Last night some of the Baby Leafs took on the Baby Penguins at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. The Penguins ran out 4-1 winners over a Leafs team that looked for the most part listless and disinterested. Thank God it was the kids I guess. The consensus last night amongst those lucky enough to get Rogers 10 was that the team was not creating anything at all offensively and far too passive defensively. A tough sight to see what Tyler Bozak getting manhandled down low before Nathan Moon potted the eventual winner. Too often in the last two periods that I saw the Leafs were sluggish. The rare exception was Mikhail Stefanovich's goal when some good pressure by Viktor Stalberg led to a mini-break for the Belorussian who made a nice move before slotting it home.
The only other player that caught my eye was Nazem Kadri. He competed hard on every shift, never gave up on the puck, and looked comfortable handling it. Last night confirmed for me that the long shot of him making the team has to be as close to a sure thing as possible. He simply is too small to handle the physical pressures of the NHL. It's not even that he's too small because lord knows you'll mention small forwards but he just isn't strong enough. It would be that he was just tired from three games in four nights but he was constantly outmuscled. The great thing was that he wasn't discouraged and he kept trying to make things happen whether it was with his playmaking skills or with the body. He even got in a scrap! One more year in junior to put on more weight will do an already talented player a world of good.
A couple of fellow Leafs bloggers also had some thoughts on the game:
Fellow Maple Leafs Annual (buy your copy today) writer jrwendelman has video, pictures, and thoughts straight from the game including one which echoes what those of us in the CC thought about the goaltending:
Andrew Engelage (former goaltender for the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires) unfortunately didn’t do much to increase his chances of landing and keeping a big league deal - the Leafs had scored to make it 2-1 and were coming on in a big way and threatening to tie the game midway through the 3rd when Engelage coughed up a Raycroftian hairball and whiffed on Robert Bortuzzo’s weak shot for the 3rd Penguin goal, effectively extinguishing the Maple Leaf comeback attempt. Too bad for Andrew, I’d like to see him get a shot somewhere.
Maple Leafs Hot Stove (also featured prominently in the MLA) correspondent Garrett Bauman gives his views and was pleased to see Stafanovich make an appearance in a scoring role rather than as a pylon:
4. At long last, there was a Mikhail Stefanovich sighting! The Leafs’ lone goal was a beauty, as Stefanovich finally gave fans a glimpse of his offensive skill set. Away from the puck, he still has plenty of work to do, but when the desire and effort are there he is as talented a player as any in this tournament.Couple of scraps
I don't feel that Baumann's last point about the lack of an enforcer was a problem in terms of the Leafs' backing down because after Scott got laid out Alex Berry stepped up to Schnell. Sure, he got beaten but he didn't back down. What it certainly looked like to me was that the Penguins were much more aggressive in pursuing a big hit and they landed a couple. Burke wouldn't have been happy to see the trainers out on the ice but at least the Leafs fought back.
The final game of the tournament goes tonight at 7pm against the senators!