Having just sat through 12 hours on campus, and 6 hours of class, I really don't think I can be all that eloquent right now; however, I will just summarize what I've seen from the Leafs in both yesterday's 3-2 OT loss to Edmonton, and tonight's 3-2 win over Phoenix.
HOT: The Blake/Sundin/Antropov line. This line had a great showing tonight, and was solid on the PP. I will admit, Jason Blake has had a bad rep as a selfish player, and I was originally wary of him being signed, but after watching him tonight, I can officially say that any reservations I had about Blake are gone. Now it is true, Blake does tend to hold onto the puck a lot more than the average player, but it gets results. This was shown by Blake's goal, which tied the game in the 3rd period. Altogether, however, I was impressed by what this line could do tonight, and there's no doubt in my mind this will be the bona fide top line on opening night.
NOT: The Tucker/Wellwood/Ponikarovsky line. This line, which has only played against Edmonton so far, did not fare well in the preseason opener. While Ponikarovsky did have one goal in the game, the line was otherwise a non-factor. Darcy Tucker was practically invisble, and Wellwood wasn't having his best showing. For one thing, Wellwood is to quick to pass the puck when he has a good scoring chance. While it's a flaw he's often had, it showed up in spades tonight. Frankly, I think Wellwood could learn a thing from Blake in holding onto the puck a little bit longer. Though, Maurice did call these guys out for their performance, so hopefully they'll turn it up a notch tomorrow night.
HOT: Simon Gamache. I remember the day Gamache was signed, and the choruses of "who?" that came after the announcement. He has never really played well outside of the AHL, and no one really gave him a chance to crack the Leafs roster. Then Mark Bell was suspended, and, suddenly, we have a vacant roster spot! Enter Gamache, who is truly playing like he wants a roster spot. The pinnacle of tonight's game, not to mention the preseason, was his thundering open ice check on Coyotes tough guy Daniel Carcillo.
NOT: Special teams. Okay, so it's a bit weird that I'd be criticizing the Leafs special teams when three of the team's five goals have been with the man advantage. But the PP does still need improvement. In many ways, it appears rather sloppy and disorganized, though I guess that's why there's a preseason. As for the PK, it lamentably has made little improvement from the sad-sack 27th place effort last season. More work needs to be done here.
HOT: Justin Pogge. While he isn't going to crack the Leafs roster this season, Pogge put together an impressive showing against Edmonton that have many people thinking his game is much better than last season. While the Leafs lost in OT, and three goals were allowed, both the tying and winning goals were scored in an odd scramble and a very sloppy defensive play, respectively. That said, Pogge made some excellent saves, and has a very strong glove hand. There is definitely a lot of potential in this guy.
NOT: Andrew Raycroft. Look, I don't like to pick on this guy. I know he has his fair share of detractors, and many ways, I'm pulling for him to get it together. And, to his credit, he played very solidly for the most part, particularly in the first and third periods. However, in the second period, he was rather unimpressive, letting in a couple of weak goals that, although caused by sloppy D, were still easily preventable. It's quite odd- he's looking slightly improved, yet for the most part, nothing's changed from last year. The inconsistency will be quite detrimental if it persists.
Tomorrow, the Leafs will face the Coyotes at the ACC. Also, this game will feature the must anticipated debut of goaltender Vesa Toskala in a Leafs uniform.