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Maple Leafs stay the coaching course; beat the Bruins and NHL news and notes

The Leaf-Bruin match-up brought back, for me at least, fond memories of Boston-Toronto games from the early 1970s. Back then, with Orr, Espo and so many outstanding players, the Bruins were an elite team and the Leafs were trying to build a winner.  Still, the Leafs usually played the Bruins tough at the Gardens, even when they were the heavy underdog.  Chara and Savard aren't Orr and Espo, exactly, but they are awfully good, and these Bruins are usually difficult to play against.

In the end, effort and staying with it did pay off Saturday night in a victory.  It took a late penalty, a clean face-off win by Kessel (when he wasn't even supposed to be the guy taking the draw), a good bounce and guys around the net but it triggered overtime and a shoot-out win.

Quick observations:

-Armstrong wasted no time resuming his role as an agitator.  Leafs need that going forward.

-Schenn continues to log big minutes and keep opposing forwards honest.  He brings an important physical presence.

-Kessel as a center is like Kessel as a winger.  He is a dangerous forward and looked comfortable in the middle.  Long-term it will be interesting to see how he handles the defensive side of the role.  He came close again last night, and set guys up.  He was certainly noticeable.  The shootout marker won the game and may just lead to better fortune for Kessel in the games to follow.

-Kadri is also coming oh so close to his first 'official ' NHL goal.  There will be more after that one.  In the meantime, he can feel good about that smooth move in the shootout.

-You just look at the Bruins and you can tell they are a battle-tested veteran team.  Thornton, Recchi, Chara, all gritty veterans.  Throw in Lucic, Krejci and guys like Savard, they should be tough in the East.  The Leafs don't have that kind of depth yet, but they certainly competed with a good Boston side Saturday night.

-Tim Thomas is indeed, as I've posted before, the new Dominik Hasek.  Unique style but big-time results.  He was the guy who earned Boston a point.

-Nathan Horton was the big name that came to the Bruins in the summer deal with Florida, but Gregory Stewart was the more noticable guy in this one, scoring but also blocking shots and taking big draws, though he lost the critical won that led to the tying goal.

-The Bruins are good enough (and I'm sure they'll hit rough spots as the season wears on, almost everyone does) that they don't need to rely on Seguin yet.  But he looked just fine too, in the shooutout.

I enjoyed one of the sports networks breathlessly posting Brian Burke’s “no coaching change” text message as a major news story.

What would have been a news story is, if just because some reporter thought he would ask the obvious question, Burke figured, what the heck, let’s give it a whirl and write back, “yes, we are making a change…”

Wouldn’t that have sent the mainstream media running all over town.

As if the guy is going to announce a coaching change via text. C’mon.


Very early this season, I posted about Tim Thomas when it looked like the goalie was already in that zone.  Two seasons ago, he was the toast of the town.  2009-'10 was not a good year for him.  By this fall, he was trade bait, a contract the Bruins wanted to dump.

Now, he may be the best performing goaltender in the NHL, meaning former Leaf farmhand Rask will get fewer games, for now, though he remains their goalie of the near future.


While the Devils, like most struggling teams, have their good nights, they are seemingly headed in the wrong direction.  No new players are coming in to save the day.  This is what the are— including the grossly overpaid, one-way focused Kovalchuk.  A supremely gifted scorer, he remains the wrong fit at the wrong time, as I posted back when the trade to Jersey first happened.


Subban’s benching should cheer Leaf fans.  It reinforces that even supremely confident young players need, apparently, to be pulled back on occasion.  So if Kadri or other young guys need a night to sit upstairs and watch, it’s not the end of the world.

I’m sure the Habs don’t want Subban to lose his abandon— just make sure big mistakes don’t become a habit and outweigh all the good stuff he brings to the ice.


The Islanders would appear to need much more than a new building, though that would be start.  It’s hard to imagine them drawing crowds in the second half of the season.  They are likely one of the teams that will be sold or moved at some point if they can’t move forward on a new building and a new location.


At least, to the best of my knowledge, Senators players weren’t hugging Dany Heatly moments before the opening face-off in Ottawa the other night.  That was unlike the NBA game between the Heat and the Cavaliers.  Cav players were embracing Lebron James, while thousands of fans, who felt betrayed—fair or not—were yelling angrily.

Evidently the Cav players didn’t have the same passion or sense of pay back, rivalry or disappointment as their fans did.


Montreal likes to boo their goalies.  Hey, they have pretty high standards there—Vezina, Hainsworth, Durnan, McNeil, Plante, Worsley, Dryden, Roy.

In pre-season, Price was booed heavily.  No one is booing him now.  But expect it to start up again the next time he has a rough night.


Who would you pick to turn their season around first—Buffalo or Toronto? Both looked good Saturday night.


I’m surprised (I shouldn’t be, after all these years) that the Red Wings have maintained their strong early-season play.  I felt this was a team that simply could not be as competitive this year.  So far, I’m very wrong.


Byfuglien seems to have become an impact player early on in his tenure with the Thrashers.  Kudos to Rick Dudley.  Chicago had to move guys and he grabbed toughness, character, and skill too, it seems.


Is Ottawa a playoff team?  Their owner sounds positive every year, but every year they seem to take one more step down the rung.  It’s early, I realize, but I wonder if they are simply not as good as management thought they were—on paper.


It's always great to see guys who have been out for a long time because of serious injury get back to doing what they love.  Pierre-Marc Bouchard in Minnesota and Marc Savard with the Bruins are two such players, guys who can also be difference-makers the rest of the way.


Burke said, out loud, that his top-six defensemen were the best in the league.  Though we can find good things to say about each of them individually, given that the goaltending has not been a major problem, his assessment seems to be stretching a point now, doesn’t it?


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