Leafs-Sens: Toronto Displays Passion Against Sens On the Way to the Cup

Graeme Boyce@CivilizedGraemeCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2009

Let me first set the scene: I'm home alone. I just installed a hi-def TV with surround sound. On one channel are the Leafs and on another are the Bolts, and on the other (out of 500), the Canadian juniors are playing Russia.

But in this day and age we don't rely merely on TV for our sports, as the World Junior was also streamed live on-line...for free. I also had a few beers ready for the challenge.

On this night, in the intermission, Don Cherry finally called out the Leafs. Yup, he  challenged them publicly, given in his estimation the players are letting themselves get 'beat up' in the corners and along the boards. He questioned their passion and their integrity. This opinion was backed up by a deftly edited montage of first-period action.

Oddly enough, when the Leafs finally play a balanced game, are solidly focused, and don't get intimidated by the "rough stuff," Cherry has an issue. On that note, despite the occasional scrum, I for one would love to see Antropov drop the gloves...Maybe more than the chance of seeing the Leafs win the Cup again.

Burke, according to our vaunted broadcasters, now must import the Anaheim team in order for us stakeholders to see a parade down Bay Street any time soon. But, as I pointed out the other day, both Atlanta and Ottawa are needing to make a trade, not to mention Florida as well. There's a lot of talent on the table, including a few juniors.

The Leafs players must always play on a bubble night after night, and under a  microscope.  So, let me be the first to point out: Stempniak is playing great with Blake, who almost scored a shorthanded goal, and more importantly Moore. 

Mayers has stepped up his game and is now noticeably effective. It'll be a fulcrum move if he starts to score. But, of note, Mitchell is taken it up a notch playing with Antropov and Poni. The latter finally played with passion, by the way.

That brings up a dilemma. Stajan and Williams, who are both injured, alongside Deveaux and Schenn, have been adequately replaced. Though before going further, there is the small matter of Newbury's inspired play against the Sens, as well as that of Hollweg and Sifers.

So, let's recap, for the benefit of Don Cherry, Neil is not intimidating, Alfredsson is not dominating, and Heatley is invisible.  While on the subject of so-called superstars, does Tavares make the Canadian Junior team?  No. 

And Toskala? He made the saves when he was supposed to. I would too if I were paid that much.