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Sharks—and bounces—bite the Leafs

As I mentioned recently, individual game outcomes don’t matter as much as what Leaf fans can see evolving with this Leaf team.

It will be interesting to see if the post-Phaneuf euphoria will wear off, or if this group will indeed adopt, permanently, a harder-edged attitude and mental toughness they will need to make true gains next season, when outcomes will matter again.

The Sharks won last night, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s not about who won, but how are we playing? The Sharks scored three goals, each a result of some kind of deflection or bounce. That’s not an excuse, simply the way things unfolded in a game that could have gone the Leafs’ way.

So the Giguerre bubble burst, but that streak couldn’t last much longer, anyway, and there was precious little he could do about the odd bounces last night.

What I do like is that there seems to be (and again, we’ll see if that lasts) genuine enthusiasm on the bench. It’s almost like the players are in a different environment all of a sudden.

Some post-game reflections:
  • At the risk of repeating myself, Bozak continues to show things every night that demonstrate he may well belong at this level, next season. It takes more than a few weeks to “prove” yourself as a player, but he shows enough attributes most nights (playmaking, face-off skills, going to the front of the net on the second goal) that he should be a significant contributor in the years to come. He’s not mistake-free but I like a lot of what I’m seeing. You would think he should only get better

  • It’s good to see Kessel scoring. But for me, my next time really assessing him will be when the games matter—if and when the Leafs are next fighting for a playoff berth

  • I’m not a big fan of “emergency call-ups”. Nothing to do with Kadri. It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s a lot to expect a 19 year-old to head down the highway on short notice and play his fourth game in five nights—and play significant minutes. For Kadri though, he may have gained valuable awareness of what he’ll be facing when he plays men in mid-season

  • The little things do indeed make a difference. On the first San Jose goal, the Leafs (Mitchell) lost a draw cleanly, he got caught in traffic and a funny bounce later, the puck is in the net

  • On the second Sharks goal, tired players (Ponikarovsky and Kessel) couldn’t make a play in their own zone. A turnover and another bounce and it’s 2-1. It’s amazing. The game nowadays is played at such a fast pace that when shifts go a few seconds too long, even superbly-conditioned athletes are gassed

  • We’ll see how the Sharks do in the playoffs. They have been an outstanding team for years, but for whatever reason have struggled in the playoffs, albeit in the really tough Western conference. They seem to have a nice mix of veterans and youth, talent and grit, and of course, solid goaltending. If they don’t win it all soon, though, they’ll be thought of like the Indianapolis Colts (though in fairness, though Colts have won one Super Bowl)—a really good, but never great, team.

  • How good is Thornton? He may not score 50 goals a season but he sure makes sweet passes, over and over. No wonder he has tons of assists every season. You would think that, if the Sharks ever win a Cup (since that seems to play a role in the decision-making, fair or not), he’ll be a lock for the Hall-of-Fame

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