Regulation time in last night's game ended like so many did in 2007: with a last minute goal erasing the team's hard work. However, while the extra stanza in 2007 tended to end with the Leafs' hopes for two points dashed in the first game of 2008 it ended in the rarest of ways: with a shootout victory.
As everyone with a brain pointed out, the Leafs might have been much better served if Clemmensen had managed to win his shootout against the Islanders last year as a Devil.
The blender was back in full effect as the new year saw all things old being new again as Alex Steen and Jason Blake found themselves flanking the Captain once again. Unlike the start of his Leafs career in 2007, Blake starred offensively as he not only scored a goal and added an assist but was a force all night long using his speed to create chances out of nothing. Steen, who was doing well with Stajan and Devereaux, was given another chance to show that his hands are suited to being a top 6 forward.
It wasn't a particularly great game defensively but the Leafs did do a decent job of cutting down on the chances against Scott Clemmensen in his first start as a Leaf. The fact that he got the start would seem to indicate that not only have the Leafs given up on making Raycroft a backup this season but that they won't be looking to get anything back for him. I would guess that he'll either be backing up Pogge with the Marlies or a symbolic backup at best once Toskala returns. I would be shocked to see him darken the Leafs' crease again this season once VeTo returns.
In net wasn't the only place where the Leafs made a move. Kyle Wellwood was a healthy scratch which is no surprise based on his terrible work ethic and being generally out of shape. Yes, it is hard to work out over the summer after groin surgery but that means putting extra hours in once you are back in the lineup and it has been clear that that has not been happening. Welly could be seen stretching after opponents and playing soft (even softer than usual) for much of the season. No one is giving up on him because he still has a lot of skill but he needs to partner that with a re-dedication to hard work.
Oh, and Maurice finally picked someone new in the shootouts and lo and behold the Leafs won. Tomas Kaberle's first shot ever was in last year's October 28th game against the Habs when he made a spectacular deke. He only took one other shot last season, missed it, and was banished from the lineup. It was a similar story with Alex Steen who was slated to be the third shooter before Clemmensen shut the door on St. Louis.
Now, if only these changes could last for the rest of the week let alone the rest of the season.
Oh, and in other news, JFJ makes another little signing that will no doubt work out well for a while and make it that much more frustrating that he can't do anything large well. Make him a pro scout and get us a real GM.