As I am currently disintegrating into a small pile of trembling viscous goo under the combined pressures of a ridiculous workload at the office and the insanity of trying to make a Christmas in the paltry few minutes remaining to me afterwards, this is not going to be a long or particularly entertaining post. Nevertheless, after collapsing like a pile of dirty laundry on the couch in front of the Leaf game tonight, I am moved to tippy-tap a thing or two.
I know there will be some gnashing of teeth in the Barilkosphere about OT loss to Buffalo tonight; yes, there should have been someone in front of the net there when Derek Roy potted the winner, and I’m looking in the general direction of Francois “Happy Trails” Beauchemin when I say that. Yes, it’s a bummer to lose to a divisional rival (and its apparently super-fucking-human goalie) like seventy-eight times in a row, but there are bigger pictures to see, larger fish to fry, and more metaphors to mix. In short, there are reasons to take heart.
Hear me, Leafs fans. Tonight:
- On a Tuesday night matchup in late December, in a game that would be their third in four nights, the Leafs brought effort and forechecked the crap out of a Sabres team that has been their nemesis for oh, approximately nine years. In years gone by, Tuesday night + 3rd game in four nights + pre-Christmas ennui = 9-1 shellacking led by a four goal third period from the Sabres’ team bus driver;
- Viktor Stalberg potted a beauty and may still have the use of both shoulders;
- the Monster raised everybody’s Christmas spirits by allowing the Sabres to ring enough pucks off the posts behind him to play the Carol of the Bells. He also battled through some questionable play to post another solid outing without a visit to the cardiologist; and
- NIKOLAI KULEMIN. OMG BEST GAME AS A LEAF EVAR.
It’s the last point I want to really focus on. I’ve been waiting for Kulemin to break out in a way that doesn’t involve a visit to the dermatologist and I think he is now absolutely poised to take his game to the next level. If he plays every game in his career like he did tonight, it will be a long and fruitful one in Maple Leaf Blue & White, that’s for sure. Kulemin was on the forecheck aggressively and with physicality throughout the game, showing excellent anticipation and then following through with the physical effort to get himself into the right spots at the right times. He was the direct cause of several Buffalo turnovers. He took a tremendous hit along the boards to chip the puck out and generate the rush that produced the second Leafs goal. He was also quite responsible defensively and used his body to separate the Sabres from the puck, not shying away from some tough customers like Mike Grier. Terrific game from this young guy.
Whatever, we could’ve had another point, yadda yadda yadda, but I really liked what I saw out of this kid tonight. Best game he’s played in a Leaf uniform.