Sometimes we Leaf supporters can be a bit, well, narrow in our thinking. We have definite opinions on what we like and don’t like about our club, our roster, and that makes sense because we see our guys play all the time. But we may not always have the breadth of knowledge that we would like to have about other teams around the league. So our opinions may not mean a whole heck of a lot, as they are based on rather limited first-hand knowledge. (Of course, this could also be said for many of the credentialed, mainstream NHL media types who vote on major awards, for example, yet rarely see other teams in action more than, at best, a handful of times a season—and base their votes on surface statistics.)
My comments may be especially true when it comes to the Western Conference.
The Predators are an example of what I’m talking about. How many Leaf fans, for example, could name all the players on the Nashville team? And how many of us really know what the Preds are all about? Oh, we may know that Barry Trotz is still the coach (and has been, amazingly, since Day One of the franchise) and David Poile is the longstanding the GM. I’m sure many Leafers recognize the almost venerable (relatively speaking) David Legwand—who is remains part of the glue that holds this franchise together after all these years. But beyond Shea Weber and maybe the rookie wunderkind, Seth Jones (and ex-Sen Mike Fisher, too), my guess is a lot of us don’t know much about the Preds. (By the way, if you’re interested in hearing about Legwand’s future, check out the most recent “Maple Leaf Hangout”, where respected blogger Dirk Hoag shares something most fans outside of Nashville probably have no clue about…)
We do know the Leafs ran over them in Nashville earlier this season behind Bernier—and we know that Bernier has a sterling track record against Nashville in his career. (I assume that is, in part, why the ex-King netminder started in goal for the blue and white on Thursday night.)
Believe me, I don’t know nearly enough about the current Preds. (For example, I know precious little about the goalie who played for Nashville against the Leafs—and by precious little I mean nothing.) But I do have high regard for the type of team the Predators have grinded their way to becoming since their inception under Poile and Trotz. They regularly compete for a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference, and display a work ethic that few NHL teams have consistently matched over the past decade and more. There is a “Predator way” of playing. They have an identity, which is not something the Leafs seem to have just yet.
So I wonder if we were perhaps (at least we fans) underestimating the Predators as they took on the Leafs at the ACC, especially without Rinne in goal due to injury?
Hey, maybe the Leafs did, too.
In any event, the Leafs came into the game with a glowing home record, but the Predators, after spotting Toronto an early lead, managed to take a bite out of the home side and walked away with a 4-2 victory, evening the now concluded (if I'm not mistaken) season series.
I’ll leave the game analysis to you. The Leafs still have a reasonably lofty record, and, as I often say here, this was only one game. But the Leafs have some tough sledding ahead of them schedule-wise, and the Capitals await on Saturday night. The Leafs will be home again and will welcome back our old friend—and still beloved by many in these parts—Mikhail Grabovski. Ovechkin seems to be back to being the ‘old’ Ovie, so given Grabbo’s presence, the Leaf effort Thursday night and it being a Hockey Night in Canada night matchup, there should be no lack of intensity in that one.