Custom Search

Leafs can’t close the deal against the Pens; while Crosby instills fear, a bit like Bobby Orr…..

It was that close:  the Leafs played pretty darn well.  Scrivens looked sharp.  Liles was back in the lineup. Fraser was blocking shots and taking guys out of the play.  McClement led a great penalty-killing unit yet again. Bozak scored a beauty from Franson and Kessel.  Kadri had some jump and was all over the ice.

But guys do get tired, especially when you have two players each only playing two minutes a night.

It was the biggest game of the year for the blue and white, and they played that way all night.  A win against an elite team would have been a nice jumpstart after a tough game in Winnipeg.  They gave what they had and just couldn’t quite close the deal at the end.  And there was one player who turned the tide for the Penguins.


There’s nothing I can really say about Sidney Crosby that will be something you haven’t heard before or seen yourself over the last few years.  He’s that skilled, that smart, that good.

While it’s always difficult to say any one player is “better” than everyone else in the league, if anyone is, it’s the still young Penguins forward.

But the one thing I wanted to share after watching Sid take on the Leafs a couple of times within the last week is this:  every once in a while there is a player on an opposing team that, when they are on the ice, you have a sense of fear.  You’re afraid of what they can do with the puck.  You know that if they get any space at all, they just might score a goal or set one up. They control the game like no one else does.

When I was a little kid in the very early 1960s, that “fear factor” hit me whenever the Leafs were facing certain teams and Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and (later) Bobby Orr were on the ice.  I was such a devout little Leaf fan that whenever Howe was on the ice—and I’d be listening on the radio or watching on our little old black and white TV—I’d be so nervous I would shake a bit until Howe was off the ice. I knew what Howe could do and I just couldn’t relax while he was on the ice.

 It was the same, only worse, with Orr (right).  He was so fast, so strong at both ends of the ice and such a remarkable player that he literally controlled the flow of the game.  Trying to get the puck away from Orr was…well, you just couldn’t do it.  (He must have been the best ‘keep away’ guy in the world playing pond hockey as a kid…)

And while I certainly wouldn't try to suggest that Crosby is “as good” a player as Orr—who was the finest player I’ve ever seen—every time we get a chance to see Crosby in action, he does something that amazes us.  On Thursday night, there was Crosby at the end of the first period dancing around the ice, no Leaf able to contain him.  He came perilously close to setting up the game’s first goal.

Then in the second period, he tried to bat a puck out of the air to bank it in off Scrivens, the kind of spur-of-the-moment, instinctive play an Orr or Gretzky would try to make.  They have the smarts and the ability not just to anticipate but also to think so quickly on their skates that they are constantly dangerous.

In the third, he made a no-look behind the back pass to Dupuis to set up the tying goal, and then made a crucial defensive play with his stick to prevent Kessel’s pass to van Riemsdyk, who was wide open and waiting at the side of the Penguin net. The play went up ice and the Kunitz set up what would prove to be the winner with two minutes left.

If he stays healthy, I don’t know where Crosby will land in people’s minds when it comes to the “best of all-time”.   But I do know this:  right now, he is as good as there is in the game.  And whenever he is on the ice, I know where he is and it reminds me, as a Leaf fan, of what it was like years ago watching Howe, Hull, Orr and yes, Gretzky.

Maybe out there somewhere is a young Leaf fan that experiences that same sense of fan “dread” when Sid is on the ice that I did way back when.

If anyone can create that reaction nowadays, my guess is, it’s Crosby.


  1. Michael,

    Sidney sure is a wonderful talent, and during the game last night. It was mentioned that he may be an even better person. What a backhand pass to set up Dupuis. He is so good at puck possession it gives him a lot of time to make a wonderful play. I don't think there is anyone in the league with his ability to shield the puck from the opposition. Perhaps, Datsyuk in Detroit, that would be an interesting game. Sid the Kid against Pavel, head to head. Well done today. I wonder a lot if Toronto will ever have a player of his magnitude wear the blue and white.

  2. Yes, Datsyuk is awfully gifted as well, Jim. These are generational talents, as were Orr, Howe, Hull, Gretzky, Lemieux before him. Thanks Jim.

  3. I think even many players would agree that Sid is the best in the league right now. Definitely a threat whenever he's on the ice, and a gifted playmaker as well. But where I believe he excels, and where the Leafs are currently lacking, is in his desire and determination to win. He simply refuses to "take a breath", as Franson described the Leaf's late letdown. And that's the kind of player a team needs if it's going to succeed.

  4. You said it, Gerund O'- that's one of many reasons he is special- "won't take a breath..."....

  5. A couple of years back there was some discussion of who was better, Ovi or Sid. It's not even close anymore. Crosby had concussion issues and has come back just fine, while Ovi seems to have lost what made him special. At this point Crosby is without a doubt the best in the game.

    For me, "the fear" came when Gretzky played against the Leafs. I did not see Orr play, so as Crosby is now, Gretzky was (as least for me) the best player I had a chance to watch.

    Last night we almost had it. What would have happened if the Komarov breakaway was a Kadri breakaway? When we win those kind of games constantly, we won't be wondering if we make the playoffs, but how far we can go.

  6. As a Leaf fan, you just know Crosby can "hurt" you at anytime. He's just that good and that determined.

    Yes, it was oh-so-close last night. Those "moments" made the difference. Both Kadri and Komarov had great chances. When they don't go in, it sometimes opens the door for the other guys.

    Hopefully folks are seeing the Leafs are still doing some good things- played not bad at all in Boston last week; a comeback Saturday night; some solid play last night. It's not that different than when they were "winning". The difference is not always how they play, but breaks and outcome. Thanks portuguese leaf.