Yes, I really wish the Leafs could’ve managed to hold on to either:
(a) a one goal third-period lead vs. Pittsburgh on Saturday; OR
(b) a two goal lead vs. Atlanta this afternoon.
…but I’m really more worried about James Reimer. He’s looking more and more like the future of our team between the pipes.
Couldn’t help noticing that all those whose tongues were loudly clucking at the end of the recent Boston game (the one where Grabovski played after taking a couple hard hits and wobbled coming off the ice) were nowhere to be found tonight; no one was applauding the Leafs’ apparent cautious regard for Reimer’s health. Despite desperately trying to climb into a playoff spot, and with the young Leaf netminder nursing a shutout through most of two periods, Reimer was replaced by J.S. Giguere after taking an apparent knee to the side of his noggin from Evander Kane.
One other thing that went mostly un-noticed (though, to be fair, the Sportsnet crew was on it) was this: Dustin Byfuglien is a jerkstore. With time expired at the end of the third period, he skated up behind Freddie Sjostrom and speared him in the back of the knee. Every hockey player knows that’s a dick move that risks injuring the opponent. This particularly spear behind the knee was a cowardly attack from behind after the period had ended.
The Leafs lost to the Atlanta Thrashers tonight 3-2. Where have you heard this before: Tuesday night home loss to a mediocre Southeast Division opponent.
No doubt, some folks will be into the gnashing of teeth, given the Thrashers’ two goals in less than a minute in the second period. No doubt, the Leafs fell apart for a bit for a few minutes there, and they paid for it when Atlanta cashed in a couple of markers. Keep in mind, though, that this is the youngest team in the NHL. They are bound to lose focus and composure from time to time this year, and it must be remembered that this will happen from time to time next year too. The key thing for Leaf fans to watch when this happens – not “if”, but “when” – is how the team reacts.
A couple of nights ago, the Leafs got themselves down 2-0 to the Rangers after two periods and managed to come back and get a win in overtime. Tonight, the comeback wasn’t complete, but the team bore down and got a couple of goals to tie it before surrendering the eventual winner on an Antropov tip in front of Gustavsson. There was some inspired play from Bozak again tonight, his pass to Stalberg on Stalberg’s first goal was brilliant. Stalberg himself showed some good determination to get to the net, though it was a bit alarming to see that his shot on that first goal was actually headed wide but bounced rather fortunately off the goaltender’s skate and in to the net. Tonight was probably one of Christian Hanson’s better games as a Leaf. There were also some terrific saves from Gustavsson – especially his save on Afinogenov with about two and a half minutes left in the second period, when Afinogenov was in alone on him just before the first Stalberg goal.
So yeah, another Tuesday night, another loss to a mediocre southeastern opponent, but I’ll say it again: there is reason for hope.
I haven’t had a chance to sit down and look at all the deals, but just off the top of my head, here are a couple of thoughts:
Biggest Trade: Atlanta sends Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh for prospect Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong and Eric Christensen. Sid the Kid gets some help – like he needs it with that guy Malkin around. If Pittsburgh gets any kind of decent goaltending out of Conklin/Fleury/Sabourin/Patrick Lalime/Ken Wregget/Bunny Larocque, they could make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The way is open for pretty much any club that qualifies for the dance to take a shot at Lord Stanley’s mug. Which makes the following all the more puzzling…