Before some brief thoughts on the Monday-nighter at the ACC, a parting thought on the departed Mike Brown: any player, no matter how long or short a stay he has with the blue and white, will always be fondly remembered if he left everything he had on the ice, regardless of skill level, when he was here. That's just the way Leaf fans are. Whether it's Brian Spencer (seen in early '70s game action right, against Bob Plager and the St. Louis Blues), Rocky Saganiuk, Brad “Motor City Smitty” Smith, Brad Marsh, Gary Roberts or Tie Domi, we generally love individuals who play hard- and tough. Mike Brown will forever be one of those guys. He gave the Leafs—and we fans—everything he had. Last season, when not many guys were willing to step up and be counted, Brown finished his checks and fought regularly on behalf of teammates. He did it this season, too. Edmonton is getting a useful, dedicated team guy.
I’m not suggesting we should not have made the deal. We need some roster spots soon. But kudos to Brown for playing with a lot of heart here, and for making himself valuable enough to be worth at least a fourth-round draft choice, and maybe more. He's still helping the Leafs.
One related comment. It’s funny. We were playing sometimes with three “tough-guys”, two of them (McLaren and Orr) thought to be one-dimensional by many Leaf fans. There is a belief in Leafland that that was too much of the same kind of player to have in the lineup on any given night- and maybe that’s true. But in the same breath, an injury to Orr or McLaren and suddenly we’re down to one player of that ilk. Still, Nonis had to make a move. It makes sense.
Kadri is the most dangerous guy the Leafs have right now. In fact he has been almost all season. Kessel has been our biggest threat for years, a high-skill guy who can do also things at high speed. But there seem to be more dimensions, to use that word again, in Kadri’s game. Phil has some staple moves, and he continues to set up sweet opportunities for linemates most nights. But Kadri is one of those players with eyes in the back of his head. He has a knack for seeing the whole ice surface and knowing where to be—and where his teammates will be. I know there have been some Gilmour comparisons and there’s a long way to go before that’s a thing. But he’s impressing a lot of people right now. His goal against the Devils was of the fluky variety, but his set up of MacArthur for the lead goal in the third was a beauty—and far from the only time he was a threat on the night.
- Let’s remember Kadri’s opening goal if he goes dry later this season. When you’re hot and catching breaks, too, those somehow end up in the net. When you’re not, nothing goes in, it seems.
- Given the opposition, (albeit a struggling Devil squad- I think they had lost 7 of their last 9 games), you have to be impressed with the Leafs collecting themselves and finding a way to come back in the third period against a normally stingy New Jersey squad.
- Even the best two-way players make mistakes: A Patrick Elias miscue turned the game around on McClement’s tying goal in the opening seconds of the third period. (McClement had another nice night, doing a lot of small things that help win games besides scoring a goal.)
- Kessel scored at the ACC (which hasn’t happened lately and should help him a bit) on a gorgeous feed from van Riemsdyk. Not everyone can make that pass. (Gunnarsson started that play very smartly…)
- I did notice that, in the second period, Phil was in on a two-on-one, and while he is never afraid to shoot, he passed—and it didn’t work. I thought there was an opportunity to drive right to the net himself, but that’s not always something he likes to do—and it’s something I sometimes wish he was more willing to do.
- Elias had a chance to redeem himself when the score was 3-2 Toronto but Reimer made a huge (and awfully timely) save going post to post. Given his lengthy absence, it will uplifting if Reimer is “back”—and he looked it Monday night.
You no doubt have other observations on a game that didn’t look all that promising through two periods, but the Leafs were full measure for the win in the end.
A question for you: with Reimer back and Lupul and Frattin returning, is there a reason the Leafs could not compete with the Devils in the playoffs? It’s just one game but it does get a fan thinking…