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Ponikarovsky as a Penguin like Poni as a Leaf; Marleau’s OT winner like the one that sunk the Leafs in ‘71

I was trying to think yesterday about all the players that the Leafs have moved over the past 18 months or so (and there have been many) and whether Leaf fans would want any of them back.

While some fans may wish the Leafs still had the second overall pick in the upcoming June draft, I don’t sense there is regret over the loss of any former players who have been traded, even if some have performed well elsewhere.

Which brings me to Alex Ponikarovsky. As a Leaf, he was a guy who tantalized us with his occasional moments of high skill, deft moves and power rushes coming off the edge. But while arguably “consistent” – he scored between 18 and 23 goals six years in a row in Toronto -- he was still a frustrating presence for fans most nights. His many individual skills rarely seemed to add up to the complete player he might have been. He was not as maddeningly inconsistent as long-time Leaf teammate Nik Atropov, but he was one of those players with unfulfilled promise, it seemed.

So Poni ended up with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He hasn't set the world on fire, but by all accounts plays steadily if unspectacularly. Now, I’m watching him in the playoffs and I am left with the same feeling I had when he was with the blue and white. A nice player who can contribute, but maybe a guy missing that ingredient that makes a player at that level an impact player.

Not everyone elevates their game just because they are surrounded by better players or is with a team in the playoffs. In fairness, there is a whole added layer of pressure playing for a top team, especially one that is expected to contend for the Cup again. There is still time for him to take that next step in these playoffs, not to mention the rest of his career. Maybe he has more to give. Or maybe he’s giving the Penguins exactly what they expected.

I’d be interested in hearing what others are thinking about Poni’s play as the playoffs unfold.


Patrick Marleau’s goal in overtime in Detroit last night brought back memories of another OT winner that cost the Maple Leafs back in 1971.

Last night, the Wings took a shot that missed the net and went around the boards and all the way out to center ice. By the time Joe Thornton corralled the loose puck, he was already away on a two-on-one with Marleau, who took a great feed from Thornton to put the Wings on a playoff cliff.

Back in ’71, the Leafs were at home against the Rangers in Game 6 of their quarter-final playoff series. They were down three games to two, but scored a late goal in Game 6 at the Gardens to force overtime. The Leafs were putting on some pressure, and just like last night, a Leaf forward took a shot from the wing that rang around the boards and suddenly, ex-Leaf Bobby Nevin was going the other way on a two-on-one.

In that instance, Nevin took the shot himself and beat Jacques Plante in the Toronto goal to end the Leafs’ season.

Thornton and Marleau did pretty much the same to Detroit last night.
Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey blog


  1. pens fan here. i was never a fan of ponikarovsky as a leaf - for the reasons mentioned. i didn't like trading a potential winger for years for a rental - for the reasons mentioned. and i'm not impressed with poni in the playoffs - for the reasons mentioned. that said, his forecheck has improved over the last few games, but only his forecheck. poni reminds me of leclair in his 'duke years. when the season ends, you can have him back.

  2. Another Pens fan who also was never a Poni supporter. I think he's been kinda useless for what we gave up. But, I think considering that we needed scoring wingers, and we don't have much cap space, he was the best we could do. Plus, we don't have to keep him if we don't want to.