Last night, the Leafs played a great road game, beating the Nashville Predators 4-0. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk looked like the stars we know they can be, Nazem Kadri looked dangerous between Joffrey Lupul and David Broll, and Jonathan Bernier was once again lights-out. Sure, there were lapses in coverage at various points in the game inside the Leafs' defensive zone, but that happens. Also, when your team is riding a goalie with a .974 Sv%, those little mistakes seem even more trivial.
Although it's no secret that I have been very critical of (and frustrated with) many of the decisions made by the Leafs' front office this last summer, I'm happy to say that I'm beginning to feel somewhat hopeful about certain elements of this team's makeup. In short, I'm happy to be proven wrong on a few fronts:
1) It's not that I ever denied Bernier's ability to seize the number one job in Toronto, it's just that I didn't like the odds of it happening, and this was compounded by the fact that the Leafs gave up some assets of real value to get him, and Reimer looked great last year. As Randy Carlyle was quick to point out in his post-game press conference last night, no one should be anointing Bernier starter just yet - heck, it's only been 4 games - but we're all happy to see Bernier start so strong. It sure looks like he wants the starting job, and for now, he certainly looks very capable. The key, of course, is consistency. We'll see what this season brings.
2) I don't know if it's something in the water here in Budapest that's making me hear things, but it seems that Randy Carlyle is starting to make sense. OK, sure, he's still dressing a pile of goons, but at least most of these goons are more talented than Colton Orr. Moreover, he's preaching patience with regards to the goaltending situation and for the beleaguered Paul Ranger, who obviously still has some kinks to work out of his game.
3) Credit goes to the whole team on this one, but perhaps first of all to Randy Carlyle, but the team is playing better possesion hockey. It's not great, but what we've seen is an improvement over last year, even if it is a sample size of 4 games. I'll be thrilled if the Leafs can improve in this regard, and once again will be happy to be proven wrong on my own gloomy predictions.
Here is Carlyle's post-game presser:
Here is a link to the Extra Skater advanced stats on the game. Leafs looked fine with the score tied and just as good with the score close. Can't complain about the numbers last night.