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Lightning post-game

• It’s good to know Gustavsson will be the man in goal the rest of the way, health-permitting. As I’ve suggested previously, he will clearly be the guy next season. While he makes mistakes, he’s a big goalie who can move who should only get better as he becomes more accustomed to the North American game. He can hopefully grow into the role of a true number-one goaltender.

• As soon as the game hit overtime, my first thought was of Mats Sundin. Through the years, he was a dangerous guy for the Leafs 4-on-4 in regular-season extra-time. With more room on the ice, his ability to take the puck on his backhand and bull rush his way around the net and make a play was not an infrequent sight. He was a guy that just gives you that deep confidence in those situations. Right now, I don’t have the feeling, when the Leafs reach OT, that they have a guy who will make it happen, or at least give them a great chance to win before it goes to a shoot-out.

• On a low-scoring team, Kulemin is quietly (albeit at a modest rate) putting up some points. He now has 19 points on the season and is a +2. Hardly staggering numbers, but a sign of things to come, I sense.

• Untimely penalties never help. Last night, a penalty with less than five minutes left set up the tying goal; the OT penalty led to the winning goal. When you’re losing (the Oilers are going through the same thing) not much goes right. You play well most of the night, but one or two mistakes seem to undo a lot of solid work. You take a lead but can’t hold it; or you fall behind right off the back, and have to scramble all night to catch up. All this leads to teams developing a fragile, tentative mindset.

• 45 points in 53 games for the Leafs. In this era where “extra” points are available, that just doesn’t get a team where it needs to go. Watching the Leafs most nights is very much like watching the same movie over and over again. You know what’s coming.

• As I’ve said more than once, every guy in the Leaf line-up is an NHL’er. Most nights they work hard, individually and as a team. And yes, on occasion you see a really nice plays and passes from players like Kaberle, Kessel, Stajan and others. But I just don’t get excited watching them. I guess I was spoiled a few years ago. Sundin would crank it up; Gary Roberts played with abandon; McCabe made mistakes but played with passion; Corson would do anything to block shots in the playoffs; Tucker was feisty; Cujo then Belfour kept them in games they had no business being in some nights; like him or not, Domi generally came to play. Role players would step up at big times (like the playoffs in 2002, when Sundin was injured). There were characters—and character—in the group. They never went all the way but the team at least had something of an identity from 1998-’99 to 2003-’04. I’m not sure what the current team’s identity is.

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