We can’t say the Leafs haven’t been exciting to watch—they won their home opener after losing on opening night in Ottawa in overtime. They’ve subsequently lost in overtime in Winnipeg (where they had that 4-0 lead), fell short in Minnesota losing by a goal, then could not quite hang on to that 4-2 lead in Chicago Saturday night, eventually grabbing one point in that shootout loss.
While it may be frustrating that the Leafs have not been able to consistently turn leads into victories, it’s hard to find fault with the team. On the one hand they are extremely young, and we don’t exactly have a room full of old-timers who have a lot of experiencing at shutting things down on the defensive side in these close games. I sense every guy is giving what they’ve got—at least that’s the way it appears to me.
Some perspective: they’ve played most of their games this young season on the road. It’s never easy to win on the road, and perhaps especially so for a team lacking overall in NHL experience. Getting points is tough in Chicago at the best of times, and the Leafs now have managed 5 points in five games. Fans can understandably rue the fact that the Leafs don’t have at least a couple more points in the standings, but I tend to think they’ll be a stronger club as the season wears on for having had this early season road trip.
I’d be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on Andersen’s play in goal so far. He certainly looks like a guy who can play. He’s not been able to close the door late in close game so far, but he also made some big stops in overtime against Chicago.
Usually third-period breakdowns and late game lapses are a team thing. It’s not just the goaltender. For example, Toronto had a chance to clear the zone just before Chicago’s fourth goal Saturday night. Were the Toronto forwards thinking about scoring in the empty net, when they should mostly have just been trying to ensure the puck got out over the blueline?
I don’t know the answer to that question. In fairness, players make decisions in a split second. But I know this: the lapses we may see on occasion certainly don’t stem from a lack of effort. This young group can skate and fly around the ice. And none of the kids looks like they don’t belong at this level.
- Ex-(albeit briefly) Maple Leaf Richard Panik had to be happy to score that late goal for Chicago. The Leafs didn’t see him as a long term fit here, but he’s one of those role guys that may well fit very nicely with the Hawks, a team with a lot of star power but with limited funds to pay beyond their high-prices guys. They always seem to find cost-effective third and fourth liners.
- Hossa is still quite a player. That itself is not a revelation. But I remember the sentiment years ago when he was a young player in Ottawa. He was seen as very talented, but his teams didn’t “win”. Things have certainly changed and a lot of us have been proven wrong. After many years as a burgeoning star on that up and coming Senators in the early 2000s, he nearly helped Detroit capture a Cup in the spring of 2009. He went on to become one of the missing links in Chicago, as he has been a stellar performer in seven seasons in the Windy City as the Hawks have won three championships. Hossa will finish his splendid NHL career with well over than 500 regular season goals and maybe 1,200 points, along with another 150 plus points in the playoffs. Hall of Fame for our old-time Ottawa rival? (It’s much like Daniel Alfredsson—I was not an Alfie guy at all, but by the end of his career, I had a lot of respect for him. He earned it…Just like I used to hate all those great old Montreal player sin the ‘60s and ‘70s but over time, I grew to admire them.)
- I am likely a lone voice in the wilderness on this one, but I’m not a big fan of the three-on-three overtime. At least I’m consistent. I’ve never liked regular-season overtime. I know it’s immensely entertaining and I also recognize that that’s the big thing in sports—everything in this mega-dollar world has to be “entertaining”. I’ve always liked ties in hockey, in the sense that if two teams played to a tie, that’s what you get—one point each. Take your point and move on to the next game. But saying a team “lost” a game because they gave up a goal in a three-on-three river hockey game, or worse, a shootout, just doesn’t work for me. And, it messes up the standings with all these extra points.
- On that note, since the NHL is so committed to overtime (and I guess the star players like it because it builds up their stats, which means higher salaries…) at least do what they do in the World championships. There, don’t teams that win in regulation get three points (like in soccer)? But if you win in overtime, you get two points while the losing teams still gets one point?
Finally, I was pleased to see Bobby Orr say publicly that the red line needs to come back. I too think the game is just too fast nowadays. I know people love speed and all that, but sometimes…well, I realize I’m sounding like a real old-timer now…