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Twelve days of a Maple Leaf Christmas; hopeful thoughts after a win in D.C.

It was good to see Gustavsson back between the pipes Monday night in Washington.  It’s usually best, after a goalie is pulled (as he was against Edmonton) for him to get the opportunity to get back in as soon as possible.  But the Caps are a tough foe, obviously, and they were due for some goals after two straight games where they scored only one goal.  The Monster made a big stop in the dying seconds to ensure overtime and was perfect in the shoot out.

When the Leafs get a bit closer to where the Capitals are now—an elite, Cup-contending team—they will need a veteran winger or two like Mike Knuble.  He’s a tough, versatile guy who has been there and knows what it takes to compete at this level every night. (Much like the role Gary Roberts played in the Quinn years with the Maple Leafs.)  Guys like Knuble show the young guys how it’s done.

The Leafs came on in the third, a good sign for the young side.  Armstrong was trying to plug the front of the net on the power play opportunity just past the mid-way point of the third period.  You like to see that.  And I really liked how the Leafs worked that particular power play. They created some good chances and that seemed to give the team a lift.

Kadri keeps showing how well he sees the ice.  He did it again, especially on the Brent tip-in marker, when he found Kaberle alone at the point.

I’ve acknowledged I’m not a big Grabovski guy, but how can you not appreciate what this guy is doing? And, really, did anyone predict this kind of output from MacArthur?

For their part, the Caps proved again that they are far from perfect, with some sloppy late-game play.  But the Leafs earned their goals.  As they did against the Bruins, they just kept working.  The Caps were largely hanging on in overtime.

December moves quickly, so it may not be too soon to think in terms of an all-time classic song, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I’ve been fortunate to experience a fair number of wonderful Christmas seasons and, in hockey terms, can actually fondly remember Toronto winning several Stanley Cups. 

I don’t know much about partridges (though we had a very nice pear tree on the farm where I grew up), but I’m guessing quite a number of Leaf fans would like to receive a “gift” of sorts from their beloved blue and white under the proverbial tree this December.

I certainly can’t speak for all Leaf fans, but beyond the long-term dream of a Stanley Cup, there may be some smaller hockey-related “gifts” that would be appreciated, short-term.  Under the admittedly selfish-sounding category of “if you don’t ask, you might not receive…” this might include the following for Leaf supporters:

  1. On the first day of Christmas, Leaf fans would appreciate a healthy rest-of-season for a squad with not an over-abundance of roster depth.
  2. On the second day of Christmas, perhaps the blue and white could locate a top-six forward.  Not easy, we realize, but some teams may already have spent too much on their cap-linked stocking stuffers and someone may just fall out of Santa’s bag.
  3. On the third day of Christmas, fans can hope that a Kadri goal (perhaps the Boston shoot-out beauty was the trick) will open the floodgates for him.
  4. On the fourth day of Christmas, fans can look for a resurgence from Komisarek.  A lot of us have been pulling for him to play with the confidence that can make him a valuable asset.  There are signs at times, and he was given an opportunity when Phaneuf was hurt, but his minutes seem to be dropping.
  5. On the fifth day of Christmas, Leaf supporters will be grateful for more goals like we saw Monday night from—and for—Tim Brent.  Few Leafs have played harder, more consistently in their role this season.  He scored twice early, and while his role is not about offensive production, everybody likes to score once in a while.
  6. On the sixth day of Christmas, a break for Tyler Bozak (maybe a goal of his back side) would be appreciated.  The young man has had to deal with perhaps unfair expectations, but he can play.  Let’s let him relax and become the player he can be.
  7. On the seventh day of Christmas, here’s hoping for progress from Maple Leaf special teams.  If both the power play and the penalty-kill can show improvement in the weeks to come, wins won’t be far behind.  Maybe the Washington game was a start, at least for the power play.
  8. On the eighth day of Christmas, some peace of mind for Ron Wilson.  For his publicly abrasive and sometimes off-putting public persona, he is a good coach and obviously cares deeply about the work he does.
  9. On the ninth day of Christmas, a return to prominence for a healthy Dion Phaneuf.  Phaneuf only needs to play like he can, and that should be enough for him to be a difference-maker on the Maple Leaf blueline.
  10. On the tenth day of Christmas, Leaf fans might enjoy less streaky-ness, and a bit more goal-scoring consistency from Kessel.  The exciting and talented forward is snake-bitten sometimes.  But if he keeps working hard, goals will come.  Less in bunches and more spread out over time, in tight games, would be good, too.
  11. On the eleventh day of Christmas, would it be too much to ask for another four-game winning streak?  The first one this season brought joy to Leaf land.  They're half-way there.
  12. On the twelfth day of Christmas, if the Leafs are indeed a “true love”, they will keep working diligently to deliver a playoff spot to patient and endlessly hopeful Leaf fans around the hockey world.
We all know there are many more important things that we all face daily, beyond worrying about the Leafs.  But just like sugar-coated cereal can somehow be (we’re told) part of a healthy-breakfast, there’s nothing wrong with devoting a bit of one’s time to cheering for the Maple Leafs. It’s not “important”, but together with those more important things, it makes life fun—if often frustrating!         

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