I figured you wouldn’t mind an Elton John reference to kick things off. The Winnipeg game was, well, different. For a while, it was indeed ‘Saturday night’s alright for fighting” as Elton crooned years ago. Orr and Holzer dropped the gloves for the Leafs. But more importantly, we saw another Leaf comeback, rather similar to what they managed against the Penguins exactly a week ago. (For his part, Bogosian netted 17 minutes in penalties in the first period for the Jets, so he was plenty rested in time to finally score the shootout winner.)
This one was alternately exhilarating and infuriating for most Leaf fans, I’m guessing.
Losing in a lengthy shootout hurts, but the comeback saved a point, at least. And kudos to Reimer. He joined the game late, and was not tested much in the third. But in the shootout, he stood his ground and used his quick reflexes to make some big-time stops and keep giving the Leafs a chance.
A few general observations/questions:
- Despite my suggestion in my last post that it was time for Reimer to largely run with the ball, Carlyle started Scrivens (I had a feeling the coach wasn’t listening…). Were you fine with that?
- I’ll keep this(yet another) Kadri reference short. We’re all seeing the same thing. This season, Kadri makes whomever Carlyle puts on his line better. Lupul’s first game back, Kadri sets up his two goals. The young center has eyes everywhere, witnessed by his pass to set up the goal that got the Leafs back to 4-3 late in the second and created momentum going into the third.
- The Jets are not a team that I feel is ready for prime time—and the pressure of the playoffs. I’m sure their fans feel the same about the Leafs. Like the Leafs, Winnipeg has some really nice young talent, some hard workers, some limited players. (They also have, like most clubs, hot and cold goaltending.) These are two flawed squads who, when they work hard and smart, can win games. But emphasis on “flawed”. I’d like to see them both make the playoffs. We'll see.
- Every time Kulemin has scored the past two seasons I say it should help his confidence. I won't bother this time.
- Fraser is one steady Leaf. As you know I was a non-believer but I've changed gears. A limited player, but when you understand your limits and play within them, he’s proving that kind of defender can be more than just OK at this level. I have to say though, Franson is a big part of the effectiveness of that defense pairing.
- Did you like Lupul trying to engage the crowd from the Leaf bench after his second goal? I sure did. I wished he had stood up and pulled an Eddie Shack (see Eddie, right, in one of my favourite early '60s action shots of him, off his feet going after a Bruin...) and try to get the fans really going…
- As I suspected, Lupul had the adrenaline flowing in his first game back and was active most of the night. He dished out some big hits to go along with his offensive contribution. It sure will help to have another player with offensive flair in this lineup.
- Carlyle’s line juggling: desperation or smart and timely?
- Is Kessel actually “playing better” or is the puck just going in for him? (Nice feed from Bozak, eh, on the 4-4 goal...)
- The Jets were clearly off their game after the Leafs scored to get within one late in the middle frame. Did Winnipeg get a shot on goal in the first, what, almost ten minutes in the third period? Once tested, Reimer did make a big stop on Miettenen, I think it was, mid-way through the third. The stop on the Kane wraparound in the dying seconds helped, too.
- I’m not saying they are similar types of defensemen, but will Gunnarsson and Phaneuf now play the big minutes and be our modern-day Kaberle and McCabe?
Five games without a “win”—are you concerned, or confident things will be fine?