Editor's Note: The General takes a look at the Leafs' forgotten superstar in a great fanpost.
Congratulations to the Toronto Maple Leafs for their 6-5 shoot-out victory last night over the Devils. Congratulations to Toskala for the win and for killing the Cujo-switch experiment. Congratulations to Niklas Hagman for the beautiful, memorable winner, and getting a laugh from Marty too. And congratulations to Wilson and the entire team for showing that hustle and perserverance really do pay off.
But mostly I want to congratulate Tomas Kaberle. For being a superstar. I've known Tomas was for a long time, but I admit, this year I was beginning to wonder about him. I wasn't worried that he'd be a bad defenceman - Tomas will never be a bad hockey player - I was just worried that without Sundin and McCabe, he might have lost some of his extra-special-ness, and had become just a good defenceman who was okay in a lot of situations. Heading into last night's game, Van Ryn was the leading Leaf defenders with 6 points, while Kablere had just a goal and an assist for only 2 points. In the win against the Devils, Tomas did pick up 2 assists, but it was during the shoot-out where Kaberle showed he still has superstar stuff.
(3:27) Have a good look at this moment in the shoot-out. When Kaberle steps up, the Leafs are down 1-0 and down to their final shot. Kaberle needs to score or they lose. He knows it. Hagman didn't have the same pressure. If he had missd, the Devils would still have had to score. If Tomas misses, the game is over, the Devils will celebrate, and reporters will say yet again that the Leafs couldn't do it. And to keep that from happening, Kaberle, alone, needs to beat the mighty Brodeur.
Watch it again. (3:27) With the weight of the game on his shoulders, Kaberle takes two soft, casual steps, and then puts his head down and takes 4 quick power-strides up to centre. There's a smooth, gentle stutter-glide as he picks up the puck, and then he's back in high gear again as he hits the blue line. Arching to his right to set up the angle for the left-hand shot, Kaberle explodes towards the goal with amazing speed, and then simply beats Brodeur with hands that were faster then Marty's pads. And the shoot-out continued.
The Devils came close but the Leafs prevailed, thanks to Hagman, and then Toskala. But let's not overlook Kaberle's excellent contribution in this one, keeping the game - and our hopes - alive, with a big-time, superstar performance.