The Leafs hosted the first of their three games against Southeast opposition. In a rather dull game, they built a 2 goal lead on a McNeeley-esque 86 second powerplay rampage. This game followed the same script as the last 7 meetings: Leafs shut down Atlanta's high-powered offence, Leafs use powerplay to build lead, Atlanta throws dirty hits, Leafs win, and the sky is blue.
This game's cheap shot artists were Jim Slater who threw a vicious knee at Matt Stajan and Vitaly Vishnevski who tried to help take Mike Peca's mind off of any lingering groin pain by attempting to separate his head from his shoulders. After last year's gongshows, it's seems that maybe Pat Quinn wasn't that far off when he blamed Hartley for letting his players attempt to injure the Leafs.
Andrew Raycroft made 31 saves to pick up the win. The team defence did a great job of keeping shots to the outside and when the Thrashers did create quality chances he was there to stop them. Hal Gill and Mike Peca were vital to the penalty kill again. Peca, especially, was a one man crew on a 5-on-3 during the second period. All around the defence was much improved over the twin Ottawa debacles and hopefully this can give them some momentum as Pavel Kubina is getting close to returning to the lineup.
The powerplay went 3-for-3 in the first on the strength of two Darcy Tucker goals and a Tomas Kaberle laser. If he can keep shooting then that provides the Leafs with more ways to take advantage of using Bryan McCabe as a decoy. Mats Sundin picked up assists on all three goals as he ends his little mini-slump. Jeff O'Neill finished off the scoring with the kind of goal that should become more familiar. He pounced on a turnover, wheeled with speed, held off two defenders, and fired home between Lehtonen's pads. Each game he is moving closer to vindicating my belief in him.
All in all, it was the kind of game that helps builds a team's confidence. The special teams were great, a high-powered offence was shut down, and the goalie was sharp. In a departure from the normal course of events, instead of peppering a goalie with shots the Leafs lulled Lehtonen to sleep with only 22 shots. It's nice to win when outshot but the Leafs need to get back to firing at will.
From the blogosphere it's...
The Final Word
Another story of the past two games has been the return of Antropov. He seems to be working well on the fourth line with Bates and Pohl. I'm not going to pin any hopes on Nik providing more depth, but IF he can stay healthy he should be a solid contributor and maybe push the players above him on the depth chart. A Capitalized and Bolded 'if'.
Ninja, Raking Leafs, thinks another one of the projects that I support could be a useful contributor. That makes two of us now. Of course I do have hopes pinned on the lanky Kazakh. He better be succes or I will execute.
Is there a figure who causes the stomach of a Thrashers fan to burn with bile more than the goateed Darcy Tucker?
John Manasso, AJCSports Thrashers blog, joining the I hate Darcy club.