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Maple Leafs 2 v. Red Wings 1: The Monster Surfaces

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By now you've all likely seen THE Gustavsson save from this game but it's hard to understand how crazy the reaction was to the save. People leapt from their seats and gave The Monster a prolonged ovation and spent from the until the end of the game saying some variation of "HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT SAVE?!?!". One insane group of fans even went so far as to try to get a chant of "We Want The Cup!" going. Sure, it was a hell of a save and Jonas Gustavsson made 22 saves over three periods for a 'shutout' and yes, until further notice, he is the future of the franchise between the pipes but it was still just one save.

The save was impressive, no doubt, but what impressed me the most was the way he handled all of the traffic in front of the net. The Red Wings were obviously instructed to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the Monster. He was constantly harrassed and bumped but where Toskala retreats into his crease and ends up far too deep in his net Gustavsson would wade into the morass, clear some room, and make the save. His rebound control was excellent and his lateral movement was strong. He still had a few instances where he slid a little too far to one side but the defence did a great job of cleaning up any rebounds that escaped his grasp.

Toskala gave up a weak opening goal in the last minute of the first period on a Brad Stuart slapshot that somehow made it between his arm and body. Carl Gunnarson potted his first of the pre-season and first against 'NHL' competition on the powerplay. Tomas Kaberle once again put a puck on a pedestal for his playing partner something that I think we all hope will continue. Gunnarson himself said today that he was a little surprised to still be with the team but after a shaky first game he has really started to show the poise and ability that drew Wilson and Burke's attention during the last Worlds. He definitely could use a bit more upper body strength but he has been a nice surprise in training camp.

Viktor Stalberg did not have as strong of a game as he did on Friday but he did pick up the game winner on a nice feed by Tyler Bozak. Ron Wilson noted tonight that the most impressive part of that play was that he picked that pass out of mid-air. Plays like that combined with his strength on the puck and his blazing speed have earned him a spot in the opening night line-up. Of course, now the real games begin. As Steve noted, the NCAA kids are going to be moving from a schedule that saw them play only on the weekends to a full 82 game sked. Not only that, it'll be a compressed one at the NHL level because of the Olympics. As we saw with Alex Steen in his rookie year making that jump can be very difficult and they will almost certainly hit some rough patches either with the Leafs or the Marlies.

There was a really scary moment when Ponikarovsky got clipped underneath his visor by an errant Red Wings' stick. From my spot with my back to the ACC's wall (standing room for life) watching him grab his face and kick his legs as blood dripped on the ice I had an immediate flashback to Bryan Berard's tragic incident. Luckily, Poni just had to pick up a few stitches.

One thing that was a nice surprise was that Saturday night's game was Norris Night. Throughout the game they showed highlights of Norris division tilts. Basically, it was a stirring tribute to Down Goes Brown's crusade to get the Norris reformed. Bob Probert, once again a Red Wing, and Wendel Clark (I have good luck going to games where he's present) handled opening face-off duties. Getting Wendel was a no-brainer especially since he probably represented 75% of the Leafs' highlights in the videos. A few smart alecks (ok, my uncle and I) wanted Clark and Probert to chuck knucks once last time for old time's sake but unfortunately it wasn't to be. They even did a chummy interview during a stoppage of play. Wendel guaranteed a win on November 7th which is perfect because the players will know that the game matters. Unfortuantely, the intro video is not on YouTube yet (get on it interwebs) but imagine things like this for about 3 minutes:


As a final note, I finally made it to Burkie's Dog House. I had the poutine dog that even comes with little potato chips made to look like fries. It's salty as hell but how often are you going to eat something like that? The line-up was ridiculous since I guess everyone wanted to try the new food option. And what's beside it? Wally's Donuts. I can only assume that that was a last minute name change.