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Leafs 6 v. Bruins 4: Stepping Up

Game Recap

Raking Leafs has a good recap of the game here. There were quite a few good things as well as a couple of troublesome things and one or two terrible things. At the risk of being labelled a thief, here is the spaghetti western wrap-up of the game:

The Good

  • The Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of some good hustle (Jeff O'Neill beating Zdeno Chara in a footrace to set up Darcy Tucker), a nice re-direct by Michael Peca, and a good deflection by Chad Kilger on a Bryan McCabe point shot that actually made it through.

  • The Soviet Bloc showed that the Ukraine is not weak and a Kazakhs favourite pastime is NOT disco dancing. Alex Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov had a great game in which they combined for three goals, three assists and a +8 plus/minus rating. Poni's speed and size helped set up Antro's first goal as he charged down the wing and cut in for a shot before Nik muscled the rebound in. They were also on the ice in the last minute when Poni found Antro for an empty netter.

  • The Leafs did not fold when the Bruins started their third period comeback. It would have been easier to have a repeat of the Devils fiasco and blamed it on Sundin's absence but the Leafs held it together and came out with two points.

  • Everyone contributed to a win in the Captain's absence. Wellwood mixed well with the Soviet Bloc, the Sandpaper Line (Peca, Tucker, Bates/Kilger) contributed offensively (Congrats on the 400th point Mike!) and defensively, and McCabe continued to contribute offensively, which based on his lack of defensive contribution, he must do in order to earn his salary.

The Bad

  • The fact that the Leafs allowed the Bruins back into the game at all is a bit disconcerting. A failure to step on a wounded team's throat has cost the sens dearly and it would not do to imitate the ballerinas from Ottawa (thanks Smitty!) in this regard. The worst part is that the Leafs looked to have finished the game twice: when they made it 4-0 early in the second and when they made it 5-1 soon after the first Bruins goal.

  • The penalty kill allowed two goals on five chances. This rejuvenated penalty kill has to operate at a high level all year if the Leafs are going to succeed. The team has done well to reduce the number of penalties against them and they have allowed only one goal against on an incredible ten 5-on-3s. However, in games in which the team is trying check the opposition's momentum the PK has to perform in the third. Can you tell I am stretching for something bad?

The Ugly

  • The injury to Andrew Raycroft. This is not so much ugly because of the impact of the injury, since I have always felt that JS Aubin could handle the starting duties and it was a relatively minor injury, but because of the nature and timing of the injury. Raycroft had just begun to hit a rich vein of form and a groin pull can be a notoriously linger-y (TM) injury. From all accounts, the Leafs are taking their time with the injury so that it will not reach the chronic stage.

In what must be an especially bittersweet installment for Andrew Raycroft...

The Final Word

Last night, it was a leaky Boston defense, which has made it a habit recently of fattening their netminders' goals-against averages and sizzling their psyches, that once again led to a Boston goalie -- it was Tim Thomas' turn last night -- getting yanked by his coach.
Fluto Shinwaza, Boston Globe, makes the Bruins wish they had not given up on Raycroft.
Leaf head coach Paul Maurice can live without the added drama of seeing his No.1 netminder get hurt. His club was already reeling without Sundin, gone for up to a month with a wonky right elbow, and still without defenceman Pavel Kubina, who left the team to be with his girlfriend in the Czech Republic for the delivery of the couple's first child.
Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, gets me wondering if they make Raid for injury bugs.