How Will the Leafs Look in the Post-Sundin Era ?

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IMarch 23, 2008

If you missed it, last night, Scotiabank Center had a huge game; the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs played the host Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs still with key members out in Mats Sundin, and Nik Antropov are continuing to work hard, fight battles and win games. The Leafs swept their road trip with 4 straight wins.

 The most important fact is that players are stepping up, Pavel Kubina, and the future of the Leafs, Alex Steen and Matt Stajan are leading their team to these big wins.  In their previous match Kubina and Steen worked hard every shift, and finished with an assist each. Stajan led the team with terrific penalty killing, making 3 blocked shots on an important 5 on 3 powerplay opportunity for a hot Buffalo Sabres team with 20 goals in their previous 3 games. His hard work eventually ended up giving him a goal , an assist ,and the Leafs the big four to one win in Buffalo.

 The Leafs took that energy into Ottawa, where the Senators had their own ideas of winning the match. Both teams took to the attack at both ends of the ice, Ottawa with the first strike early. Daniel Alfredsson, the captain of the Sens defected a puck in the air past Vesa Toskala from a great feed by Mike Commodore.

 The fierce action kept going back and forth. In the second period Kubina’s hot slapshot took forefront of the action. A terrific blast from the point deflected off the boards and came right back to Kyle Wellwood who emptied it into the gaping side of the net.

 On a later powerplay for the Leafs Alex Steen would score on a great move, to give the Leafs the 2-1 lead. Ottawa would strike right back with three straight goals, two on the powerplay. Dany Heatley on the second one from a great feed from Andrej Meszaros, to give the Sens the lead back 4-2.

The second period finished with a Darcy Tucker goal with less then a minute remaining, from a great inside pass by Kubina, and Tucker put it between Martin Gerber’s pads.

To start the third period, the Leafs took off. Domenic Moore who’s been a great addition and a burst of energy since he was claimed off waivers a month before the deadline, used his speed to avoid two back checkers from the Sens to pass the puck to Jiri Tlusty in front. Tlusty then did a quick deke and backhanded the puck by Gerber. Then less than forty seconds later Jason Blake sent the puck on net, and Stajan put it by Gerber short side to give the Leafs the 5 to 4 lead.  The Leafs from there on played a great defensive game, something that you couldn’t say about the Leafs in the first half of the season. The Leafs won the game 5 to 4.

So with their captain Mats Sundin out, the most intriguing part of this Leafs rush isn’t the fact that they’ve given themselves a chance to play in the post season, or that they’ve put themselves out of having a great selection in the draft. It’s that they’ve been able to give their younger core of the team more ice-time, and that they’ve taken it and used it well.

Players such as Stajan, Steen, Tlusty, Stralman, and even Wellwood have come up big in the last few outings. If this continues the future looks much brighter if not this season, then the following ones, with or without a great draft pick or even Mats Sundin.