TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs is upended by Ryan O'Byrne #3 of the Colorado Avalanche in a game on October 17, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
After what may have been the worst period I've seen the Leafs play in quite some time (first five minutes spent hemmed in the defensive zone, two completely wasted powerplays, being totally outplayed in all zones) the Leafs came out in the second looking like a team that got their reamed out in the locker room during intermission. And that's probably because they did. In 3 of 4 games so far, the Leafs have come out flatter than the half-drank litre cola sitting at the back of my fridge and I bet Ron Wilson isn't very pleased with the taste. Thanks to James Reimer though, they've emerged with 5 points from those games. I can't say if it's a mental thing on part of the Leafs, or if their opponents have just been more pumped to play in the ACC, but it's something they need to remedy in a big freaking hurry.
As I alluded to above, the Leafs came out in the second a much better team led once again by Last All-Star Picked Phil Kessel who scored his 6th goal and subsequently 9th point of the season putting him solely atop the leaderboards in both categories. This is Phil Kessel's game; we all just watch it. Unfortunately for the Leafs, after a couple posts for themselves and a couple of pucks that got threw James Reimer, they entered the third down 2-1. That's when the Ron Wilson Blender Method of Coaching (c) made it's season debut.
Matthew Lombardi played in between Kessel and Lupul for the last 10 minutes and looked way better than Tyler Bozak in doing so, who took Lombardi's place on the 3rd line where he was outshone by his two wingers. I hate to say it (because I own his jersey) but I think the only thing keeping Bozak from being traded for a 3rd round pick is Tim Connolly's boneitis. Once the 6 Million Injury Man is back, I think we might see a deal made; possibly to Dallas as Burke reportedly inquired about Brendan Morrow for some reason.
Nikolai Kulemin ended up showing why he's the most underrated Russian in the NHL by keeping the puck in the zone and then cashing home a rebound to tie the game at 2-2 and ultimately send it to overtime. Then, for some reason, Ron Wilson switched up his defensive pairings and in their first shift together all season, John Michael Liles and Cody Franson surrended the game winner as Cody Franson was busy doing something other than defending. Does Franson+Bozak make an attractive package for somebody else in the league, because honestly I'd rather see someone else on the 3rd pairing after two lackluster performances by Franson.
But all that bitching and moaning aside (helped along by the game being blacked out on GCL for everybody), the Leafs stole a point their had no business in getting and remain atop the Northeast Division. The biggest test right now will be getting another win in their next two games, lest they tempt fate and go on another 8 game win-less streak after a hot start.
Next up are the Jets on Wednesday in what will be one of the highest crowd energy games of the season. Hopefully the Leafs come out ready to play for that one.
Positives from tonight:
Kessel is a beast.
The MGK line is as dangerous as ever and 2 posts stopped them from scoring 3 goals.
Matt Frattin is getting better with every game and may just force Kadri to the Marlies once healthy.
Frattin-Lombardi-Armstrong is a great third line on any NHL team.
Negatives from tonight:
Tyler Bozak killed a couple of plays by stupidly getting in the way and say himself sent down to the third line.
Thank goodness we also got Matthew Lombardi for Brett Lebda, because Cody Franson doesn't look all that great.
Mike Komisarek can't skate backwards.
Wilson's impatience with his lineup may have cost us a shot at 2 points in the shootout.
Placeholder for the Game in 6.