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Leafs 2 v. Red Wings 4: A Tale of TwoTeams

Forward Lines
Wellwood Sundin Ponikarovsky
Kilger Peca Antropov
Steen Stajan Tucker
Suglobov Pohl Battaglia

Defence Pairings
McCababe Kaberle
Kubina Wozniewski
White Gill


5 Things that will give you Hope

  1. Andrew Raycroft made a couple of great saves, including a couple of great reaction saves, and generally looked solid for a second straight game.
  2. John Pohl centred the fourth line, scored his third goal of the pre-season, and looked lively all night.
  3. Aleksander Suglobov is starting to look a lot like Sergei Berezin (I also lay claim to being the first to make that comparison).
  4. The Leafs only took THREE penalties! This was largely because the Leafs were moving their feet. Even when they were pinned in their zone they did not pick up the same penalties as last year (hooking, tripping, interference) that so often arose from static feet.
  5. The Leafs moved the puck extremely well. So much of the success of good teams last year was based on quick puck movement from the defence to the forwards. The passes were crisp from all the defencemen (even Hal Gill) and the forwards were getting through the neutral zone with speed. In the first period, the Red Wings could not handle the Leafs.

5 Things that will take that Hope into a dark alley and shoot it

  1. Aleksander Suglobov looked like Sergei Berezin. On one shift he went from losing the puck to Datsyuk in the slot in front of the net and about 20 seconds later he led a rush and almost pulled off a great deke to create a scoring chance. Get used to the frustration if he makes the team.
  2. Andrew Raycroft's strength does not lie in playing the puck. The first goal combined a terrible attempt at playing the puck with a dodgy attempt to hug the post. If this is a case of Raycroft and the defence still working out their communication then get used to seeing Adventures In The Trapezoid.
  3. The powerplay, and specifically Kubina, had trouble with the Detroit forecheckers. Cleary almost scored a couple of shorthanded goals. Granted, Detroit had the top-ranked PK last year but the back end needs to show more urgency on the powerplay. (note: I realize this kind of goes against # 5 above but the problems that the Leafs had on the powerplay were not present at even strength until the third period.)
  4. After a strong first period in which the Leafs outshot Detroit 13-5 and drove them to take four penalties with their strong skating they took their foot off the gas. The Leafs only got 11 shots the rest of the way as they got away from their early game plan. A team that cannot put together a full 60 minutes will frustrate their fans to no end.
  5. The Steen-Stajan-Tucker line was -9 as a group (-3 each). These three are players that must increase their offensive output and improve their consistency for the Leafs to succeed. Granted, they are getting used to each other but there is only one more game before the real season starts.

Of course, you can take all of this with a grain of salt because this was the first game in which Maurice was able to use his probably opening night lineup. On the other hand, there is just one more game until October 4th. Tomorrow night will help flesh out the answer to my four earlier questions.

Maple Leaf Goals
First Goal
Good puck pressure from Stajan forced the puck up the boards to Kubina who fired a low, hard shot from the blueline. Pohl was the first to react to Hasek's big rebound and he slotted his third home before Dom could react.

Second Goal
This goal highlighted a dogged puck pursuit which result in the recovery of the puck three times. As for the play, it will sound familiar: Kaberle feathers a pass to McCabe for a one-timer, repeat as necessary for goal. On this powerplay it took four shots. Wellwood provide a good screen as the puck found its way through Hasek's legs.

Three Stars
DET - Cleary
TOR - Kaberle
DET - Franzen

The Final Word

The Leafs may be forgiven their shakiness. Raycroft hadn't played in a week while Maurice let Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Mikael Tellqvist battle for the backup's spot. And others, like Mike Peca, Darcy Tucker, Kaberle and Pavel Kubina were all returning from injury.
Babcock said Cleary was a gifted offensive player in juniors but "he got to the National Hockey League, and that didn't work for him. He's made a commitment to training and a commitment to being a pro. ... He's growing up, and he's a man and he plays like it. I think (if) Danny can keep it in perspective and not get ahead of himself, I think you'll see more and more it'll come up."