kadri, for sure. He may well turn heads next season. We'll see.