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"Pass the punch"
Toronto, ON • Canada • 2013 Years Old • Male
Apparently spirit is everything.

Let's begin with a disclaimer that may not appear enough in Leafland: I still don't think the Leafs are making the playoffs, and I still don't think the Leafs are winning the Cup - and all this despite a fantastic, energized, fast-paced, defensively-sound game by the Blue and White over the defending Stanley Cup champions. But this game was too good not to celebrate a little, so instead of going with the bland "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" we're going to splurge a little with "The Good, the Bad, and the Fantastic".

This was an excillerating game to watch in every way: I screamed at the rookie's dangles, I gasped at Toskala's saves, I jumped at the human-erasing hits, and I cried when my recording stopped with 30 seconds still to go in the game.

Game Notes:
-Grabovski: what a star, and is looking like a great pick-up by Fletcher. This kid (24 years old is still a kid in my books) has the speed and hands to run around anyone, and I didn't see him get knocked around more than any other player would. The part of his game that excites me the most though is that he did all of this while playing a great defensive game - he backchecked hard every time (even saving a goal), moved the puck out of the zone smartly, and I even saw him pushing guys out of Toskala's crease after the whistle. Fantastic.
-Hagman: this guy is going to be a key part of this team, as he looked like our best player on the ice tonight and will be a veteran on this team at the time we start competing for the playoffs. He is fast, can hold onto the puck, and most importantly do smart things with it. Fantastic
-Tlusty: Tlusty completed the best line of the night: Grabovski-Hagman-Tlusty were absolutely flying around the ice. Tlusty had a strong game, though I'd like to see him take some more liberties and gamble a little because he has the skills. Good
-Kulemin: every time he grabbed the puck you could see the skill. He came close a few times, and his goal was beautiful in every way - from reading the play, to intercepting the pass, to flawlessly and seemingly easily beating Osgood. Kulemin needs to be taken off the 3rd line and put up front in replace of Poni. PS: Kulemin is on pace for 82 goals this season! Fantastic
-Dominic Moore: What an energy guy. Doesn't stop pumping his legs and digging in. He got a great, hard-working goal, even if it wasn't pretty. Fantastic
-Antropov and Ponikarovsky: I'm gonna put these two together, because, well, they're basically the same person and had the exact same game tonight. They simply did not have any fire in their eyes or jump in their game. Antropov can be great when he's on, and I hope he turns it around because he can be a huge asset for us if he does. Ponikarovsky not so much. Bad x 2
-Steen: I'm beginning to believe Steen is best as an energy guy that can score the odd goal rather than purely a point producer (despite his extraordinary rookie season). He played hard and created chances. Good
-Stajan: awful. Very disappointing considering that he is expected to step up this year. He's a class-act guy though and will return to form with time, though I'm now doubting he'll become a better player than he was last year, even with the extra time/responsibility/opportunity. Bad
-Mayers: this is looking like Fletcher's worst acquisition so far. I was expecting him to come in and be a fan favourite, energy guy, and he has done nothing but be a defensive liability (he should've blocked the second goal), and has rarely finished checks or provided energy. Bad
-Mitchell: actually very impressed. He'll always be a 3rd/4th liner, but he could be a keeper in that regard. Good
-Blake: same ol' same ol'. And I don't mean that in a bad way. Other than being a little too shelfish with the puck, Blake buzzes around with speed and gets the puck to the net, which is an admirable quality. It's not like Antropov and Poni helped him out any tonight either. Good

-Schenn: can't believe he played close to 20 minutes and almost never looked out of place. I say almost only because he flubb'd a pass or two and he could've tied up Holmstrom better on that 2nd goal, but this kid's a star. He had his first NHL game, his first NHL facewash, and his first NHL hit tonight. Fantastic
-Frogren: had a couple big hits and was surprisingly solid with the puck. No gaffs. Good
-Van Ryn: solid, had one great diving play. No gaffs. Good
-Coliacovo: not a great game. I'm a firm believer that Cola has some great skills to be a legitimate top 4 defenceman in this league (if he can stay healthy), but tonight he looked average. I have faith that he'll pick back up though. Bad
-Kaberle: I almost forgot about Kaberle because he was almost invisible. That's not a bad thing for a defenceman at all, though I'd like to see more of that smooth rushing we've come to love from him. Good
-Kubina: good game, not much more I can say, although the goal was a gimme it was still fantastic and a heads-up play by Kubina to pinch into the slot with all three forwards in the corner. Loved seeing him pumped about his goal though. Good

-Toskala: a little shaky at first, but fantastic game overall. He gives us more than a chance to win every game, and will be the reason we win or lose on many nights. The last half of last season Toskala was a premiere goaltender, lets hope he can continue that form. Fantastic

-A note about the Leafs new system as well: who says the trap has to be boring? The fundamental idea with the trap is to force the other team to turn over the puck in the neutral zone. Add some speedy players into that system, and you can create some great offensive chances, all while preventing the other team from setting up in your own zone. It's a great system that has been labelled as "boring" because of New Jersey, but we saw last night how exciting it can be with a fast-paced team. -
-Sound defensive play is not hard in essence, it just requires hard work, which the Leafs accomplished last night with hard back-checking and constant movement.

Leafs fans, take it in. Not always do you get to come into the defending Cup champions rink, with bottom-of-the-barrel expectations from everyone, watch them raise their banner, and then surprise everyone with a fantastic win. No matter what some may say, this was a game the Leafs won for themselves. They had to work for everything in this game (except Kubina's goal...Osgood was very kind with that one) and have given us a glimpse of what is to come - maybe not this season, and maybe not next, but they've shown we have some strong, young talent to build upon.
Filed Under:   mapleleafs   leafs  
October 10, 2008 11:20 AM ET | Delete
Again, like Manics, thankyou for helping me wash the Berger aftertaste away. I think Stajen has to play his game and not worry about the "C". And I think Mayers will be an "at home" hero.
October 11, 2008 11:08 AM ET | Delete
I'll agree with you on most except Carlo. He was downright UGLY. Both goals that Holmstrom scored he just stood there letting him maintain position. At one point he stood there behind Holmstrom with his arms at his sides. He needs to muck it up with those guys in front and prevent the tip ins.
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