Same Old Maple Leafs? Spare Me!

Imagine if you will that Vesa Toskala pitched a no hitter, and the Maple Leafs rolled over the Montreal Canadiens 6 love. Bear with me for a second here. Every story tomorrow would have said the same thing, Leafs Nation is already planning the parade route, well here’s the cold water on that good feeling, it’s only one game and besides the Habs suck, wait till they play a real opponent. You know I am right. So you can easily bet on what we are going to get from the press today: Same old Maple Leafs; We told you they will be killing penalties all night; If this continues they will rue trading the number one draft pick; Another OT loss…do I need to continue? They are a predictable bunch aren’t they?

Look, it’s one game. No more no less. It’s no more meaningful than a 6-0 shutout would have been. The teams played their last exhibition game only a few nights ago and suddenly we are in life and death? Sorry I am not buying it. Now, if this goes on for weeks and weeks, well then we will have something to talk about. One game? Yawn. So brace yourself for it Leafs fans, the sharks will be circling tomorrow.

On the positive side, Bruce Arthur continues to show why he is one of the best writers in town:

“Last night, Toronto opened its season against a team built another way – the Montreal Canadiens, whose three skilled free-agent signings, if laid end to end, would be about as long as Chris Pronger’s stick. Toronto, meanwhile, added sizeable glass-mashers like Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Exelby, and pugilist Colton Orr.

“It’s a little out of character as to where the NHL’s going,” Montreal general manager Bob Gainey said of Toronto’s path the other day.

Indeed, it’s not quite in keeping with the National Hockey League’s migration towards speed and skill – see Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, Chicago, etc. – but it’s in keeping with Burke’s world view, antediluvian or not. And as he did with Anaheim in 2007, he will seek to prove that a big-bodied, physical, crash-bang team can also win a Stanley Cup in the new NHL.

“Time’s going to tell what helps more,” says Toronto defenceman Luke Schenn. “Size or speed.”

Look, team Burke isn’t going to be a bunch of thugs like, as Arthur alludes to, Slapshot. The reality is, at least in my world, it’s much harder to find tough guys who can play than it is the Poni’s of the world. It’s even harder to find the superstars. Burke started somewhere, as we all must when we take on a project. Burke truly believes that in hockey anyways, size matters.

“But it’s not as if Toronto was crack-the-glass physical – they were outhit on the night, and as Montreal’s Glen Metropolit put it, the physicality was “nothing out of the norm.”

“I think that everyone’s getting confused that we’re just going to rumble our way through the league,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, an avowed opponent of staged fights. “I want [Komisarek and Beauchemin] on the ice, not sitting in the penalty box.”

Well, that was a bit of a problem. Komisarek was positively Burkean, for good and bad. He chirped with Laraque after a scrum; he added an elbow or a cross-check after every close encounter. And in a telling moment, Komisarek wrestled with Scott Gomez after he ran over Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala, and jumped in and pounded Moen after the latter did the same. As the new team slogan goes, No Leaf Left Behind”

Hell at least he went after Gomez! These games, especially the early ones are about setting tones,learning teammates tendencies etc. Relax people, it’s one game…breath deeply.

“Sure, this Toronto team isn’t going to the Broad Street Bullies, or the Charlestown Chiefs. As Exelby says with a grin, “There could be a few inner Ogie Ogilthorpes in this room that are waiting to be unleashed at some point, [but] right now we’re just going to try to stick together as a team, and crack everybody when we can as far as finishing checks.”

But this team will have to find a balance between physicality and common sense, and it’ll have to kill penalties, as Anaheim did three Stanley Cups ago.”

Exactly Bruce. You can’t tell whether or not this has happened in the first game, week or even month.

“”I know Burke has said they’re going to come out and play on the edge and play hard, and that’s great,” says Canadiens defenceman Hal Gill, one of the lumbering giants of the old NHL. “Who doesn’t want to do that? But you have to be in control, and in check.

“I remember last year, it was a similar situation where Tampa Bay was really in your face, hitting you. [But] if you moved the puck well, if you executed well, it was ineffective … everyone wants to be physical, but it’s a fine line between going one way too much. You need to make plays.”

Of course, Burke believes in that, too; he just hasn’t had time to properly address it. But in the meantime, the tone has been set. One way or the other, there will be a price to pay.”

Exactly!! How refreshing to get that point of view from a scribe the day after the first game. I mean come on folks- shouldn’t the sky be falling??? Wait till you read Berger’s blog….

Couple of thoughts on the game:

I thought the anthem was the best ever for the ACC
Viktor Stalberg was AWESOME
Passing on the powerplay was awesome
Luke Schenn earning the least ice time of all the D (18 minutes) is quite a difference from last year
Wayne Primeau’s 4 minutes is pretty low; Roshill’s 2 minutes is low but Colton Orr’s 1 minute plus- ouch!
Defense looked lost on faceoffs, have to believe that will be worked in the next practice.

In case you didn’t catch Ron Wilson’s post game presser here is what he had to say:

§ Pleased with the effort
§ Some of the Defencemen had a tough night, poor decisions
§ Forwards played well, lots of shots
§ Need to take fewer penalties and have a better pk
§ Komisarek answered the bell, other defencemen need to do the same, happy with komi’s play…setting a tone…rings a bell for rest of the guys
§ Vesa was fine, nothing he could do on the goals
§ Stajan had a very good game
§ Stalberg was the best forward, smart decisions, consistent play, made some nice plays
§ Grabovsky= good game…getting back etc…
§ Forwards did a great job

read Arthur here



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