Because of that, I need some help. I was not able to follow the Leaf game until much later than usual, and I’m looking to VLM visitors to ”fill me in” on what you liked- and didn’t like.
I did happen to see, however, that Jake Gardiner was evidently a “healthy scratch”. I won’t go on—I’ll simply say I have absolutely no problem with Carlyle giving the talented young rearguard a seat in the press box. If you aren’t one of the ‘six best’ defenseman available, he’s no different than any other young player still trying to prove himself to the Leaf brass. As I’ve mentioned here recently and on the “Leaf Matters” podcast as well, I’ve not been satisfied with Gardiner's inability lately to handle the physical aspect of his job in his own zone ( most notably against the Bruins). And after a Panther forward swooshed around him a little too easily on Tuesday night, I’m pretty sure Carlyle had seen enough. (Those are the kinds of “plays” that, if any one of Komisarek, Kostka or Holzer—the Leaf whipping boys this season in the eyes of many fan— had made them, well, their critics would be all over their every error.)
These were the very things (I’m guessing) that Carlyle did not like in Gardiner’s game when the former Anaheim draft choice returned (too soon?) from injury to join the Leafs a bit after the lockout ended this season.
That will be, as I see it, one of Gardiner’s challenges come playoff time. He will face more forechecking than usual, and tougher play in the corners and around the Leaf net. It he adjusts well to that level of play, he’ll get plenty of ice time. If not, Carlyle may look elsewhere at crunch time—despite Gardiner's calm on-ice demeanor, the obvious skill set Gardiners brings at the offensive end of the ice and his ability to skate away from trouble.
From the little I saw, Kulemin seemed to have some jump (and that was before he unselfishly passed off to McClement for an empty-netter, and Kulemin's own marker moments later). A few goals and a bit of confidence usually goes to a player’s head—and legs. That seems to be the case with Kulemin- and Kadri has been part of the newfound confidence.
In any event, let me know what I missed—and what you saw. By the way, some of you may enjoy a piece a did some time ago, when I swear going to Church helped the Leafs win a Stanley Cup many, many years ago.