Just a few game notes from an entertaining night at the ACC…
- I don’t see the outcome (a loss) Wednesday night as related to injuries, or the Leafs being back at home for their first game after a long road trip. The Leafs had plenty of rest and had guys back in the line-up. They played hard. The Bruins just keep coming at you. They have won, what, 11 of their last 12 games—and lost the other in overtime. They have a few stars, sure, but also have a bunch of guys named Peverley, if you know what I mean. The problem for opponents is, every guy on every line can play at both ends of the ice and can really grind it out—and wear you down.
- The Lupul goal in the second period was really something. How many seconds did it take for Schenn to made a perfect headman pass to Kessel, who burst down the wing and deposited a crisp pass on Lupul’s stick, only to see his linemate convert? Felt like maybe three seconds. Wow.
- Kessel “only” had 3 thots on goals, but he was dangerous again most of the night and had several other attempts blocked. He looks so confident these days.
- Gardiner almost set up a goal when it was 4-2 Boston early in the third. You just know that the points will start to come in bunches for the young defensemen. He can generate opportunities from the back end and knows when to jump into the play. He could have a ton more assists this season, based on the good passes he has made.
- And, from the stating-the-obvious category: everything Gardiner does, he looks relaxed. In the dying seconds, the puck bounced to him in front of the empty Leaf net; he just calmly placed the puck at his feet and moved it up ice quickly. No wasted motion.
- Frattin’s third period marker doesn’t make up for all the close calls he just missed earlier in the season, but it helps a bit. He deserves some breaks.
- Can you imagine what would be said if Gustavsson had allowed the type of goal Tim Thomas did against Frattin in the third? But Thomas, as unorthodox as he is, has a Cup on his resume. Jonas doesn’t have that—or Thomas’ track record.
- Schenn had a lot of good moments in the game. The bad ice might have let him down in the third, when he couldn’t clear from behind his own net. The Bruins (Krejci) applied pressure and then Schenn could not tie up Lucic’s stick. Game over.
- Like of lot of fans, I like Joey Crabb. He’d fit in well on the Bruins, eh, the way they play? So, he should be a contributor with the Leafs, too, or at least fighting for a roster spot when the Leafs are even better than they are now.
Anyone want to bet Reimer starts in Boston Saturday? You know, start him in a road game to ease the pressure after a long absence? Just a guess.
I still have vivid memories of specific plays and moments from all kinds of Leaf playoff series in the 1960s and ‘70s, so I’m sure Leaf fans now well remember how exciting things were early last decade, when the Leafs were involved in some tremendous playoff action.
It felt like we played the Senators every spring (we pretty much did…). Oh, and the Flyers—that was hard-nosed hockey, wasn’t it? The Devils burst our bubble, for sure. And while it was hardly a “rivalry” series, we all recall the Hurricane-Leaf showdown in 2002. We never should have lost that series. The Leafs would have been in the finals against Detroit.
So even though we haven’t seen playoff hockey in these parts in a while, it was not a stretch, while watching the Bruins visit the ACC on Tuesday night, to picture something I have to believe most any Leaf fan of any age would dearly love to see: a 7-game playoff series with a fellow “Original Six” franchise.
Who doesn’t want to see that?
The Leafs now have the kind of defense that that should be able to compete in the playoffs. Schenn, Phaneuf and Komisarek provide sandpaper and Gardiner, Liles and Franson have offensive skills. Gunnarsson is a wonderful all-around player, so while we may have some breakdowns and soft moments at times, they should certainly be able to compete, though we have to concede that playoff hockey is much tougher than we see most of the year.
The Bruins in particular are a team Leaf fans love to hate nowadays. I don’t think fans hate Tim Thomas (c’mon, he’s an awfully nice guy), but he has stoned the Leafs often enough that he’s an opponent Toronto would like to beat. Lucic is enemy number-one in a lot of rinks, and Leaf fans don’t take a beat seat, I sense, in their distaste for the tough and productive Boston winger.
Of course, there is the obvious Kessel-Seguin “angle”, not to mention Colborne’s arrival with the big club here, which would only serve to heighten interest in a lengthy playoff series. We’re kidding ourselves if we try to say that most (not all, but an awful lot) of fans in both cities—and across Canada—would not be watching and comparing how the principals in those two big Leaf-Bruin trades were performing under the bright playoff lights.
All in all, we just want to see playoff hockey in Toronto. But other than Montreal (and that would be special, yes) I’m not sure there is another current NHL team that would generate that extra dose of intensity in a series that the Bruins would.
Do you agree?