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Maple Leafs 3 v. Stars 4 (OT)

Well, that didn't quite end the way in which we would have liked. The Leafs were unable to shut the door after they picked up the lead with seven minutes left in the game. Also, Gustavsson's save percentage wasn't over .900 even after making 32 saves. Considering the Stars had 2 shots after the first period I think that they might have woken up during the first intermission. I imagine hearing Marc Crawford screeching like a banshee must have lightened the mood.

The following players had excellent games in my mind:

  1. Jason Blake - three assists and an all-action display.
  2. Nikolai Kulemin - two goals, more hits, but unfortunately failed to cover the man on the winning goal
  3. Jonas Gustavsson - Obviously.
  4. Lee Stempniak - He's just so mothereffin' ninja. Get used to him because if he keeps this up he'll be re-signing.

So who impressed you folks? Who disappointed? This is your post-game instant analysis thread so offer it up! 

Update: More after the jump.

Three things stood out from last night's game and Brandon Worley of Defending Big D touched on a couple of them in his recap.

Jonas Gustavsson is BIG. He has tremendous mobility for a goaltender of his size and made some nifty saves on plays down low. Still, it seems the best way to beat him (as it is with most large goaltenders) is to get the puck moving laterally. The Stars had several such chances early on but were unable to connect, yet Gustavsson also showed an uncanny knack for being able to anticipate where a shot will come from as it moves through traffic. He needs to learn the NHL rules, however.

Yes, The Monster has excellent recovery skills but you can see why Francois Allaire will be important to his development. His raw numbers thus far are not terribly impressive.

2009 - Jonas Gustavsson 4 219 1 2 12 3.29 111 99 .892 0

However, the impact that his presence has had on the team has been. The Leafs have played, arguably, their two best games of the year in their last two outings and I think greater team confidence in their goaltending has played a part in that improvement. The forecheck has been night and day compared with most of the first 8 games of the year and the defence, while still far from a perfect group, certainly look much more composed. A big part of that is knowing that the first save will be made. Of course, as shown by the game winner, Gustavsson's rebound control with his pads needs some work. He kicked the shot into the corner - where he should if he has to - but it went right to James Neal. Yes, Kulemin should have had him covered but I don't know that that shot required the rebound to be kicked out so forcefully. Especially with the team scrambling it would have helped to freeze it. Then again, that's why Francois Allaire is getting paid the big bucks.

I know that the Stars have the skill to play at a higher level, because they showed it after Richards' first goal. The defensemen were pushing the rush up the ice, the forecheck went from non-existent to impressive and the Stars all of a sudden began to generate scoring chances. Consider this: after managing just two shots in the first period, the Stars put 34 pucks on net between the second and third periods and overtime. They have the skill and talent on this team to absolutely pepper the goaltender, especially when the defense is getting in on the action.

And this is the second big one. The Leafs finally came out and jumped all over an opponent but they weren't able to make their control count because they had no one to finish the chances that they created. 

Finally, so that I remember in the future, I want to once again formally express my disgust with Mike Ribeiro. I don't know if it's the fact that his name ends in a vowel or because his father taught him that 'gamesmanship' was acceptable in one sport so it can carry over to the good ol' Canadian game but his fake high stick schtick was sad to watch. It's bad enough when guys like Sidney Crosby, Bryan McCabe, Sean Avery, Derek Roy, and on and on dive but Ribeiro wasn't even touched. The league's crackdown on offences since the lockout has led to an increase in guys diving or clamping down on a player's stick to get a hooking call. Unfortunately, the speed of the game is too much for referees to be able to pick out every embellishment but they should be doing a better job when faced with known fakers. Not to mention that there should be a mechanism to punish these plays retroactively. Soccer still hasn't found a way to deal with it and it's the single-most frustrating thing to deal with. Basketball continues to encourage it and the games are increasingly unwatchable. Hockey's still facing a nascent problem but there will be an increase in the prevalence of these kinds of plays as power plays remain so important to creating offence.

The best part of the incident? Stanley Cup of Chowder's tweet:

@DefendingBigD Yeah, you should probably just change the name of your site to Defending Big D-Dags

Anyway, now that I got that off of my chest, another improved effort from the buds didn't get them quite the reward that they were looking for but it's hard to argue that the team is trending any way but up and that's good enough for me after a hellacious start.