Oh well. They all earned it—and the Leafs haven’t.
As for the details of the Thursday night loss in Raleigh, my first reaction is: it’s one game. Did we expect the Leafs to win every night? This is a club that is without it’s presumptive first-string goalie (Reimer), perhaps it’s best all-around forward (Lupul) and the guy who has been a catalyst on the so-called third line (Frattin). That said, we can’t harp on injuries much, given that other teams (including the rival Senators) are having to dig deep to find enough bodies to field a team some nights in light of the mounting injuries they face.
Funny game. The Leafs had played some strong games of late, and had two full days off between games. Yet they didn’t seem to quite have their legs. There were plenty of turnovers and not the usual (at least recently) gusto going to the net. Would things have been different if the Liles point shot had gone in, instead of hitting the post, when it was still scoreless? Inches…
A few observations:
- Kadri is not the best defensive player on the team but he is making strides in that regard. There were a few blips in that part of his game Thursday night, but he also scored the team’s only goal, parking himself near the net on a power play. The puck seems to follow him around and those types of players are hard to find. (It’s ironic that he has been one of our most productive forwards, given how likely it is he had been on the trade table the last couple of years and would be gone by now if other teams had “bit” on certain trade offers.)
- Phaneuf has notched point the past few games for a simple reason—he has done a better job of keeping the puck low and on net from the point, as opposed to blasting it a million miles an hour off the back glass or a teammate’s ribs.
- I know people have been lauding Grabovski’s defensive play this season, but I’ll keep saying it: for what he is being paid as a premier second-line center, he also needs to produce offensively. Yes he is playing head-to-head against some top lines, but lots of guys do that and still contribute more on offense. Grabbo will have to as well. If this is just a short-term thing, no problem. But despite the team’s recent winning streak, I still, honestly, expect more from him—fair or not.
- Carlyle didn’t seem to impressed with Scrivens, but I thought he actually made a lot of big saves. If the Leafs had scored three or four goals on a more “normal” night, we might be praising Scrivens for keeping his team in the game. He made some pretty tough saves.
- For the anti-Kostka-ites, he led the team in ice team (over 24 minutes).
- The Leafs did a pretty good job killing off a five-on-three, with Fraser in particular catching my eye. They caught a couple of breaks in that sequence, too, but they hung on. Did anyone think, before the season started, that Holzer and Fraser would be the guys on defense killing a five-on-three?
- Orr was in another major-league tussle in the first period.
- Carlyle must have liked van Riemsdyk’s game, because the big forward played more than 23 minutes.
Bottom line, it seemed like one of those games that, if it happened in a regular 82-game season, you’d just toss it aside and say it was one of those nights where things didn’t go your way. And I still feel that way. It’s one game, nothing more, nothing less. Not many guys would get All-Star votes if someone was seeing them for the first time Thursday night, but the same could be said for any team in the league on any given night.
I think the Leafs, if they play with the energy they have usually demonstrated so far and stick to Carlyle’s system, should be a handful most nights. And that’s all we can ask for—this season.
That said, the bar will be a lot higher going forward…