The plausible predictions went pretty well. A Thrashers' loss, a Flyers' win over the Rangers, and a Bruins' OT point were the only blemishes. The Leafs did their part with a huge win over the senators Saturday night. The open thread was a cauldron of emotions and a see-saw of reactions. That's actually what they are all meant to be like eventually.
After that ridiculous first period I thought that the Leafs were going to get run out of the building. They weren't skating, weren't hitting, and couldn't get anything going. 1-0 was a gift and I wondered if the senators would regret not stepping on the buds' throats. A pair of quick goals by the Leafs put them ahead but then it looked like the wheels had come off the Leafs' train to 9th as they allowed three quick goals. All featured typical Leafs' defensive mistakes: missed coverage, wide-open opposition players, and soft play.
Then a funny thing happened. The most hated Leaf, Darcy Tucker, followed up a Kubina shot and slapped home a huge rebound with under a minute to go. I wondered if the comeback would be on but quickly dismissed the thought when I saw the graphic with the sens' record when leading after two: 29-0-4. I guess the Leafs didn't see the same stat because they came out flying and tied the game on a beauty Tlusty goal before Matt Stajan finished a brilliant 2-on-1 with Jason Blake where, get this, Blake passed the puck. Gerber was as surprised as the 19,000 fans in attendance and that's probably why he overcommitted so much.
The Leafs then valiantly held on to the final whistle as Dany Heatley put a puck off the post with less than a second to go. A scrum ensued and the Leafs acquitted themselves pretty well for a soft team. With two games against the Bruins this week and them lying just four points ahead this could be the game that will give the Leafs the final push needed to run the table. First thing's first: Tuesday night. The Leafs need a repeat performance from guys like Kronwall who absolutely crushed Dean McAmmond and then wrestled Shean Donovan to the ice. Mats might return to the lineup for that game but players like Wellwood, Steen, and Stajan need to continue to contribute.
Who knows where this playoff push will end but it can't hurt the kids' development. Imagine how much a round or two might do? Still dreaming...
Steve feels a lot better about the kids after this latest run of games. The real test will be how they do next year. Are they lucky? Who knows but they've beaten the senators four times in a row. How would that be for a 1 v. 8 series?
Norte perfectly captures how Leaf fans feel about that team.
Eyebeleaf writes a pretty good recap of the game.
- The Omen says that Stajan looks like the Leafs' next captain just a week or so after calling him a third line at best. Here's a friend's damning praise:
Stajan looked good on Saturday and from the highlight package of the 3 shot blocks in one shift, looks like he played well Friday as well. This was clearly his best week as a Leaf. If he plays like that all the time, he could be captain worthy on the Leafs The two caveats are "all the time" and "on the Leafs," a squad without a clear replacement.