Break up the Leafs because it's just not fair to the rest of the league. They should have left this juggernaut sleeping but they poked the beast one too many times. After reading a barnburner of a pre-game speech the Leafs showed that they are not, at the core, a bad team. They are a good, albeit variably flawed, team that can overcome those flaws with hard work. Sometimes even all in the same night.
It's no coincidence that the Leafs' held the Thrashers to 20 shots and scored a couple of goals off the rush. The forwards were, and this is shocking, back checking which creates turnovers at the blueline since the defence can pressure the puck carrier and the forwards are better positioned to wheel. Three of the four goals came that way and the fourth was one of God's tricks. At least it must have been because Herpes got it.
Toskala provided the timely goaltending that has mostly been lacking especially when he made a ridiculous blocker save on Pascal Dupuis from about 15 feet out. It also featured the continued development of the Leafs' shutdown line (don't laugh!) of Steen-Stajan-Devereaux who were tasked with keeping Kovalchuk and Hossa quiet and largely succeeded except for a wicked wrist shot that came on a quick counter attack late in the second. Each of the trio played at least 8:30 against Ilya and 7:36 against Marian.
As always, the key will be whether the Leafs build upon the past two games on Saturday or whether they forget their lesson and let Crosby and Malkin run wild. Either way I win because I have Sid the Kid on my team in Mirtle's blogger pool but I'd prefer a win for the buds. Oh, and what was in the greatest inspirational pre-game speeches of all time? Here's a snippet:
IT ALL STARTS NOW! GO LEAFS GO! Time to rally around the coach and get that bunker mentality because it's you against the world (The Star/Sun/Globe/Assembled anti-Leaf forces) and they are not taking any prisoners. Man up boys and show the league that slow starts don't kill teams, cornered teams kill teams.
No surprise, in the post-game interviews you could hear Kanye's Stronger blasting in the background. What does not kill you can only make you stronger indeed.
Who was the Leafs' Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Herpes (1 goal - Every dog has its day)
Nik Antropov (2 assists)
Matt Stajan (1 goal and more good defensive work)
Alex Steen (GWG and controlled the Thrashers' top line)