Please excuse any typos today- I wanted to get this up soon after the Ranger game...
I’ve probably watched old Seinfeld and Frasier episodes more than a grown man ever should, but of the many ‘highlights’ from those two classic sitcoms, one moment stands out: it is the Frasier episode where his Seattle radio show is critiqued by a focus group. Frasier’s program receives universally rave reviews—except for one solitary individual. That individual really doesn’t want to disclose his opinion, but when pushed, rather than follow the crowd and proclaim his love for the show, he admits he’s not really a fan. When nudged further (and Frasier is actually watching this unfold through a one-way mirror), the naysayer finally, when asked what he doesn’t like about the show, says simply, “I just don’t like him”.
The rest of the episode sees Frasier ignoring all the positive feedback. He obsesses over the one bit of criticism and seeks out the solitary critic. In the end, he inadvertently burns down the guy’s newsstand.
But the moral (it’s not really a moral, I guess) of the story, for me, is simply this: sometimes, there are people we just don’t like. It’s not fair. We may have a hard time explaining, even to ourselves, just why we feel the way we do. But we do.
Well, that’s how I feel about Rangers coach John Tortorella. Good NHL coach, obviously. Hey, he won a Cup (well, his players won a Cup) in Tampa. He’s done a nice job in bringing the Rangers back, after years in the wilderness under long-time GM Glen Sather, who surely wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame based on his Ranger years, eh?
In any event, there’s just something I don’t like about Tortorella. I know plenty of fans like his caustic ‘straight from the hip’ approach from the media. But me, I just find him acerbic and tremendously condescending. He just comes across as a real… well, let’s just say he seems awfully prickly to me. He takes himself awfully seriously.
I’m probably in a minority. But we share here, so, I shared.
Though New York has struggled early in this mini 2012-’13 NHL season, the Leafs won’t face many lineups better than the Rangers this season. And Toronto did a lot of good things in their match-up with a superior Ranger squad Saturday night.
Let’s start with Reimer. He made 37 saves on 41 shots, and kept the Leafs in the lead until well into the final period on Saturday night. He made all kinds of good stops—off rebounds, deflections, with the glove, etc. He seemed at ease and in control.
One subtle, little thing told me that Reimer is feeling pretty good, and may be his old self soon. A few minutes into the third period, Reimer made an ordinary save on a backhand shot. After the whistle, before giving the puck to the linesman, he flipped the puck casually out of his glove and intentionally ‘caught’ it on the back side of his catching glove. He was having fun, and was relaxed and enjoying the moment.
Yes, the Rangers went on to score four goals (one into an empty net) but Reimer stood his ground as the game went on, as the Leafs pretty much wilted around him.
I like what I saw of Reimer against New York. Despite two crappy goals against Pittsburgh, he has looked pretty sharp—and confident this season—to me. He has played by far the better opposition so far, as compared with Scrivens—the Pens and New York.
Is he “back”? I don’t know. But one moment told me he feels pretty good. And I won’t let another third period struggle—and loss— by his over-matched teammates convince me he’s the problem.
I said I liked a lot about what the Leafs did Saturday night, and I did. They battled about as hard as they could, for the most part. The Rangers are a big, physical, shot-blocking team. (Hell, Boyle was blocking shots with seconds left and the Rangers up by three; they take this stuff seriously over there…)
But the fact is, the third period kind of showed how and why we are still a long ways away from, well, being a contender of any serious description. We can complain that Lupul is out, and that MacArthur went down with a hand injury as well during the game, but c’mon. All kinds of teams have been decimated by injuries already in this young season. The Leafs are an NHL team and, like every other team, will have to utilize their system depth to compete. Injuries can’t be an excuse.
The bigger issue is not just depth, but whether we can play the kind of physical, line-matching, grinding hockey that Carlyle wants them to play. I love van Riemsdyk going to the net again to score a goal. That’s great to see. I saw a Leaf (was it Kadri or Kostka, I couldn’t tell?) slamming into the Lead net, trying to break up an empty net goal when the game was already out of reach. These guys are trying. But while I do not want to over-analyze a handful of games, weaknesses are beginning to show—even when we play hard.
It’s not a surprise that we are fighting the odds; it’s just that fans are hoping for better results, even against those odds...
Grabovski seemed to win a lot of draws against the Rangers, though I have n idea what his ‘stats” were by the end of the night. I generally liked his game, too. I especially liked that, after Callahan flattened him up against the boards ( a bit of a dirty hit, I thought, rather like Phaneuf on Tavares the other night) Grabosvki came back and scored against Lundqvist. I’m sure that reminded a lot of Leaf fans of Grabbo’s stunning comeback after being crunched by Chara in Boston a couple of years ago—and how he returned to score a gorgeous winning goal.
Clearly, a big hit does not detour the Leaf pivot. He’s not a perfect player, but he usually gives us what he has, and some nights, it’s plenty good enough.
I know Kosta is being tested a lot, now five games into his emerging NHL career. At the age of 27, he is suddenly playing at a more elite level than ever before. And while he has struggled at times (minus 4, like Phaneuf, last night—though the last was an empty-netter) , he is logging tons of minutes and working his tail off. Both he and the captain played about 32 minutes Saturday night. Honestly, that’s too much. But I like the guy his play and his attitude. Whether he can continue to be an impact, big minute guy, through the end of the season, I don’t know. But I appreciate the energy he is bringing to the table every single night so far. He has skill, hockey smarts and a lot of determination.
Gunnarsson is frustrating me a little bit. VLM readers know I have long been a Gunner supporter, but I’m just seeing too many little bits of brain cramps, tiny errors, being soft on the man, those little things that have led to key goals against already this season. His stats may look OK—and yes, I still like a lot of the subtle things that he does well—but he is not as good as we need him to be so far.
Well, we lost with Komisarek in the lineup, though he played fairly solidly again, I thought. Before the game, many fans were hoping he would be back in the lineup. How things have changed, eh? I’d like to see him get his confidence back, and contribute going forward.
Kessel? I’ll have some thoughts on him over the next few days….
I’m guessing the Leafs, who keep showing positive signs in every game, will be working on some things on Monday. A couple of days without a game has to help, before they go to Buffalo Tuesday night.
Stay positive—and hopeful. It will be tough sledding, I sense, but there are some good signs.