What was the extent of my developing shock as the game continued? After spending a day trying to keep 8 kids from either killing themselves or each other I completely forgot that they were all in bed a scant 50 feet away as I celebrated Darcy Tucker's powerplay marker. Thank God none of the rugrats woke up.
For all of the MSM bashing that went on during the Jiri Tlusty debacle they can still do a decent job of summarizing a game. Paul Hunter captures my feelings exactly:
It was like a flashback to some long ago playoff game.
The Ottawa Senators arrived in town, chock full of confidence and talent, remarkable talent, as the league's gold-standard franchise. The Maple Leafs, muddling along at about .500, seemed too slow, bloated and overpaid to stand much of a chance.
Surprise, surprise, there's life in the Battle of Ontario, and in the Leafs, again.
With the score knotted at doughnuts I felt the way I did in 2000 when the Leafs won game 1 of their series 1-0 on a Mats Sundin OT winner. The Leafs were scrappy and while there were were a few heart-in-your-throat moments you always had the feeling that Toskala would make the save. And I hate to harp on the same thing over and over again but the most important part of good defensive zone coverage: alert forwards. When the Leafs decide to play 5 on 5 in their own zone instead of having the forwards watching and waiting for an errant pass to start the attack they do pretty well.
Whether the latter part of Hunter's proclamation proves correct depends more on whether the real Leafs come back and take their rightful place from the Cocoon people. Hopefully not.
And of course, since a writer for The Star did something good the rest of the writers covering the Leafs had to forget that their job is to analyze the games that they watch:
...coming off the biggest win of the season you'd think some of the post-game coverage would include a modicum of insight or analysis into what the Leafs did differently Saturday night.
Ask and ye shall receive. Kevin McGran tried but he clearly only looked at the basic NHL-provided game sheet. You can go into much greater detail about matchups and linemates by using Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice calculator. It is an amazing tool that goes beyond the NHL's new shift charts to provide a graphical interface of the matchups as well as a table-based comparison so you can actually see who each player faced during their time on the ice.
Therefore, while it is true that Stajan played 20:06 if you use this tool then you can see that during 10:06 he lined up against Dany Heatley, 6:30 against Jason Spezza, and 6:06 against Daniel Alfredsson.
Steen not only played 18:33 Saturday night but during 9:18 he was tasked with stopping Dany Heatley, 6:06 came against Jason Spezza, and only 4:54 against Daniel Alfredsson.
Devereaux, the third man in this troika of defensive responsibility, played 18:36 with 9:18 against Heatley, 6:42 against Spezza, and 6:24 against Daniel Alfredsson.
The real key to the matchups that Maurice seemed intent on getting (thanks home ice!) was having the McCabe-Kaberle pairing out against the sens dangerous trio. All three were fed a healthy diet of the Leafs' top pairing. It must speak to Paddock's attempts to get Heatley away from the Leafs' top line but while Spezza and Alfredsson had the Poni-Sundin-Blake line, along with McCabe-Kaberle, comprising the top 5 Leafs that they faced Heatley was matched up against the same D pairing and the Steen-Stajan-Devereaux trio.
The truth is that McCabe actually played a good game Saturday. It was right in his wheelhouse. He seemed to be back in his comfort zone where he could lay the body without worrying that his partner could not handle a few seconds alone and he keep the puck movement simple. Until Colaiacovo returns I would not be surprised to see McCabe and Kaberle remain together even after Kubina returns.
What about Andy? you might ask. Well, Herpes had his behind stapled to the bench alongside Staffan Kronwall as Woz played less than 7 minutes. Hopefully the benching is one step closer to his demotion. Next up, the press box!
Who was the Player of the Game for the Leafs?
This poll is closed
Vesa Toskala (24 saves for his first shutout as a Leaf)
Bryan McCabe (2 assists and a confident game)
Tomas Kaberle (2 assists and helped to shut down a top 3 offence)
Darcy Tucker (Game winning goal and induced hundreds of rage blackouts in the National Capital Region)