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Ponikarovsky off the edge: No Rocket, but…

For years, Leaf fans found the seemingly bound-at-the-hip duo of Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovsky infuriating.

We could see the talent. But it seemed to hibernate for lengthy periods before coming out of its slumber, and would seemingly sit, irritatingly, just beneath the surface.

Consistency was, to say the least, an issue.

When big Nik was finally moved on to Atlanta this past summer, it seemed inevitable that his former linemate would not be long for Toronto, as one of the relatively few seemingly tradeable assets in Burke’s rather lean cuisine cupboard.

Now, goodness knows fans have been on and off the Nik/Poni bandwagon enough over the years to have ankles that were beyond surgical repair. But as the Leafs win a few (perhaps without immediately turning around and losing a few—we’ll see) hope springs eternal, yet again. At least it springs.

What continues to catch my eye is that Ponikarovsky looks awfully formidable when he uses his size, speed and reach to bull-rush his way past defensemen to create real scoring opportunities for himself. That move is not something all players can do. (All-time Montreal great Rocket Richard is perhaps the most famous forward of all who would regularly come in on his off-wing and bull his way past a defenseman for a shot on goal.) It’s not like Ponikarovsky hasn’t done this on occasion in the past, but it’s fun to wonder if we will see it more often, if and as his confidence grows.

Fans aren’t exactly calling out his name from the rafters just yet, but it would take more than the occasional stirring rush to move the home crowd at the ACC.

Poni turns 30 in the spring. Hard to believe he has been around off and on for almost 10 years. If this turns into consistent performance, then we can say- better late than never.

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