Kessel hit the post and followed that up through the course of the night with several other glorious opportunities, as the legendary Hab play-by-play voice Danny Gallivan used to say. Somehow, Kessel didn’t find the back of the net—for the 9th game in a row.
I’m not sure who let the air out of the proverbial balloon between the first and second periods, but I’m not quite sure who those guys were as the game went on. They didn’t look like the Leafs we saw in the first twenty minutes, when it looked like they might win this one going away. Yes, we could point to Bozak’s goal that was disallowed (would have made the game 2-2 in the second period) as a turning point, and there’s no question that goal would have been a momentum boost. But things just seemed to spiral downward for whatever reason.
I really liked Reimer’s competitiveness, not that that is ever a surprise. He always plays hard. One goal went in off a defensemen’s skate. The one on the five-on-three power play goal in the third period that gave Carolina a two-goal cushion, he actually made a remarkable save. The puck barely crossed the line. I’m not blaming Reimer in any way for this one. He has been solid this season and even the “bad” goals have been fewer and fewer the more he plays, which should be a good sign from here on out.
But after a 4-1 loss, which sees the Leaf record drop to 4 wins and 5 losses on the season (and not a very nice home record so far this season, eh?), I do want to gauge your view on something.
I would normally wait until we have played 10 games in a normal season to ask you for this assessment, but in a lockout-shortened season, let’s not stand on ceremony. Here’s the simple question: 9 games in and a road trip beckoning, and with many hopeful and positive things to talk about this so far this young season (as I posted here yesterday), who are the players that have pleasantly surprised you with their play so far?
Conversely, who has disappointed you?
I’ll only mention Kessel in this context: we can see that the guy can’t buy a goal. My view on Phil has been consistent for a long time. I think he plays pretty much the same all the time. Loves to fly around out there, shoot, make plays, cut to the middle of the ice on his off wing. And when the puck is going in, everyone is thrilled with Phil the Thrill and what he does.
However, when the puck is not finding holes, fans tend to be less enamored of his play—though I’ll say it again—I don’t often see a difference in how he plays most games, other than on some nights, the puck happens to go in.
TV analysts are now saying he needs a new linemate, or should drive to the net. Well, on the first point, sure, perhaps give another center a shot. Maybe Grabovski, maybe Kadri. But on the second point, that’s not the kind of player Kessel is. He’s not going to stand in front of the net on the power play. He doesn’t often “drive to the net” in the conventional sense. He’s a skater, a shooter and a playmaker. Heck, Monday night, he made a gorgeous pass that not many guys could make in the third period as he was about to go behind the Carolina net, a deft little move, and van Riemsdyk couldn’t finish. It happens.
Grabbo, well, I need to see more, if I’m being honest. Phaneuf started the season on fire as he did a year ago. Some are blaming his less effective play of late on Kostka. I’m more apt to look at the guy making 6 million a year—the one who can’t shoot the puck low and somewhere where his frightened teammates can do something with his shot.
But this is your forum today. Who have you really liked so far, and who needs to pick up their game, in your estimation. Fire away….
Episode 30 of the "Leaf Matters podcast is now available. The topic: can the Leafs make the playoffs this season? You can hear the show on iTunes or via the Podalmighty Network.