Watched the Leafs’ home opener last night; originally scheduled to be at a prenatal class, my plans changed when Spouse came down with a cold. Because of work thingys, I ended up getting home a little late, which was fine because we could PVR the game. It rocks skipping over commercials, and my timing was pretty awesome because I ended up catching up to real time right in the middle of the second intermission, so I could watch the end of the game with my virtual peeps at PPP.
From scanning the Interwebs earlier today, there seems to be a lot of angst out there about the opening ceremonies before last night’s game. Whatever, I zoomed over most of the malarkey before the game. Was happy to see the 48th Highlanders still a part of opening night tradition, and I stopped fast forwarding (that’s a verb, right?) when I got to the part with the water from all the ponds being collected and used to make the Leafs’ ice.
Say what you will; yes, it’s corny and cheesy, but I liked it. I liked that the whole ice surface got turned into water by the lighting effect. I liked it (among other reasons) because Spouse pointed out that water douses fire, and the Habs do that thing where Brian Gionta a much larger child skates around with the torch before a game, then touches it down at centre ice and sets the ice “aflame”. Water douses fire, as sure as paper beats rock. Eat it, Habs.
Thoughts about the game: Gunnarsson was bad. Schenn looked shaky at times, as did Beauchemin in the early going (though I thought Francois turned it around later in the game, with one notable exception I’ll talk about in a minute). Komisarek was awful. Kaberle was excellent, showing on a couple of smooth solo forays up the ice the apparently effortless way he can dart somehow calmly up ice past all (or at least most) defenders in a flash. Terrific. Phaneuf had a solid first game as Captain, I thought.
At forward, there was less that was remarkable. Nice to see Tim Brent notch a goal to start this season; it would be nice if that were some sort of omen about this mostly under-talented team adopting a lunchpail mentality and chipping in with a concerted effort to score by committee as and where it becomes necessary. Kessel looked very good and sincerely happy to be back playing games that count. Versteeg had some nice moments on the Power Play. Kulemin played a solid two-way game and continues to get better. Nice goal from Clark MacArthur; more worrisome was the somewhat underwhelming performance down the middle from Bozak and Grabovski, though neither made enormous glaring mistakes of any consequence.
More than anything, the story of that game was the steadiness of J.S. Giguere. The Leafs were up to their old tricks, taking a late penalty and then brutally brain-cramping in the closing minute of the game. Our defensive coverage for the final eighty or ninety seconds of that game looked as though it was planned as an homage to everybody’s carnival favourite, the Tilt-a-Whirl, with Leaf players orbiting one another, spinning and lurching around unevenly and generally making one feel nauseous. Francois Beauchemin in particular looked bad during this final sequence, weakly attempting to clear the puck at one point on a backhand to the right point that instead made the shallow carom off the boards and failed to clear the zone, setting the scene for one final frenetic scramble in front of Jiggy and a game-saving stop that mercifully prevented yet another Habs OT game. That stop – it had a reassuring and cathartic quality to it, as Bruce Arthur noted in his column today. Begone, ghost of Vesa Toskala.
One game, and one game only. Two points under the W column, and cue the chorus of clucking MSM journalists who take time out from their shrill blizzard of sage columns pedantically warning Leaf fans (unspecified, figurative, mostly non-existent outside of talk radio) not to obsess, despair and overreact about the future of Nazem Kadri, to write a shrill blizzard of sage columns pedantically warning Leaf fans (unspecified, figurative, mostly non-existent outside of talke radio) not to obsess, celebrate and overreact about a single win in an 82-game season.
Only one game, but I’m glad hockey is back.