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.
Spouse and I did make the drive down to Kitchener last night (earlier this evening, actually) to watch the Leafs rookies vs. the Penguins rookies. I’ll have more to say about the game later – right now it’s late and I need to get to bed if I’m going to be a productive member of society tomorrow – but here are some preliminary thoughts:
Kid Kadri!!!!1 He’s the real deal, people. He could use some bulking up, especially up top, but the guy is slick smooth with incredible hand/eye co-ordination and a retinue of subtle moves, little shifts from side to side, slight changes of pace, small stick movements, etc. – that put his opponents off balance and allow him to sift through defenders and to find open space. I don’t think he’s NHL ready right now, but I would be willing to bet he’ll make the Leafs next year;
Jesse Blacker has a howitzer for a shot. That kid is some steady, too. I was impressed with his play, though he was on the ice for the Penguins’ second goal, scored on a soft little spinerama move on the goalline by Moon;
Stalberg and Stefanovich showed lots of promise and combined on the Leafs’ only goal of the evening – basically a short 2 on 0 after a Penguin defender turned it over to Stralberg in the high slot;
I didn’t notice Bozak and Hanson as much as I thought I might. I did see Hanson a lot, and he seemed to be playing well positionally, but they didn’t seem to accomplish much. The power play (which featured these two prominently) was an abomination worthy of an actual big league Maple Leafs power play – it was that bad;
Dale Mitchell continues to get noticed. He’s full of energy and plays a smart positional game, especially defensively. He played on a line with Gilati and Kurtz, and these three were more visible to my eye (especially in the late stages of the game) than Bozak and Hanson (though Stalberg, the third forward on that line, did impress me);
Andrew Engelage (former goaltender for the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires) unfortunately didn’t do much to increase his chances of landing and keeping a big league deal – the Leafs had scored to make it 2-1 and were coming on in a big way and threatening to tie the game midway through the 3rd when Engelage coughed up a Raycroftian hairball and whiffed on Robert Bortuzzo’s weak shot for the 3rd Penguin goal, effectively extinguishing the Maple Leaf comeback attempt. Too bad for Andrew, I’d like to see him get a shot somewhere.
Here’s a quick mashup of some video I shot at the game. There are no fancy transitions, ’cause I haven’t figured out how to use that part of my new video editing software yet. Shown in this video are:
A picture of the teams lined up for the national anthems;
The Leafs skating out on to the ice for the 3rd period;
The Penguins first goal, the one iPhone and I combined to describe on Twitter as a “Quasimodo breakaway” – you gotta love “autocorrect”. And yes, those people in front of me DO have rather large heads, and yes, I should have used the “zoom” feature. Thanks for your help;
The fight between Slaney and Bortuzzo. Bombs away, this is truculence;
A bit of the play – featuring Bozak, Hanson and Stalberg, if I recall correctly; and
Kid Kadri doing some stuff, and then unfortunately getting drilled – he’s the guy taking the draw and wearing number 43.
I’ll take a little closer look at the footage I’ve got on Friday night and see if I can’t cobble together a little something better than this. In the meantime, enjoy.