Well, my name is known all over the world
By all the foxy ladies and the pretty girls.
I'm goin' down in history
As the baddest 7th overall pick in history.
If you didn't get excited by Nazem Kadri's first goal in a more real Leafs' uniform than during the rookie tournament then you don't have a pulse. The speed with which he broke through the neutral zone, his movement to the wing, the uncanny understanding of where he needed to go, and the wicked wrister of his back skate will hopefully be looked back upon in the near future as signs of what was to come. Is that too much? Definitely. But this is why the pre-season is so much fun. You get to see players put into different situations and the possibilities are endless.
A line of NCAA players? Sure, why not? The Delta House Line (Frat Pack?) of Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, and Christian Hanson have all notched goals and look at the very least to be on the verge of making the leap to the pro ranks. Hanson helped ice the game as he finished off a chance at the lip of the crease - where he has said he hopes to make his living - after he got two whacks at a Jay Rosehill rebound.
Speaking of Jay Rosehill, he led the intimidation brigade with two fights, some good jump, and good hockey sense. The Leafs, faced with a Flyers' lineup filled with gutless enforcers, trotted out two career AHLers and Our Luke and Saviour and didn't bat an eye. What little aggression the Flyers could muster was more than ably met by the Leafs with a closed fist and a crooked grin that dared them to do their worst. Sure, I could toss off a 500 word tirade about Arron Asham and what Ron Wilson and anyone with eyes termed a cheapshot or complain about the linesmen and referee shepherding the gutless puke out of the game sans blood being shed but I won't. Why not? Because the Leafs didn't back down from the Flyers' swinging sticks or their attempts to channel the old Broad Street Bullies.
Also, I know that Saturday night Colton Orr will be in the line-up and I'll be there to see him cut a swath of destruction.
Now, obviously, it wasn't ideal to have Schenn fighting but the reality is that he picks his spots and he's not likely to go through an entire year without having to drop the mitts. Teams are going to challenge the Leafs' to see if 'truculence' is just Burke's bluster or if the Bay Street Bullies are back to wreak havoc in the Eastern Conference.
It was alternately terrifying and heartening to see Mikhail Grabovski skating around at his whirling dervish best but get that head up! aside from the Asham hit he took a couple of other doozies. Good thing he's made of adamantium or he might have been injured.
The two players that needed to get going were Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nikolai Kulemin. It took them until almost the end of the second period but they started asserting themselves. Hopefully the push from the Kollege Kids (?) is the extra motivation that they need to improve on last season.
Among the forwards there was another player that stood out. Like the Animal House line he is an American and he's been known to sport do the little things right despite a pedigree that suggests he should be able to do the big things as well. You might have heard of him: Lee Stempniak. No? Well, I don't know what promises Burke might have made...ok, let's be realistic, they were threats...but in his first taste of pre-season action he added a goal scored on a rebound and a really nice solo rush to his usual dogged puck pursuit and strong forecheck. You can add his name to the list of players that have at least 89 games left to show that they have a future in the blue and white.
On the back end, Carl Gunnarson might as well wear Anton Stralman's old jerseys. He was an almost carbon copy of the cast-off Swede during his first training camp. He's also played for the Swedish national team so I hope that he puts things together with a strong year on the Marlies. The other long, long, long shot to make the roster that played was Jesse Blacker. He saw some powerplay time which was decent and he displayed some good composure after a slow start especially when the two times that his stick broke on the play.
As for the trio that are pencilled into the top four, I was impressed by Tomas Kaberle. Chemmy's agitation for a trade has always hinged on the fact that last season's Kaberle was a shadow of his past self. Last night that shadow filled in a bit more. He was confident with the puck, did his usual cool head fakes on rushes, and picked up an assist when he patiently held on to the puck to create a lane before getting a shot off on net. And finally, Mike Komisarek laid a decent check. He also brought some sandpaper to the defensive zone and sported an 'A'. I still don't like him but between his interview where he said the Leafs would win the Cup before Montreal and played a much more physical game and his perfectly timed open ice hit I might come around some day.
So that's two for two in games that saw the Leafs play an uptempo forecheck for as long as they could muster it. One team pushed back and scrapped a win while the other had their stars forwards seemingly afraid to cross the blue line while the Leafs ran up the score. What can we take away from this? Not too much...for now.