So the skid is over, Leafs’ Nation can take a deep breath. It’s a win, not a pretty one, but a win none theless.
Got to give it to the Panthers, they are off to a good start with some very smart defense first hockey. The problem when you are playing another team working hard of their D game? The result is not very exciting. It tends to get even less exciting when you lose an energetic grinder like Armstrong so early in the game. With too many games like this one I could see the Panthers becoming the next Coyotes.
The Leafs did manage to do a lot of things right last night: Hard work from top line, strong PK, won 65% of faceoffs and covered for their pressing defensemen. However the inability to get much sustained pressure past the blueline was troubling. Luckily when playing the Panthers you get plenty of chances to try again without worrying about that whole ‘other team trying to score’ problem that some other team posses.
For the first time in 4 games the Leaf showed up ready to work. Bozak notched his first after a smart play by Kulemin, when after realizing he didn’t have control of the puck in time to score, took Clemmensen out of position and sent the puck out front. Did it quick too, didn’t seem to think, just reacted and reacted correctly, a good sign.
While Kulemin looked right at home on the first line, Versteeg was nearly invisible for most of the game. Without him to produce the Leafs are woefully short on secondary scoring, combined with Grabovski’s lack of production there could be some tough games ahead. After all, you cant rely on blown calls all season. But at least there is finaly some evidence that the Hockey Gods have spoken to their Referee buddies about the Leafs finally getting a big break.
That was nice of them, I should make sure to send them a Christmas card. (The Hockey Gods that is, not the refs, we are still fighting over Kerry Frasor’s missed Gretzky call.)
Only sad thing about that, from a leaf perspective, is that homegrown, soon to be folklore hero Tim Brent didn’t end up with credit for the goal. But without Orr I guess there might have been something in the way, so I guess it makes sense. Can’t think of what would have been there to stop the puck though…It couldn’t have been a goalie right? There would have been a penalty if Orr had knocked him away.
So yes, perfectly legal goal, I’m good with that.
This good fortune along with strong work Giguere (getting’ jiggy with it) allowed the team to wait for a blue streak, now called a ‘Kessel Run,’ to tear down the ice to cement the game. Back in the win column, back on top of the Northeast and back to working hard. Hopefully this trend will continue into the weekend.