This isn't going to be a super long blog...at least it's not intended to be, if it turns out that way then I apologize.
Tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils was an interesting one. Yet again Toronto opened the scoring. The Leafs had a lot of trouble doing that throughout the season, but since the deadline it's been all but a guarantee that they'll notch the first one. And Phil Kessel came through again scoring his 27th of the season. And I want to take a second to take that in. This guy missed the first 11 games of the season, and hit a slump mid-season, yet has still been able to get 27 goals and 50 points in 59 games. If he can avoid the slump next year there will be no denying that the trade worked out. Even this year I'm of the belief that it's worked. But that's a conversation for after the draft.
As the game went along there were a few things that made me wonder what game the refs were watching. Both penalties to Kulemin were definitely questionable. The first could MAYBE be a penalty, but I stress MAYBE. But there's no denying that the 2nd one was a total ghost call. The entire Devils bench, the play-by-play guys, and JS Giguere all thought it was a NJ penalty and then all of the sudden Kulemin was in the box. Nobody seemed to be able to explain it. Luckily the Leafs were able to kill off all 4 penalties and improve on a quickly increasing PK %.
When the game ended up going to OT I found myself thinking, not AGAIN. Since the trade deadline 5 of the 9 games have gone to OT or a shootout. If this had happened earlier in the season I would have been worried because Toronto was atrocious in extra time. However in those 5 games they've only lost 1, and that was the first 1 to Boston. After OT I was a little relieved at the fact it wasn't Marty to face in the shootout. The young guys went 3 for 3 for Toronto with some really nice stick work by Kessel and a beautiful deke from John Mitchell. The winning shootout goal officially goes to Nikolai Kulemin who had a nice wrist shot to the left side of the net while fading to his right. At the other end Parise scored for NJ on a goal that nobody could have saved. But Giggy had an amazing stop on Elias to give Mitchell the chance to put the lead too far out of NJ's reach.
I've been very happy with the play since the deadline. It's hard to argue that the new, younger Leafs team actually enjoys playing the game. Something that was questioned about the veterans of the past few years. The enthusiasm when they win and disappointment at a loss is evident in the post-game interviews and even just on the ice. The young guys take the losses and turn it into productive criticism and work on not making the same mistakes twice. Of course the wins seems to happen every year down the stretch. But the enthusiam hasn't been like this in years. People are questioning whether it will carry over to some success next year. I see no reason why it won't. Many of the players on Toronto right now weren't here the entire year and their first taste of the NHL is winning, something that if they grow accustomed to, they won't want to give up.
you can get this and more from me at www.thereedreview.com