I finally have a television at my apartment (thanks mom and dad!) so I was able to watch the game instead of trying to imagine what it looked like on the radio (the San Jose game resembled Left 4 Dead). The Leafs were kind enough to help me celebrate by playing a good team and winning a game that they really should win (sorry Dominik).
A couple of kids made their season (and NHL) debut as Jeremy Williams showed that he has a knack for making first impressions while Jamie Sifers did not at all look out of place.
|2008 - Jeremy Williams||1||1||1||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||50.0|
|2008 - Jaime Sifers||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||3||0.0|
The Leafs finally got back to the kind of game that they need to play to succeed: all energy. I don't buy the tiredness excuse about flying across time zones because they are professional athletes so it's not like I am trying to fly to Europe and then play games way above sea level. They are playing games at 10pm instead of 7pm. Ooooh, big change. Not to mention that they aren't exactly taking the train across the continent. One of the Sportsnet crew even tried to blame their game on Saturday on the Friday morning practice. Give me a break.
Anyway, the Leafs were throwing seven different kinds of smoke at the Islanders. The first goal, on the team's 8th shot before the Islanders got one, came as Stajan kept an attack alive through some good hustle before a great pass by Poni found Kulemin steaming into the slot from the bench.
|2008 - Nikolai Kulemin||28||6||6||12||-1||2||1||0||1||1||50||12.0|
Of course, after opening the scoring the Leafs thought that the game was over so they took a nap while the Islanders tied the game up 14 seconds later. Lazy point coverage and an inability to cover anyone in front of the net allowed an easy deflection past Toskala. Eyebeleaf will be glad to know that this one at least was in no way Toskala's fault. Except that he should have been born bigger. Then again, there is this: that goal represented the fourth time in the last five games that the Leafs had been scored upon on the first shot of the game.
You know who else had a good game? Ryan Hollweg. Yeah, I was stunned when I wrote that too. He had good jump, laid a couple of big hits, and provided possibly the funniest moment of the night (to me at least) when he fought some jerk after a clean hit. The whole sequence of him flying into Streit like a bat out of hell and then his super eagerness to fight made me laugh. Maybe I'm just nuts.
Anyway, the rest of the goals exhibited great puck movement and player movement. One of the issues with the Leafs', especially evident on the powerplay, under Maurice was the lack of player movement in order to create space.
On White's goal Blake drew a defender towards him, saucered a pass over to Stralman, he faked a shot and then hit Ian White who who had slid down towards the face-off circle. Stempniak moved across the top of the crease with MacDonald and the Isles' goalie had no chance on White's wrister. The Wendel moustache that has been inhabiting him is powerful and I'd still rather see him as forward but I have to admit that the goat horns that I was fitting him with are not deserving.
|2008 - Ian White||17||4||4||8||3||7||1||0||0||0||37||10.8|
The last goal was another example of great movement. Kaberle and Kubina have been great this year at passing the puck along the blue line which opens a big gap down the middle. Blake used his speed to exploit that space and then found Williams who had dropped off of the pack in front of the net. He slotted hom to markt he third year in a row that he scored in the first game of his call-up.
While there was a lot of good to last night's game it was just the Islanders. Let's see how they do Friday night against the Sabres.
Edit: Jason Blake picked up the 200th assist of his career last night. Good for him.