Moral victories are great and all but it sure would be good to rack up some actual victories. The Leafs played a good road game but were once again torpedoed by the man in the toothy mask. Since it's not Halloween we can dispense with the horror metaphors but the thought of Vesa Toskala playing anymore games is playing the role of the quiet figure in the shadows ready to rip out the Leafs' hearts. Ok, so I lied. Either way, the blame for the first goal resides solely with Toskala. Allowing that goal after the Leafs' had finally picked up the first goal of the game is inexcusable. The second could have been averted if Toskala has just frozen the dribbling puck rather than push it gently into the slot for the Canadiens to score.
Not that there wasn't some good to come out of the game. Mike Komisarek had an impactful game. He blocked eight shots, laid six hits (including the one below), and if not for being on the ice for two of Toskala's boneheaded plays he would have only been -1. It's not as good as it should be but it's getting much closer to what Burke expected when he signed him as a UFA.
Tomas Kaberle continued his ridiculous run of late with the game-tying goal with less than a minute left in the game and three more assists.
|2009 - Tomas Kaberle||12||2||15||17||-3||4||1||0||0||0||24||8.3|
He's been the guiding hand on the powerplay but that influence is sometimes clearly a problem. The best examples came on a couple of powerplay opportunities where the team stood around waiting for Kaberle to get open so that he could carry the puck out of the Leafs' zone.
Alexei Ponikarovsky potted a couple including the crowd silencer which gave us so many guffaws. He headlined a group of forwards, among them thankfully Jiri Tlusty, that have improved their play on the road trip. They were more aggressive as a group, pressured the puck more effectively, and finally began to crash the net to generate chances. There's still a long way to go as shown by being ranked 24th in the NHL in offence but as with so much else the indicators are trending upwards. What's needed now is quicker improvements and bigger leaps.
The Leafs' next five games offer the team a good chance of building on the 'success' of the road trip. Home games against Tampa Bay and Minnesota as well as a trip to the suddenly horrific Hurricanes are the kinds of games where efforts on par with the Leafs' previous five games should stand them in good stead. They need to receive better goaltending but they need to make sure that they don't think that they've actually accomplished anything. As for the match-ups against Detroit and Chicago, well, they'll provide memories of times when things were much worse (the 80s) and when they were much better (the 90s). Most importantly, they'll provide the Leafs' a measuring stick against two Western Conference contenders.
Maple Leafs Schedule
If they can get off to a good start with Phil Kessel in the line-up Tuesday (maybe) it could be the home ice confidence boost that they need to build on what they've done on the road trip. It's finally the time of the year that matters most and it's about time that the Leafs start picking up points in the most important ways: with wins.