So it is official, Dion Phaneuf is on the road trip. This is a very good sign, a much needed boost to a rather offensively challenged D-corp.
There is no denying the impact he has on the team, be it on the ice or as a voice on the bench. The Leafs went 5-5-1 with their Captain and 4-7-3 without him often looking beaten down and uninspired.
Dion’s importance to this line up is being made clear by this decision. There can be no doubt he is on this trip to help rile up the Leafs and get them confident on what will be the toughest stretch of the season so far.
With Washington tonight and games against Pittsburgh, Philly and Montreal this week there is a good chance the Leafs could get demoralized. After all, going 0-4-0 is a distinct possibility, and since players have a habit of busting out of slumps when playing the Leafs (see… just about every game) Ovechkin could easily have his best game of the season.
A big loss tonight could start a negative vibe in the dressing room just in time for the red hot Crosby show. That is just what Dion is supposed to help prevent. Combine his presence with the tremendous return by Colby Armstrong, (the guy went man-to-man vs Chara in front of the net and never stopped) and the passion and confidence should continue to flow.
If it doesn’t there could be another bad stretch and the Leafs cannot afford that.
One very important thing to remember is that while the Caps have tremendous offence, they only seem to play in one end of the rink, so a tough forecheck to eliminate space and pressure d-men could be all it takes for Toronto to come out with a much needed 2 points. If not, I say skate the hell out of Orr until the big guns are afraid to touch the puck.